Monday, April 25, 2011

The Oregon Trail

My husband and I were discussing computer games that used to be available when we were kids. He had Nintendo, but I had nothing, so the only games I got to play were on the computers at school.

A game they always let us play with was Oregon Trail. If you were a kid in the 80s, you must remember this game. It's a "learning game", supposed to teach us about pioneer life, so that's why we got to play it in school. I remember the goal was to lead our wagon and ox from some starting point to, presumably, Oregon. Except I never understood why the pioneers were going to Oregon. Why Oregon? Oregon sucks. Why not go to California to get gold or whatever?




(See American flag in drawing, which teaches us that the Oregon Trail was in the US, not in like France or something.)

At the beginning of the game, you went to a store and bought a bunch of crap that you were supposed to need for your journey, like food and ox and bullets. (The game was always talking about oxen and it was only years later that I realized that oxen was the plural of ox. I was always like, "What is this weird animal called oxen?") Then you were off on your journey.

Things that could happen to you on the Oregon trail included losing half your food in a river, getting sick and losing time, or I guess other things could happen. I don't really remember. I never got very far.

Above and beyond, the best part of the game was going hunting. You got to stand in a little field with your tiny gun and use the arrow keys and space bar to shoot at animals scurrying through the field. And any animal you shot, you got to keep for food. The highlight was shooting one of those big buffalo.

In all my years of playing the Oregon Trail, I don't think I ever once finished the game. I guess it takes a long time to get to Oregon from... wherever the starting point was. There was some kind of scoring system, but since I never actually finished, I never learned how that worked or cared.

The other game we played a lot was Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? I don't remember much about that game, other than the fact that it required you to know geography, therefore I sucked at it. Also, it was a TV show, and this kid from my class got to be on it and lost really badly.

When my father finally got a computer, my first game was this text-based game based on The Hobbit. I think it was called The Hobbit. Between me and my father, neither of us could figure out how to play. There was this whole dictionary of words you were allowed to use, but the only command I could get the game to understand was "Kill Gandolf". And once Gandolf was dead, you had no one to help you so the game was pretty much over. I'm not even sure why the game let you kill him. I guess computer games have come a long way since then.

29 comments:

  1. Oregon does suck. My great grandparents sold their store in NY to move there in 1906. Apparently my great-grandmother was so displeased (they had bought a homestead in eastern Oregon) that she forced the family to move back to NY immediately. Did I mention they went by stagecoach?

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  2. OMDG: Was the stagecoach pulled by oxen? :)

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  3. The greatest thing to happen in oregon trail was when you died of dysentary. They sell T shirts now, with that famous phrase printed in 1980's computer font... "You have died of dysentary"

    I did play both Carmen and Oregon trail, but they other one we played like fiends was Lemonade Stand. Did your classroom have that game?

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  4. Oh my stars I LOVED Oregon Trail... "You died of dysentery', 'you drowned in the river'. I'm pretty sure you couldn't actually win that game. I was awesome at it and I never won.

    Love Carmen Sandiego too. Only know I have the theme song stuck in my head =)

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  5. Played Oregon Trail often, and loved it! The way to win was to chose the highest salary, buy the most supplies, go slow, spend the most money and feed your travelers well (just like real life, haha). Also, in fits of pique, I may or may not have loaded the wagon with people who I did not like and then watch them die of dysentary, snake bites, and drownings. Quite therapeutic. (I am not a serial killer, swear.)

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  6. @ OMDG: Hopefully, no one died od dysentery.

    I played Carmen Sandiego, and I actually got a lot of exercise from it, as I would constantly run upstairs to ask my parents to interpret the cryptic clues about where Carmen was. I also had a friend who got on the show, and his claim to fame was falling flat on his face during the final round where he was supposed to run those giant light poles onto the map of the world placed on the floor.

    I am still impressed how those kids could identify the countries on the map when running around with people screaming at them. I mean, how the heck does this kid know where the Caspian Sea is?

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  7. I sucked at that game. I always died.

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  8. Oh, God! Oregon Trail is amazing. I remember never buying food or anything helpful to start off, but just a bunch of bullets. My classmates and I used to "race" each other to Oregon - you put your wagon on a "grueling" pace and rations down to "meager". Basically, you only stopped to go hunting. Other than that, you hauled ass to Oregan and hoped that everyone in your wagon didn't die off from the measles and snake bites that you'd never stop to treat. Apparently all we learned from Oregan Trail was that it was okay to sacrifice a few oxen and a few wagon mates while chugging across country at a break-neck pace so long as you beat everyone else in your class to "the promise land" :)

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  9. Yeah - I loved Carmen Sandiego the TV show - I so wanted to be one of those kids, but their ability to stick those flagpoles on the countries was actually pretty impressive. Oh, and Oregon Trail > life.

