If you’re “of a certain age,” you likely grew up with an affinity for the educational computer game Oregon Trail. Or at least one of the many iterations it has taken over the years. The Oregon Trail began as a text-based strategy game in the early 1970s; in the ’80s, it took the pixelated form that would leave an indelible imprint on pop culture. (Usually accompanying mention of dysentery.)
Since then, the series has spawned more than a dozen updates. The most recent of which released in April, couriering an important amendment to the Old West-set franchise. For the first time, Oregon Trail offers a Native American perspective; this endeavor follows the series’ decades-long history of retrogressive portraits of indigenous people.
We first caught wind of the new version of Oregon Trail over at Upworthy. The game comes courtesy of Gameloft, which began producing entries in 2009; simply dubbed The Oregon Trail, the game has released via Apple Arcade. You can take a quick peek at its trailer below. (A pretty far cry from the early issues’ animation.)
For the first time, Oregon Trail users will be able to play as Native American characters. In contrast, early versions of the game featured Native Americans among the obstacles a player would encounter. Per the Upworthy report, Gameloft hired a trio of Indigenous historians to course correct the game’s development. (Apparently, they had their work cut out for them, contending with Native characters’ dialogue written in broken English, and incorrect use of culturally relevant instruments.)
The series has maintained a solid place in would-be educational gaming for decades now; we cannot ignore that it has propagated harmful ideas about indigenous people. Hopefully, this new version of Oregon Trail will prove reverent and representative for gamers yet to discover the franchise.