This section of the website is dedicated to stories about The Oregon Trail game. Many of the stories explore the details of how the game was designed and built. Other stories examine the lasting impact that the game has had on today's culture.
The Oregon Trail has generated at least eight principal memes that repeatedly appear in various forms on the internet and in popular culture. These memes include the little ox and wagon, "died of dysentery", gravestones, river crossings, and several others – all of which are detailed in this story.
The Oregon Trail has a long history as a game, stretching back nearly 50 years. Many different versions have been created. This complicated history can be divided into three principal generations, marked by the creation of a simple text-based game in 1971, the release of the famous Apple II version 1985, and release of Oregon Trail II in 1995.
In its earliest incarnations back in the 1970s, The Oregon Trail was a text-only game that ran on a mainframe computer. To play the game, you sat at a teletype machine and dialed in. Check out this story to see how this first version of the game was created, and what it was like to play the game.
In 1984 MECC decided to replace the old text-based version of The Oregon Trail with a new product, inspired by the original, but completely reimagined, redesigned, and reprogrammed from scratch. The initial challenge – a really huge challenge – was to plan the basic structure and concepts for the new game.
What??? I can only carry 100 pounds of meat back to the wagon!?! And why do those dead buffalo stick their legs straight up in the air? If you have ever wondered how the designers of The Oregon Trail came up with decisions such as these, then here is your opportunity to discover all of the answers!
The "travel screen" from The Oregon Trail is iconic, instantly recognizable to millions of people: a small, blocky image of an ox pulling a covered wagon across an abstract landscape. So where did this screen come from? How was it designed? Why does it look the way it does? The answers may surprise you!
One of the key innovations in The Oregon Trail was the inclusion of river crossing. Most players find these crossing to be an especially exciting feature. However, designing and building this activity was a lot trickier than it looks. You may be surprised by the depth of detail that underlies this feature!
At the very beginning of The Oregon Trail, there are two especially well-known features. The first is the decision whether to play as a banker, a carpenter, or a farmer. The second is the visit to Matt's General Store to purchase supplies for the journey. Find out the true story behind both of these features.
In The Oregon Trail game, you have the option of covering the final segment of the trail by rafting down the Columbia River. This feature is based on real historical facts, but it almost did not make it into the game. Find out the story behind why we wanted this feature, but almost didn't include it.