Reality vs Fantasy

The Oregon Trail computer game cover

In order to compare the real history of The Oregon Trail to the computer game of the same name's portrayal, I had to play a lot of the game. With so many different variants in the game, it's near impossible to get the same game each time. With this in mind, I needed to have as much data as possible to accurately compare the real Oregon Trail to the computerized Oregon Trail.

My hypothesis for this research was that the game would be relatively accurate to the real events and experiences of the Oregon Trail. After playing the game and collecting data, I compared my findings to the historical information I had gathered and found my hypothesis to be mostly supported.

The game does a fine job of portraying how the different classes were able to travel the Oregon Trail, with a banker having more money and therefore more reseources to supply the trip than a farmer would. The social class a traveller belonged to truly did effect the outcome of the trip, although it was not the only thing that could effect the travel. Accidents, illness, and death did not choose one class over another, and it was just as likely you could die from cholera as a banker than as a farmer.

A second section that the game was relatively accurate was the amount of disease and death on the trail. It was common for a member of a party to fall ill and die, and it is no different in the game. However, the most common disease differed between the real trail and the pixelated trail; the historical Oregon Trail claimed cholera as the most prominent disease, but the invented Oregon Trail boasted dysentery as the most common cause of death. Both diseases were present in reality and in fantasy, but the mass amount of each differed.

One of the strongest accuracies was the presence of Native Americans. As previously discussed, the worry of savage Native Americans was overemphasized in the true travellers' minds and this was mirrored in the characters of the computer game. When talking to people at stops, many people were worried about the Native Americans they heard about, but it was not common for the Native Americans to appear in the game unexpectedly, especially with the aim to harm the travellers. Although this deduction has been determined, it is possible I did not make it far enough in the game to see any type of savage Native American, so in order to have clear and precise data, the process of gaming would have to be repeated many more times.

Overall, the game shares a majority of the factual events and experiences of the real Oregon Trail. This observation is important to study because of the use of the comuter game to teach children about the Oregon Trail in a truthful light. Although the game is outdated in appearance and design, the structure of the content still holds true.