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  10. Oregon Trail, Lemonade Stand, Numer/Word Munchers ... aaah, the good ol' days.

    Here's another fun little review of Oregon Trail.

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  11. I think it was pulled by a horse.

    Oh, and I LOVED Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.

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  12. Oregon Trail must have come out just slightly after "Pong" which was the only game we were allowed to play on our "trash 80" ...

    of course, then came Centipede, Ms. Pac-Man, and all of that morphed some decades later into WoW.

    I long for the days of kickball, kick the can, midnight...

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  13. I was in the same situation as you as a kid - no Atari or Nintendo, but access to educational games at school. The Canadian answer to the Oregon Trail was "Cross Country Canada". You were a truck driver and had to drive around the country picking up local commodities and delivering them to far away locales (thus learning about geography AND economics). For example, you'd pick up lobster in Nova Scotia, drive to Calgary and get a new truckload of beef.

    The funny part was, looking back, that you had the option of performing illegal traffic moves such as speeding putting chains on the tires when going through a mountainous area, but the catch was that the RCMP could pull you over and get a fine!

    These games are so classic! Fond childhood memories for sure.

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  14. I LOVED Oregon Trail. I always drowned in the river. I was actually looking for it online not so long ago.
    Frogger was another one that I always liked.
    Like Laura said, Cross Country Canada was also so much fun.

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  15. If you want to re-live the memories you can play online!
    http://www.virtualapple.org/oregontraildisk.html

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  16. Hey! I'm a 5th generation Oregonian, whose family came here via Oregon Trail, AND OREGON DOES NOT SUCK!

    Jeez. Come visit Portland, you'll change your mind. :)

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  17. Dude, it was a JOKE.

    And eastern Oregon? Please. Let's just say it's a really good thing they decided to come back to NY.

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  18. Oh wow, I'd totally forgotten about Oregon Trail. They were still doing that game in the late 90's. (I can't remember if it was computer based or not... I seem to recall slips of paper and it going on for a couple of months.) The one thing that stands out in my mind was the twine. You were limited on how many bullets, pounds of food or other items you could bring, but "twine" was apparently weightless and so you could bring along an infinite supply!

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  19. I know it was a joke - someone needs to get on inventing that sarcasm font. :)

    What's funny is, I am actually from Eastern Oregon. There are some really beautiful parts with gorgeous mountains, lakes, skiing, hiking/backpacking, etc. It's not all bad out there (although it is rural and conservative).

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  20. Oregon could do without the Eastern 3rd. lol. I'll stick to the Willamette (that's willamette damnit!) Valley. Just kidding, we'll keep E. Oregon too...

    But I have Oregon Trail for my phone so the kids can experience it too ;-)

    We never had any video game systems. We DID have a commedor 64 and playing such rockin' games as Miner 49er and Pole Position and this cool toothbrush game.

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  21. I loved Oregon Trail growing up! I completely sacrificed the people in my traveling party to ensure that I made it in a timely fashion. If you wandered off or broke an arm, it was too bad. My childhood is littered with the pixelated gravestones of my classmates.

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  22. Oregon Trail was awesome! My best friend and I used to pretend my bunk beds were a wagon and pretend play it, too, There were fewer cases of dysentery that way. LOL. I played Carmen Sandiego, too.

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  23. If by suck you mean totally awesome. Oregon Rules. Mild winters and summers and natural beauty abound. The rivers floweth with coffee and bicycling to work is considered more that socially acceptable. In short... Oregon Rocks.

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  24. I've never even heard of that game - can you believe it? All I remember is Pacman and Frogger from my youth. ;-)... Oregon rocks (West of the Cascades). I love living here in Western Oregon. :-)

    Does anyone remember that game Jumpman? We had it for our Commodore 64.

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  25. Hey! Oregon is a hell of a lot better than the hellhole you left from. But wouldn't it be hilarious that I say that now and it turns out we leave from Kirksville? ;-P

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  26. You know there is an Oregon Trail app for the iPhone? It's so awesome. I downloaded it the day it came out. It's definitely different, but same premise, and lots of broken bones & dysentery. :)

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  27. Independence, Missouri. That's where the Oregon Trail game started from. If you were the banker or the doctor you usually made it. The banker started out with more supplies, but fewer of the doctor's wagon-mates died on the journey. And the hunting was awesome, too bad we could only take 2000lbs at a time.

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