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Going West: The World of Live Action, Competitive Oregon Trail

Going West: The World of Live Action, Competitive Oregon Trail - Atlantic Mobile

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In the decades since, the game has allowed users to experience one of America’s great mass migrations—over 200,000 made the grueling trek to the land they called "Oregon Country" in the mid-1800s—through a sometimes unintentionally funny simulation.  Beginning with pixelated green-on-black graphics and moving later to today’s realistic, color versions of pioneer life for the iPhone, the game has taught two generations of Americans the rewards of planning ahead, perseverance, survival, and patience while planting in their minds a compelling story of leaving it all behind in search of greener pastures. “It was the first computer game most people remember where they were dropped into the story of the game and became part of the experience,” Rawistch said.

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.

It was like Minecraft before there was Minecraft!

Fast forward to 2012, when Kelly Williams Brown, a writer who would later pen the book Adulting: How to Become and Adult in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, came up with the idea to take Oregon Trail and subject live bodies to it. “If you’ve played the game you realize how shockingly boring it was,” says Brown. A reporter for the Statesman-Journal in Salem at the time, Brown noticed that two generations within her newsroom had some experience of the game. “It has all of these touchstones that have made it into the culture. We thought: Someone has to do this.”

In all the times I've played the game I've never once thought to do it live.

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