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10 Things You May Not Know
About The Oregon Trail Game

The Oregon Trail Game

Surprisingly, the Oregon Trail game wasn’t created by individuals from the state of Oregon. Instead, it was the brainchild of three teachers from Minnesota who sought a more engaging way to educate their students about the historical significance of the Oregon Trail.

Early Development

While the game gained widespread popularity in the late 1980s and 1990s, its development dates back to 1971. It was later distributed nationwide on floppy discs in 1985, marking the start of its journey to becoming a classic.

Original Gameplay

In its initial version, players had to manually type out “pow” or “bang” as quickly as possible to shoot at animals. Misspelled words wouldn’t count as shots, adding a unique challenge to the game.

Fording the River

Crossing rivers in the game was most successful when the water was between 2 to 3 feet deep. This strategic approach offered the best chance of survival for players.

45-Minute Challenge

The game was designed to be completed in approximately 45 minutes, matching the duration of a typical school class period. However, not many players managed to beat it that quickly.

Banker’s Advantage

For novice players, selecting the banker profession provided the best chance of survival. It seems that having financial resources in the game could often help overcome various challenges, a far cry from reality.

Conservation of Bullets

Shooting everything in sight wasn’t a wise strategy. Both in the virtual Oregon Trail and presumably on the real journey, bullets were a valuable resource. Wasting them on excess meat that couldn’t be carried in the wagon wasn’t a smart move.

High Score

The current record score for the game stands at 53,350. A player’s score was determined by several factors, including the well-being of their party, the supplies remaining at the game’s conclusion, and the amount of money they could retain.

Historical Accuracy

The game is not entirely historically accurate. While the Oregon Trail game may lead one to believe that emigrants often died of dysentery and traded sweaters with Native Americans for supplies, this isn’t entirely representative of reality.

Cholera was a more common cause of death, and trades often involved alcohol, firearms, or bullets with Native Americans.

Play the Original

The good news is that you can still play the original Oregon Trail game. It’s available here, allowing you to revisit the memorable gameplay of your school days in the computer lab.

Explore the Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail: The Most Successful
Educational Game of All Time

The Unexpected Success of Educational Games

When the term “educational software” is mentioned, it often conjures up thoughts of something boring, unattractive, and non-gaming for many players.

However, the reality can be quite different, and in some parts of the world, it is quite distinct from our perspective. In some regions, the use of various types of games in education is gaining momentum, although it may not be as widespread.

A perfect example of this phenomenon is the legendary game “Oregon Trail,” which has paved the way for using gaming as an educational tool.

The Widespread Impact of Oregon Trail

During a presentation at GDC, Dan Rawitsch asked a room full of people who among them knew about “Oregon Trail,” and almost everyone raised their hands.

When he specified, “Who knows Oregon Trail from school?” practically all hands remained in the air.

It was at that moment that I realized the significance of Oregon Trail – it wasn’t just a game but an educational achievement.

This game, created by three enthusiastic (then future) teachers, not only taught hundreds of thousands of young people in the USA about a significant historical moment in the country’s history but also introduced them to a computer for the first time, something now known as a video game.

It’s worth delving into the history of this phenomenon, which Oregon Trail undoubtedly is.

The Birth of a Gaming Icon

Oregon Trail is the brainchild of Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger. Various versions and sequels of the game have sold over 65 million copies, even though it was purely educational and not commercially distributed software for many years.

You have died of dysentery.

Don Rawitsch, the project’s mastermind, wanted to teach his students about the migration of people from the Eastern United States to the West after 1800 in a way that would engage and entertain them.

To present the subject matter in an interesting way. He initially created the entire game in the form of a tabletop (more like a living room) game in the style of Dungeons & Dragons, complete with cards, a map, and everything else.

When his two roommates saw it, they lived in the same apartment, and they realized that something similar could be adapted into a computer program. That’s when the path to success began.

The Oregon Trail game


Frequently Asked Questions
About the Oregon Trail Game

Can you still play the game Oregon Trail?

Absolutely! The Oregon Trail game is available in various forms today. While the original version may not be as prevalent, there are modern adaptations and emulations available for those who wish to relive the nostalgia or experience the pioneer journey. You can play the original versions of Oregon Trail games here, at oregontrail.ws.

Is The Oregon Trail game free?

In most cases, you can find free versions or demos of The Oregon Trail game. However, some adaptations and versions may come with a price tag.

Can I play Oregon Trail on my phone?

Yes, you can play The Oregon Trail on your phone or tablet. Thanks to emulation, you can play the original Oregon Trail games on our website - oregontrail.ws.

Is there an end to The Oregon Trail game?

The Oregon Trail does have an end point. The objective is to successfully guide your group of settlers to their destination in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. However, reaching this endpoint can be quite challenging due to various obstacles, and the game can conclude with either your safe arrival or an unfortunate outcome.

What month should I leave in The Oregon Trail game?

The best time to start your journey in The Oregon Trail game is typically in the spring, around April or May. Starting in the warmer months gives you a better chance to avoid severe winter conditions and ensures a more comfortable travel experience.

How hard is Oregon Trail game?

The difficulty of The Oregon Trail game can vary depending on your choices and strategies. It can be challenging due to the numerous obstacles and decisions you must make, such as resource management, health, and risk assessment. Success often requires a balance of careful planning and adaptability.

Is The Oregon Trail game realistic?

While The Oregon Trail game is based on historical events and the challenges faced by pioneers during the 19th century, it's important to remember that it's a simplified and gamified representation. It offers an educational and entertaining experience but may not fully capture the complexities and hardships of the real historical journey.

What does The Oregon Trail game teach?

The Oregon Trail game is an educational tool that teaches players about the hardships and risks faced by pioneers during their westward migration. It also imparts lessons in decision-making, resource management, and problem-solving, making it a valuable educational game that combines history with interactive learning.