Is there anything I should know before writing this article?
When it comes to gaming, few genres face more scorn than educational games. “Edutainment,” as it was often called in the 90’s, typically stuck to the style of a third grade textbook with a few bells and whistles (or a licensed character) attached — and as a result, most of them were either awkwardly hilarious or mind-numbingly boring. Part of the problem was the belief that young kids will be entertained by just about anything, which led to a lack of attention to quality.
And then, of course, there’s Captain Novolin.
Released in 1992 by Raya Systems, Captain Novolin is a side-scrolling platformer with the relentless intention of teaching diabetic children to cope with their condition. It is, in my opinion, one of the purest incarnations of an educational game one could ask for. It’s wall-to-wall diabetes information at every turn, but also shows at least some interest in making the gameplay enjoyable by (poorly) mimicking other popular games of the time. In their quest to reach out to children facing a long future of needles and rigid diets, they managed to make one of the most spectacularly ill-conceived video games I’ve ever seen.
If you’ve never heard of this game before now, then it’s your lucky day. I recently decided to re-watch Diabetus’ infamous Let’s Play for the first time in years — and this time around, I tripped over something I’d never noticed before. If you can believe it, the diabetic man in spandex fighting giant alien snacks and divulging personal information to perfect strangers isn’t the weirdest element of this medical adventure.