Oregon Trail

January 23, 2010

Travel the Trail!!!

While the 1990s saw the rise and fall of many educational software programs for children such as NFL Math and Spelling Jungle (easily my favorite) one game completely blew the rest out of the water. Admit it, you and your elementary school buddies fought over who got to play Oregon Trail in computer lab oh so long ago. And why wouldn’t you? Oregon Trail was at face value a pretty simple game, the objective was to survive with as many people in your family as possible along the trail and to make it to Oregon Territory. If you played, however, you know that it was SO MUCH MORE.

In order to survive, however, you had to make difficult decisions that were crucial to the health of your family. Should you buy a Conestoga or simply a large wagon? Should you buy a horse? What medicine should you bring? How many sets of utensils and clothing are necessary? And most importantly, what kind of gun and ammunition should you buy? As you traveled down the trail the full repercussions of all of these choices became evident and often resulted in disaster. Admit it, you got scurvy or had to “administer laudanum” (which is essentially opium haha) and fix wagon axles.

Oregon Trail deserves a second look because it was a game that linked actions and repercussions. It was a game with a point, it had depth. It’s popularity amongst children is evidence that children (admittedly I was one) were looking for something more than just a quick thrill, they were looking for a challenge. Once I made it to Oregon and struck a land claim I always felt very accomplished, especially if all of my family survived the journey. Damn those accidental hunting accidents and unfortunate snake bites!