The Oregon Trail, Gen Two


Caulk your wagon. One of your oxen has died. You are only able to carry 200 pounds of meat. You have died of dysentery. Press spacebar to continue. Compared to the hurly-burly fantasia of contemporary video games, the pixilated challenges of the early-version Oregon Trail may seem beyond twee. But at the time, the game proved nothing less than revolutionary for making history accessible to children.

Among a large group of nostalgia-ridden wanderers, Emily Grosvenor braved the Oregon Trail. Not the real Oregon Trail, of course—not even the 80s game—but a live-action reenactment of the game put on in Salem. See Grosvenor’s retelling of her experience trekking as well as her reflection on the 8-bit game’s significance, as educational, as surprisingly didactic, as “the antidote to the self-esteem movement” of the Me decade.

Casey Dayan is a Rumpus intern and musician. He is finishing up his undergraduate studies in literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he is working on a memoir and trying to one-up Jeff Buckley. Find his twitter here, @caseydayan. Find his band, “Moo,” here. More from this author →