This weekend, perhaps due to an influx of Animal Crossing screenshots flooding my social media feeds, I felt like I wanted to play a game. Specifically, I felt an unexplainable urge to play The Oregon Trail, the classic computer game that puts you in the shoes of a pioneer heading out West.
I remember playing The Oregon Trail as a kid, as it was the only computer game available on my school computers growing up. Apparently this wasn’t an accident; The Oregon Trail was distributed by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium which, along with Steve Jobs, helped push computers into the Minnesota public school system in the 1970s, bundling Macintosh computers with the game. It got so popular that the MECC began distributing it to public schools via subscription, and the game became tied to school computers well into the 1990s.
At my school if you finished your work in certain classes you could play the teacher-approved The Oregon Trail. Everyone would name people in their parties after classmates you hated and then when “Timmy died of dysentery” you could all snicker and laugh at Timmy even if you weren’t 100 percent sure what dysentery even was. Classic! Today, they call this bullying.
It turns out you can play The Oregon Trail at any time, via The Internet Archive, and so I did a few times this weekend. I have to say I think I got pretty far my first round, in which I was a farmer and named everyone in my party after pop stars. I spent basically all of my money on food and ammunition, because I couldn’t remember if I had to kill people in the game and wanted to be prepared. That this was a school-approved game should have tipped me off that I would not be murdering people on the trail, but oh well! I made it over 1,026 miles, but my whole party drowned while crossing a river, and I died not long after of dysentery.
The second time I was a carpenter and was more prepared supplies-wise, with an inflated ego from my first run in terms of distance (sorry to my dead family), but then I lost pretty much everything in another river. I screamed at this point:
I’ve since been told the best way to win is to be the banker and leave at the right time. But I will not cheat this game! I am committed to winning fair and square, even if it means seeing several “baby hazel”s drown.