What is the narrative structure of the game and how is it told?
The narrative of Oregon Trail is to venture from Independence, MO to Oregon in the early 19th century setting. It is told through the perspective of one of three character options which each have an attribute attached that players can choose from.
What is the primary historical argument for the game? How is the West represented?
The historical argument seems to present history for educational purposes and describe the terrain and tribulations facing travelers Westward. The West is represented by constant obstacles and settlements mainly illustrated by backdrops of plains, mountains, and forts associated with the U.S government.
How does the game treat women and people of color? What role do the play in game and how do they function within the narrative presented in the game (are they in other words active historical agents or passive)?
The game treats women and people how you would expect from the time period with some exceptions. For convenience, the plot would have you believe a Native-American is willingly helpful or that women and children are constantly sick or breaking their body parts every few days down the trail. They are passive historical agents because the protagonist is determined and maintains the purpose to keep the family unit intact along the trail and their sole function for the narrative remains one that is to maintain their survival as strenous as it may be.
Who do you read as the primary protagonist in the story? Is there a way to subvert the historical agency of the main protagonist and change the narrative? How does that effect the game and the way that the historical story is presented?
The text based narrative presents itself as omnipotent as events occur and you are told so that you may make decisions based on those events. Yes, it could be possible to subvert the historical agency of the main protagonist but it would likely take focus away on a variety of factors which keep the player engaged and curious about the reality of the conditions migrants faced. In this manner, the player is convinced that surviving is of upmost importance as it should be related to the actual events of the Oregon Trail.
Do the graphics make a difference or help to reinforce the narrative of the story?
The graphics improve the narrative as the driving force of the game and allow for immersion to entice players in disregard to the difficulties that come with playing the game.
What was the overall effectiveness of the game from a history education stand point?
The game demonstrates the various conditions of travel as well as the realities of medicine, hunting, maintaining resources, trade, and rising settlements as you move Westward. It puts history into perspective in a new way and at the time of its release can be said to take into consideration the effective nature of difficulty in games to provide historical accuracy in some context.