The Oregon Trail


The classic game, The Oregon Trail, is an adventure game that puts the player in the shoes of a pioneer traveling across the historic Oregon Trail. In this game, the player can choose for their character to be a banker, blacksmith, carpenter, doctor, farmer, merchant, saddle maker, or teacher. Each occupation has their own perks whether it be more money to start off with or a higher point bonus at the end of the game. The primary historical argument being made in The Oregon Trail is that the trail was dangerous and many people risked their lives in order to take the trip across the trail. The usage of occupations and wealth in the game also shows that for those who were wealthy, like a doctor, the trail was simpler than someone who was not, like a teacher, because they had more money for supplies and were less likely to need to ration food.

Despite giving a good idea of what life on the trail was like and how some people were more likely to survive on it than others, The Oregon Trail, arguably, does a bad job at representing different minority groups. For example, Blacks. In The Oregon Trail, Blacks are given the stereotypical Southern accents and are not given much depth into the actual story of the game. The lack of depth given to Blacks can be seen across other ethnic groups as well. Native Americans, for example, also do not have much impact on the story for the game other than trading and small snippets of dialogue. Native Americans also do not seem hostile towards, what the player could assume, the white-male protagonist of the game. This is an issue because of the hostility between the two groups that likely existed during this time, especially along the trail. Women, like the previous two minority groups, are also underrepresented in the game.

Overall, The Oregon Trail is an effective game. Despite the representations or lack thereof, regarding different minority groups and women, The Oregon Trail gives the player a good sense of how random and threatening the trail could be. The graphics are a huge help with the game’s overall effectiveness. Through the graphics, the player is given a visual representation of their distance traveled and how far they have left, the people they come across, and more, including mini-games like when the player decides to hunt. All of these things, and more, cause for greater immersion in the game and a broad, but clear, understanding of the Oregon Trail.

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