There aren’t too many games nowadays where you’d experience death by dysentery, but if you were in grade school during the 1980s and your classroom computer had an Apple II in it, you finished your work as fast as you could so you could play The Oregon Trail.
Your mission: to transport your family from Independence, Missouri to Oregon by wagon as safely as possible. Hunting for your food provided straightforward action but much of the game consisted of choose-your-own-adventure style strategy: Should you start early and risk a cold spring, or late and risk an early winter? What supplies do you need? Should you try to float across that river or pay for a ferry? One wrong step and your party could be in big trouble.
The game itself was actually developed in 1971 by three student teachers at Carleton College in Minnesota as a teaching tool. Don Rawitsch, who came up with the idea for The Oregon Trail, went on to work for MECC, the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, an organization run by the state that developed “edutainment” games for schools. The game was refined and updated and eventually found its way to the Apple II in the early ’80s, where it gained in popularity before continuing on to multiple platforms between the ’90s and today.
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