So I was thinking this morning while showering - my best thoughts always come in the shower - and my mind wandered to childhood memories of playing The Oregon Trail as a kid. And I'm not talking about the early, floppy-disk, Apple II, pixellated Oregon Trail; I'm talking about the edition that came out in the 1990's or so. It was more cartoony and what not, but it was also more detailed in its history, geography, and gameplay options.
Surely somebody else remembers this.
I'll be damned if I didn't love that game.
I'm a geek, I'll admit it. (As if this blog isn't prima facie evidence of such...as well as my use of Latin.) I dig that kind of stuff; that sort of "living history," "interactive," "19th Century, everybody wears wool pants all of the time" type of goofballery. I love how that game gave you the opportunity to pick a career, name your characters (You won't believe how many times "Shithead McGee" trekked over the Continental Divide), and otherwise make enough varying decisions to ensure that no two game experiences were identical.
You wanna be a wainwright with four kids who's got just enough money to afford a Conestoga wagon and a musket? Do it. You wanna prospect for gold in California as a lonely blacksmith looking to start anew? You betcha. You wanna be a Brigham Young-led Mormon escaping religious persecution in the East, hoping to find a new home for your church in the West?
Yes. While the name of the game was "Oregon Trail II," it included journeys along the California and Mormon trails, among others. Nauvoo Illinois, the former home of the Latter Day Saints, could be, were you to choose such, your starting point in the game, with Salt Lake City as a potential final destination. Historical accuracy! Huzzah!
"Where in the shit are you going with this?"
Give me a second, okay. So anyway, a feature of the game which, essentially, was a variable to increase the game's difficulty, was the ability to start out as a greenhorn (anybody who was a part of an emigrant wagon train) or as a "trail guide" or "pioneer" or whatever they called it. If you chose the latter, you were the leader of a group of people, making important decisions - where to rest, which trails to take, how best to cross rivers and passes, and so forth - in order to, ultimately, lead the people who have hired you to safety and prosperity in the beautiful American West.
To be one of these brave souls meant that you would be given a deposit of a few hundred bucks (approximately billions of dollars after we adjust for inflation) and, once you reached your destination, a final payment of another few hundred (again, billions). To successfully reach your destination, you had to get supplies, keep up morale - which meant playing fiddle and smoking opium, or whatever the hell people did in the 1860's to have fun - and make the right decisions to achieve victory.
I'll admit, if you never played this game, you're probably wondering where all of the fun in this is. And I'll admit that it's a dumber-than-shit game if you're not into things like history and stuff. But there were still plenty of opportunities to keep anyone entertained. For example, if the game got a little stale, the best way to achieve some lulz and troll a bunch of fictional in-game characters was to get hired to lead a train and deliberately fuck shit up.
There were lots of ways to do this. Set out in the winter, waste time going on frivilous buffalo hunts (I can't tell you how many times some Pawnee bro was all like "omg stop killing the buffalo." Like that son of a bitch hasn't ever heard of "Manifest Destiny." Sheesh.), et cetera. But the best was to lead a train astray.
I guess Americans then were like Americans now, in that their concept of geography was immediate and rudimentary. These people were paying you to lead them to California or Oregon, yet you were leading them through deserts, over the Sierra Nevadas and back again, in circles, and eventually to Salt Lake City.
I haven't a clue why, but I thought this was hilarious. I'd lead them there which, in itself, isn't all that strange - apparently a stop in Salt Lake was common for folks traveling to California in the 1850's and 60's in order to rest up and stock up on supplies necessary to trek through the mountainous desert separating Utah from California (today it's called Nevada). But, instead of stocking up on shit and getting ready to reenact the Donner Party trip, I'd select the option to "Settle Here," much to the chagrin of the wagoneers.
They'd be pissed. "Rabble rabble rabble we paid you to take us to California! Rabble rabble hurr durr we're not giving you any more money!"
"OH WELL MOTHERFUCKERS! YOU'RE IN UTAH NOW! DEAL WITH IT!"
I was hilarious as a 10-year-old.
[HATE ON. Let's try to keep this from becoming "MORMON RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE WEEK," but definitely keep it spicy and fun.]