The Oregon Trail (series)
The Oregon Trail is a series of educational computer games. The first game was originally developed by Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger in 1971 and produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) in 1974. The original game was designed to teach 8th grade school children about the realities of 19th-century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail. The player assumes the role of a wagon leader guiding a party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon's Willamette Valley via a covered wagon in 1848.
|The Oregon Trail|
The Learning Company
|Creator(s)||Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, Paul Dillenberger|
|First release||The Oregon Trail|
December 3, 1971
|Latest release||The Oregon Trail|
December 6, 2011
|Spin-offs||The Amazon Trail|
The Yukon Trail
MayaQuest: The Mystery Trail
In 1971, Don Rawitsch, a senior at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, taught an 8th grade history class as a student teacher. He used HP Time-Shared BASIC running on a HP 2100 minicomputer to write a computer program to help teach the subject. Rawitsch recruited two friends and fellow student teachers, Paul Dillenberger and Bill Heinemann, to help.
These are the original core gameplay concepts which have endured in every subsequent version: initial supply purchase; occasional food hunting; occasional supply purchase at forts; inventory management of supplies; variable travel speed depending upon conditions; frequent misfortunes; and game over upon death or successfully reaching Oregon.
The game that would be later named The Oregon Trail debuted to Rawitsch's class on December 3, 1971. Although the minicomputer's teletype and paper tape terminals that predate display screens were awkward to children, the game was immediately popular, and he made it available to users of the minicomputer time-sharing network owned by Minneapolis Public Schools. When the next semester ended, Rawitsch printed out a copy of the source code and deleted it from the minicomputer.
In 1974, the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), a state-funded organization that developed educational software for the classroom, hired Rawitsch. He uploaded the Oregon Trail game into the organization's time-sharing network by retyping it, copied from a printout of the 1971 BASIC code. Then he modified the frequency and details of the random events that occurred in the game, to more accurately reflect the accounts he had read in the historical diaries of people who had traveled the trail. In 1975, when his updates were finished, he made the game titled OREGON available to all the schools on the timeshare network. The game became one of the network's most popular programs, with thousands of players monthly.
Rawitsch published the source code of The Oregon Trail, written in BASIC 3.1 for the CDC Cyber 70/73-26, in Creative Computing's May–June 1978 issue. That year MECC began encouraging schools to adopt the Apple II microcomputer. John Cook adapted the game for the Apple II, and it appeared on A.P.P.L.E.'s PDS Disk series No. 108. A further version called Oregon Trail 2 was adapted in June 1978 by J.P. O'Malley. The game was further released as part of MECC's Elementary series, on Elementary Volume 6 in 1980. The game was titled simply Oregon, and featured minimal graphics. It proved so popular that it was re-released as a standalone game, with substantially improved graphics, in 1985. The new version was also updated to more accurately reflect the real Oregon Trail, incorporating notable geographic landmarks as well as human characters with whom the player can interact.
By 1995, The Oregon Trail comprised about one-third of MECC's $30 million in annual revenue. An updated version, Oregon Trail Deluxe, was released for DOS and Macintosh in 1992, as well as Windows in 1993 (under the title of simply The Oregon Trail Version 1.2) followed by Oregon Trail II in 1995, The Oregon Trail 3rd Edition in 1997, and 4th and 5th editions. As of 2011[update], more than 65 million copies of The Oregon Trail have been sold.
Various games in the series were released with inconsistent titles.
