As a child in computer lab, after I had completed lesions that I thought were teaching me how to operate a computer, (little did I know that real computers don’t have clover buttons), I did the same thing every day that everyone else did: I booted up The Oregon Trail.
As a piece of educational software, Oregon Trail was in virtually every school in America that had a computer. Its game play promoted making choices, and was tied into an important piece of American history.
As something that was anything other than learning how to use a Mac or an Apple II, The Oregon Trail was a welcome and entertaining aside from the conundrum of school work, even if only in orange and black graphics… And, after all, it is a video game.
As a result, virtually every American who went to a public school that had a computer lab has a shared experience. We all, at one time, made a choice to be the rich banker from Boston, or the poor farmer from Ohio. We named our party after our family and friends, or pets or favorite pop-culture icons.
We cringed as a member of our party died, (unless we named them after someone who we didn’t like all that much, then maybe some of us got a laugh), and we all worried about how to cross rivers, and we all experienced relief when we had a good hunt, or finally made it to a fort to stock up on supplies. And we were all surprised to find ourselves suddenly flying down river, dodging logs to the game’s end.
Gamer or not, the odds are that most people who you interact with on a daily basis have played The Oregon Trail. So, next time you’re in a social situation where you don’t know what to say, just relate the conversation back an event in The Oregon Trail, and everyone will have a brief moment of nostalgia as they reach back to their childhood in their minds, and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.