Throwback Thursday: O is for The Oregon Trail

There was no better day in the computer lab at school when you were allowed to play The Oregon Trail.


As soon as the teacher announced it, there was always a wild stampede for the game disks which were 5 1/2 inches and could store a whole 1.2MB of data.

If the person you're dating doesn't remember disks this size, they're too young for you.
If the person you’re dating
doesn’t remember disks this size,
they’re too young for you.

When the game started, you could choose varying levels of difficulty by selecting different occupations for yourself. If you chose to be a banker from Boston, you had the most money and could buy your way across the country while keeping your group mostly alive. If you were a carpenter from Ohio, you had a moderate chance of making it across the country but you had to reduce everyone’s food rations and someone almost always died of dysentery.

God dammit, Nicole.
God dammit, Nicole.

The third option had the closest stating point, a farmer from Illinois, but you had the least amount of money and had to hope you were really good at hunting for food . . . basically not all that different from today’s economy.

Hunting was sort of a mini game within the game but there was only minimal skill involved. You were randomly assigned a position in the wilderness, you couldn’t walk, you could only shoot in certain directions, and if you were anything like me, you ended up shooting trees more often than game.

Obviously not a screencap of my personal gameplay.
Obviously not a screencap of my personal gameplay.

It was also complete bullshit because if you did manage to kill several large animals, you could only bring back a fraction of the food to your wagon.


There were several stops along the way, like various military forts where you could buy or trade for supplies, and there were rivers to cross. The rivers were always tricky–if you wanted to pay for the expensive ferry, you were guaranteed safe passage across. You could float your wagon across the river, which gave you a moderately good chance of getting across but you might lose a few supplies in the river. Or, if you were broke or just felt like living dangerously, you could try to ford the river and risk everyone drowning.

Well, fuck.
Well, fuck.

Along the way, you risked random events like wagon fires, blizzards, snakebites, and everyone getting sick and dying from communicable diseases like cholera, typhoid, and the measles because this was before those handy little preventative shots called “vaccines” were invented.

Think of Jennifer. Vaccinate your fucking children.
Remember Jennifer.
Vaccinate your fucking children.

If you managed to drag yourself across the finish line into Oregon, you were rewarded with this:

Totally worth my entire family dying of exhaustion.
Totally worth my entire family dying of exhaustion.

And that was pretty much it. The game was intended to be educational but mostly, we all just learned how easy it was to die of dysentery.


If reading this post has awoken your elementary school desire to play this game, guess what? YOU CAN! Click here and spend the rest of your day killing your friends in an old-timey fashion.

A shot of my actual gameplay. This was at the first river crossing. My friend Cole drowned. Sorry, Cole.
A shot of my actual gameplay.
This was at the first river crossing.
My friend, Cole, drowned.
Sorry, Cole.

Happy Throwback Thursday!

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