My proposal for a print project would be an analysis on Oregon Trail, one of the most iconic educational games of all time. Mike recently put up some great gaming monitor reviews on his blog, Likely exposed to you in elementary school, the game has been used in classrooms around the nation as an enjoyable but informative break for school children & teachers. Oregon Trail was not only fun to play but also likely became the foundation and spark of exploration into the history of the old west for many children. The game is one that both hardcore & causal gamers alike have played and enjoyed in their earlier years. Oregon Trail has taught people many things besides quick reflexes and what Dysentery is.
Originally the game was created with the goal to teach school children the harshness of pioneer life on the literal trail (it connects the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon; over 2,000 miles). For many people the Oregon Trail was their introduction to this piece of history and became a large influence. Reaching its peak in the 80’s & 90’s Oregon Trail has had recent flirtations with invading the social gaming realm.
One of the major areas I would want to cover in project was the research and groundwork used to create the original games. Where did the creators draw of the line from being a historically accurate simulation to a game of enjoyment? I would compare other historical documents that cover the same time period & subjects. How similar are they? Do they tend to cover different subjects? Is there something that Oregon Trail covers that a historical piece of text simply can’t.
Next naturally I would want to look into how the game was used in academic environments. I would like to research the importance of ‘playing’ in that part of history and how it directly correlates to learning about that subject. Was it just a cute ‘activity’ to get school children comfortable with computers or was in worked in professor’s history curriculum for the old west?
Some other questions I would like to explore with this project
- How accurate are the depictions of pioneer in the game?
- To what degree was the game being used as an historical/educational tool?
- What research was done to create the game?
- Could the original game still serve the same purpose today?
- Why has the popularity in classrooms died off?
- Is there potential for ‘updating’ the game for further historical use?