Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-settings.php on line 520

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-settings.php on line 535

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-settings.php on line 542

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-settings.php on line 578

Deprecated: Function set_magic_quotes_runtime() is deprecated in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-settings.php on line 18

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1199

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1199

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1199

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1199

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_PageDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1244

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1391

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1391

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1391

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1391

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_CategoryDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/classes.php on line 1442

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class wpdb in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 306

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Object_Cache in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/cache.php on line 431

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1266

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1266

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1266

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output) in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1266

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Dependencies in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/class.wp-dependencies.php on line 31

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Http in /home/edeifyc/public_html/wp-includes/http.php on line 61
edeify.com » Blog Archive » Childhood Life Lessons Learned From Playing Oregon Trail

Childhood Life Lessons Learned From Playing Oregon Trail

November 16, 2007 – 7:18 am

Overhunting in Oregon Trail Game

Starting tonight at 6 PM, I’ll have two days to create a game from scratch for the XO laptop at the Pittsburgh Game Jam. Since these laptops are primarily being distributed to children in developing countries around the world, I’m going to try to make something that’s both fun and educational.

So I’ve been thinking about what games I enjoyed and influenced my educational development when I was a child. If you’re around my age and also attended US public schools, you probably have played my top pick, The Oregon Trail. There might be some stubborn Carmen Sandiego or Number Munchers fans out there, but I think most will agree that Oregon Trail (OT) stands out for many reasons.

First of all, given its premise of being a historical simulation of slowly migrating west by wagon as a pioneer in 1800s, you’d expect the game to be pretty boring. On the contrary, it was probably the most exciting game available to kids in computer labs at the time.

Despite being a “children’s” game, OT was brutally difficult. You died. A lot. Oftentimes from tragic accidents (usually your own fault somehow) or horrible diseases (random and sometimes amusing, for example: “You have died of dysentery!“) And in case you hadn’t quite realized the severity of your failure yet, a morbid graphic of a customized gravestone would appear to reinforce the message.

Actually, it reminds me of NetHack, only instead of just guiding one character to their likely upcoming death, you get to lead a party of four, which you also get to name! So, of course, kids enjoyed naming their characters after their classmates (”Hey, Bob, you just got cholera and broke your leg, I bet you’re a goner for sure!”) or obscenities they hoped the teacher wouldn’t notice.

Still, most of the game was centered around building practical problem-solving skills as your party struggles against Mother Nature, random events, and a dwindling food supply. It’s this last challenge that actually helped me understand why buffalo almost went extinct…because they’re ridiculously easy to shoot.

In OT, if you decided to hunt for your food, you could waste expensive bullets on the hard-to-hit small game animals for a meager amount of meat or you could use just one bullet to hit the giant slow-moving buffalo that gave more meat than your group could even use.

Ultimately, this little mini-game was more of a test of ethics than anything else. Would you practice sustainable hunting practices by shooting just one buffalo to fulfill your food needs? Probably not, since you’re just a bored kid stuck in the computer lab and this is an entertaining shooting game. Why not revel in the overkill? So horrible, pixelated scenes of the wanton slaughter of wildlife (like the example at the top) were not an uncommon sight.

You could blame juvenile behavior for this, but I later learned that in the 1800s, people would mass-slaughter buffalo in drive-by train shootings for sport and let the carcasses rot.

Senseless Slaughter in the Old West

Well, I don’t want to make this post too long. In conclusion, playing Oregon Trail when I was an impressionable youngster taught me the horrible consequences of over-hunting (and dysentery).

Has anyone else ever learned something from a game? Any game ideas, suggestions or requests for the Game Jam this weekend?

  1. 2 Responses to “Childhood Life Lessons Learned From Playing Oregon Trail”

  2. Carmen Sandiego taught me that most people don’t spell my name correctly.

    By John R. Carman on Nov 16, 2007

  3. This is really funny. My favorite OT memory is when you have the choice to finish the last bit of the trail or ride the rapids. Which usually meant you killed your whole family on the rocks.

    By norm on Nov 28, 2007

Post a Comment