The Oregon Trail

The  Oregon Trail

By Lucas Brack
April 30, 2020

Imagine trying to better your life and set yourself up for the future, but in order to do so you must risk everything, including the lives of your family. This is the story of the game The Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail is the world’s most well-known educational game. Developed in 1971 by student teachers Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger for use in their classes to teach about the actual trail. Their goal was to create a game that their students would play, but that would also teach them a history lesson. 1 . It was an instant hit in the class, with the students organizing themselves to get the best results, competing against each other in teams. However, since they were student teachers the game was retired after that school year, and the game was almost lost forever. But it returned when Rawitsch uploaded the code onto the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) system in 1974, allowing for the whole state to access the game. The MECC forged a deal with Apple that helped spread the game by putting it on floppy disks, continuing its spread. MECC also licensed out the game, along with the rest of their catalog, to schools across the country, with almost 1/3 of schools across the country buying access to the catalog. 2 . The game was further spread when it was released to the public in 1985, so much so that in 2011 over 65 million copies had been sold, proving it to be a popular game, even being replicated online in emulators, such as https://archive.org/details/msdos_Oregon_Trail_The_1990.

  1. Kevin Wong, “The Forgotten History of 'The Oregon Trail,' As Told By Its Creators,” Vice, February 15, 2017, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qkx8vw/the-forgotten-history-of-the-oregon-trail-as-told-by-its-creators.

  2. Jessica Lussenhop, “Oregon Trail: How Three Minnesotans Forged its Path,” City Pages, January 19, 2011, http://www.citypages.com/news/oregon-trail-how-three-minnesotans-forged-its-path-6745749.

The Oregon Trail