Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Oregon Trail

The very first game in the book, The Oregon Trail is an "edutainment" game that was originally released in 1971 ("edutainment" is a subgenre of gaming that combines education, along with entertainment elements of video games).  In the game, you assume the role of a wagon leader who guides his party from Missouri to Oregon, via the Oregon Trail, in the mid-19th century.  As you travel, you must manage your resources carefully, and make the right decisions at key moments.

I remember playing this game when I was in school.  I can't remember what system it was on; it was either on an Apple II or an old IBM PC, as it had color graphics and was not quite as archaic   As much as I appreciate its role in video games, I always looked at it more as a way to kill time while I was in school.  I never really became excited as I was playing it.  An "edutainment" game that, IMO, was more deserving of being on the list, and yet wasn't, was one of the "Carmen Sandiego" games that were developed for computers in the 1980s and 90s.  I remember spending many hours playing those games ("Where in the World" and "Where in Time" were favorites) for my Commodore 64, when I was at home.  It was similar in some ways to "Oregon Trail", but I also remember it as being more nonlinear.  You had to use an almanac that provided clues in catching Carmen's cohorts, and eventually, Carmen herself.  This required travelling to different locations throughout the world, and learning different things about the country you were in (I remember particularly, learning the currency of each country through these games).  I remember having a lot of fun.    

I know this is the first game on the list, but I am going to forgo revisiting Oregon Trail, at least for now.  I'm timid on replaying a game that I have lukewarm memories of.  There are many different versions of the game, including ones for Facebook and Nintendo's new portable, the 3DS (which I have).  Maybe a more modern take on it will make me enjoy it more.  But I promise, I will return to this game, in time, to give my thoughts on it.

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