Pizza day aside, there were few things that excited me in elementary school as much as playing The Oregon Trail. The game infiltrated schools under the guise of being educational software, meant to reinforce what students were already learning in the classroom about the harrowing 2000 mile journey from Independence, Missouri to the promised land of the Oregon coast, where our starving, infected pioneers could strike it rich in the gold rush or farm the fertile land.
Clearly I learned something, but we fifth and sixth graders all knew the true purpose of the game – to give the people in our wagon party dirty names so the game would insert them into announcements like “[name] was bitten by a snake, do you want to stop?” And hilariously, “[name] has died of dysentery,” at which point you could type an equally mature message on their tombstone to leave on the side of the trail. When one tired of completing the historic trans-American journey, there were always other feats to accomplish, like seeing how quickly you could kill off the members of your party. With ills including typhus, cholera, measles, drowning and starvation, there was no shortage of ways your beloved family, all named after bodily functions, could meet their demise. Hunting for animals along the trail was another fun activity, good for whiling away the hours between snack and lunch.
The game holds a special place in the hearts of early 20-somethings who spent many a classroom hour on the trail, and now Gameloft has updated the graphics and re-launched it for cell phones. I downloaded the game earlier this week and have to say – it’s just not the same as I remember when I was a kid. The graphics are better and there are more features built into the story line. In the updated version players can fix their wagon if it breaks instead of having to buy a new one. There is also fishing in addition to hunting in the re-release, but I just couldn’t get into it. I guess childhood memories will have to stay that way, or maybe you’ll have better luck than I did at reliving elementary school days.
I downloaded the game from Verizon’s Get It Now app. Store for $6.99 unlimited use where it was a best seller. It is available for most phones on most networks.
Hunter Patterson is a senior economics major.