Oregon Trail Post

What is the narrative structure of the game and how is it told?

When playing this game the player is in charge of taking the main protagonists and his traveling party across the American west starting in the late 1840’s. During their two-thousand mile journey the players must make decisions to try and get themselves as well as their party members safely across the country. On this voyage the player must face the hardships of the rugged, unpredictable nature in the American West.

What is the primary historical argument for the game? How is the West represented?  

The historical argument presented in this game is that traveling across the American west was extremely dangerous and unpredictable. Those who made the trek to the West coast were subject to life or death situations on almost a day to day basis.  Every decision the player makes has repercussions. Even if the player makes every correct decisions, there are certain situations that one cannot predict. Whether it is a member of your party becoming ill, getting bitten by a snake, or getting lost, there are certain situations that people cannot plan for.

 

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)?

In my personal experiences playing this game I have noticed that women do not play any role in the travel and almost make it more difficult. They are essentially just one other mouth to feed and person to take care of.  I am unsure if it has just been a coincidence or not, but every time I have played this game a woman has been the first person to pass away. Men pass away also, but I noticed that women tend to die a little easier. One male party member endured three separate snake bite, a broken arm and a form of sickness before he died. Whereas the women would sometimes die from a cold. Even if it is just a coincidence, just by the imagery alone one can see that women are depicted as nothing more than a caretaker. They look timid and somewhat hopeless. The only colored people I saw in the game were Native Americans. Their role was to trade with the traveling party and occasionally help the party find more food. The imagery used for Native Americans suggested that they were sad inferior people. In addition to imagery, Native Americans never had anything to trade besides food. Both the roles of women and Native Americans can be used as active historical agents. When one examines how women are depicted in the game one can conclude how women were treated and viewed as men’s inferiors during the 19th century. The role Native Americans play not only shows the player how white Americans viewed the Native Americans, but it also changes the common narrative that there was constant conflict between the two races. Although there was a lot of conflict between them, the Native Americans were helpful at times and attempted to live in the American society by trading goods for currency.

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 main protagonist of the game is a middle aged white American man. A player can name the leader of the party anything they would like, but it does not change the narrative of the game. Not being able to change the narrative of the game does not effect the actual  game play. However, not being able to make that change does keep the game’s narrative historically accurate. Due to the inequalities that women and colored people faced during the time this game took place, it is highly unlikely that either group would be able to afford the necessary equipment to make such a rigorous journey.

Do the graphics make a difference or help to reinforce the narrative of the story? If you played the text based version (https://classicreload.com/Oregon-trail.html) what can you offer about how graphics change both the narrative function and representations in the game.

Yes, the graphics of the game reinforce the story. The graphics in the game make it possible for the player to feel

What was the overall effectiveness of the game from a history education stand point?

This game is very effective from a history education stand point.  Some times it is difficult to fully understand and grasp how hard making the voyage west was during the 19th century. This game allows the player to experience difficulties that migrants had to endure. One difficulty that the game does a great job showing is the importance of managing your travels according to the changing seasons. If the player is not cautious about when they leave or the pace they keep, the party can be caught in the middle of winter with no food for their oxen to eat and potentially lose everything. The game also does a fine job depicting America geographically. Showing rivers, mountain rages, and deserts gives the player an idea of where they are located in America. In addition to the landscape features, the game also uses actual forts that were built across the American west. The game’s use of geographical accuracies,  gender roles, and unforeseeable problems, makes it an effective tool historical education.

 

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