The narrative of Oregon Trail is an adventure game set in 19th century America, with the protagonist and his crew making their way across uncharted territory with hopes to find a better way of life at the end of the journey. The primary protagonist would have their occupation chosen out of a list available to the player at the start of the game. Each occupation would provide its own benefits to the crew, protagonist and player.
The primary historical argument of the game is to display the unknown chances of survival many travelers faced as they made their way across America on cattle driven wagons. The game allows players to gather food and supplies to prepare the crew for their voyage but, almost at random, the player’s crew will encounter fatigue, illness and injury. These game elements made the risks of traveling across America more evident as the players encountered them “firsthand”.
Looking closer at the game’s characters, Woman and people of color are not essential to the gameplay. With little importance their only purpose is to be themselves, or at least what women, Native Americans and African Americans were thought to be in 19th century America. The dialogue of these characters are generalizations of their culture and they play a passive role in the game, just as some were seen to have in real life in early United States history.