|The Oregon Trail||1971||Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger||Not published||HP 2100|
|OREGON||1975||Modified by Don Rawitsch||MECC (on timeshare system)||CDC Cyber 70|
|OREGON||1978||John Cook (ported from timeshare version)||MECC (as download)||Apple II|
|OREGON (part of Elementary Volume 6)||1980||Unchanged from 1978 version||MECC (on floppy disk)||Apple II|
|Oregon (part of Expeditions)||1983||MECC (ported from 1980 Apple II version)||MECC||Atari 8-Bit|
|Oregon (part of Expeditions)||1984||MECC (ported from 1980 Apple II version)||MECC||Commodore 64, Radio Shack TRS-80|
|The Oregon Trail||1985||R. Philip Bouchard (designer), MECC||MECC||Apple II|
|The Oregon Trail||1990||MECC (direct copy of 1985 Apple II version)||MECC||DOS|
|The Oregon Trail||1991||MECC||MECC||Macintosh (B&W)|
|The Oregon Trail Deluxe||1992||MECC||MECC||DOS (with mouse support)|
|The Oregon Trail||1993||MECC||MECC||Windows 3.x, Windows|
|Oregon Trail II||1995||Wayne Studer (designer), MECC||SoftKey||DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows, Macintosh|
|The Oregon Trail 3rd Edition||1997||The Learning Company||The Learning Company||Windows, Macintosh|
|The Oregon Trail 4th Edition||1999||The Learning Company||The Learning Company||Windows, Macintosh|
|The Oregon Trail 5th Edition||2001||The Learning Company||The Learning Company||Windows, Macintosh|
|The Oregon Trail||2009||Gameloft Shanghai, Gameloft New York||Gameloft||DSiware|
|The Oregon Trail HD ||2010||Gameloft||Gameloft||Windows Phone|
|The Oregon Trail||2011||DoubleTapGames LLC||Crave Entertainment||Wii, 3DS|
|The Oregon Trail Card Game||2016||Pressman Toy Corporation||Pressman Toy Corporation||card game sold at Target|
|Handheld Oregon Trail||2018||Basic Fun!||handheld device originally sold as a Target exclusive|
|The Oregon Trail: Journey to Willamette Valley||2018||Pressman Toy Corporation||Pressman Toy Corporation||board game sold at Target|
The game was popular among elementary school students worldwide from the mid-1980s to mid-2000s, as many computers came bundled with the game. MECC followed up on the success of The Oregon Trail with similar titles such as The Yukon Trail and The Amazon Trail. David H. Ahl published Westward Ho!, set on the Oregon Trail in 1848, as a type-in game in 1986.
The phrase "You have died of dysentery" has been popularized on T-shirts and other promotional merchandise. Another popular phrase from the game is "Here lies andy; peperony and chease," which is a player-generated epitaph featured on an in-game tombstone saved to a frequently bootlegged copy of the game disk, and likely a direct reference to a popular Tombstone pizza television commercial from the 1990s.
The game resurfaced in 2008 when Gameloft created an updated version for cell phones. A new release for the iPhone and iPod Touch is also available from Gameloft. The game went live in the iTunes App Store on March 11, 2009. On January 7, 2010, the Palm webOS version was released to the Palm App Catalog. On November 11, 2010, an Xbox Live version was released on Windows Phone 7.
The cell phone version of the game is similar to the original, but varies in that the player can choose one of three different wagons: A basic wagon, a prairie schooner or a Conestoga wagon. The player can also choose to become a banker, a carpenter, or a farmer, each of which has unique benefits. Unlike the computer version of the game, players in the iPhone and iPod Touch version do not need to buy guns and bullets. The game has received a major update, which had the player using trading and crafting to upgrade their wagon, buy food, and cure ailments.
On February 2, 2011, a new version of the game was released on the social networking site Facebook. This version was removed from Facebook when Blue Fang Games closed. A new version of the game was also released for the Wii and 3DS that year, and received a negative critical response.
In 2012, the Willamette Heritage Center (WHC) and the Statesman Journal newspaper in Salem, Oregon created Oregon Trail Live as a live-action event. Teams compete as they master 10 challenges on the grounds of the WHC. Challenges were based loosely on the game: hunting for game was done by shooting Nerf guns at college students wearing wigs and cloth antlers, while carrying 200 pounds of meat became pulling a 200-pound man up a hill in a child's red wagon while he recites historical meat facts and points out choice cuts. Independence, Missouri is at one end of the grounds and the Willamette Valley is at the other end. The WHC received the 2014 Outstanding Educator Award from the Oregon California Trails Association for this event.
In 2013, a dark comedy entitled Oregon Trail: The Play! received its first professional production by New Orleans-based theatre company, The NOLA Project and was subsequently published in 2016 by Alligator Pear Publishing, LLC. The play closely parodies the game, following a westward-headed family as they stock up on provisions for their oxen-led wagons and do their best to survive river crossings, illnesses, hunting, highway robbery, and a host of other mid-nineteenth century dilemmas. Audience members are asked to help provide food for the family in a mid-play nerf shooting gallery.
The game was even referenced on the May 15, 2020 edition of WWE Smackdown. On that episode Otis told both John Morrison and The Miz that his usual tag team partner Tucker couldn't make it to the tag team match that night, "because he got dysentery on The Oregon Trail."
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