The Oregon Trial presents itself as a narrative based game that takes place in 19th century America. Players are allowed to choose their character’s occupation which will then affect the names of the rest of their crew and initial amount of spending money. From there, the player has control over several aspects of the journey including when to rest, hunt, trade, and talk. The game requires strategic planning to get to the end of the trial with as many people alive and supplies as possible which is the ultimate end goal.
The game represents the West as a wild place where anything could happen. The player could face all sorts of scenarios from being robbed, members dying off, and inconvenient weather conditions. In regards to how the game represents women and people of color, they are both portrayed in a slightly negative manner. When interacting with people of color within the game, they are portrayed as intellectually inferior due to the slang used to represent their speech pattern. Women are also shoved into niche societal roles and tend to die sooner than men via the game mechanics. Playing as teachers, the entire group consists of women and they gain a 3.5x bonus upon completion. This indicates that it should be a lot more difficult to obtain a high score yet alone complete the game as a women as oppose to other roles such as Doctors that only receive a 1x multiplier. Clearly, women and people of color act as passive historical agents looking at how they are utilized and interact with the in-game world.
The narrative of the game centers around the player’s created character. However, the game only has two possibilities: completion of the trial or failure due to death of all party members – unless the player decides to stop and just casually hunt at a fort forever. The player has control over almost everything along the way but it has no effect in the grand scheme. The player’s perspective limits the historical story of the American West to that of a pioneer’s. It does not show much on how people interact with each other other than the few NPCs that hint at upcoming obstacles in the game.
Personally, I felt as if the game depicted the West in a decent manner. The random occurrences that prevent progress show how hard going down the path could have been from a stimulation standpoint. The minimal graphics kind of helped show how bare bones life was back then as well as how empty the trial might have been in the eyes of a pioneer. In terms of effectiveness from a history education standpoint, I think the Oregon Trial serves as a nice introduction to life in the West but could be improved by allowing more world interaction. However, it does an okay job of trying to mimic the lifestyle of pioneers and how white men viewed woman and people of color during the time.