It’s been more than 40 years since the now iconic educational game The Oregon Trail was initially released. Now its creator, Don Rawitsch, has dreams of reimagining the game in a way that allows for a new perspective to be experienced. During a classic game postmortem panel at the Game Developers Conference, Rawitsch explained that if he were to bring the game back today he would hope to have gamers experience the Oregon Trail through the perspective of the Native Americans.
“If I were to create something like Oregon Train today, I would create the Native American version,” he explained, as reported by Polygon. “What would it be like on the other side of the wall, so to speak.”
The original game focused on allowing students to see what life would be like as a 19th century pioneer who is leading their party from Independence, Missouri to Willamette Valley in Oregon. Along the way, students stopped at notable landmarks that forced them to make key decisions. Players would also take the time to rest at these landmarks after shopping for any necessary supplies they may need to complete their journey. What also made the game so compelling, and also opened the door for a bit of controversy, was the harsh reality of having settlers die along the way.
A game that allows students to experience some of the harsh challenges and unique experiences that the Native Americans faced during the very same time seems like a truly innovative gaming experience for the classroom. According to Rawitsch, it can also be a particularly powerful one. He explained that Native Americans are constantly faced with daunting stereotypes and generalizations today. In mainstream media, Native Americans are often portrayed as incredibly violent savages but Rawitsch believes that an Oregon Trail-style game could help fight off some of those stereotypes. During the time he spent researching the 19th century before creating The Oregon Trail, Rawitsch said he found journals and other evidence that suggested Native Americans were actually far more willing to offer aid to strangers than they were to attack them.
The Oregon Trail is considered one of the most successful educational video game titles of all time and has even been admitted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame. While countless remakes of The Oregon Trail failed to recreate the original game’s success, reimagining the game from the Native American perspective could finally give today’s students a successful modern version of a timeless classic.
That is… if Rawitsch’s dreams ever become reality.