Not Everyone Played The Oregon Trail, You Know

The Oregon Trail holds a special place in many American's hearts, because it's a game they played when they were both young, and at school. If you were British or Australian, though, you might have played something else.

In the 1980s, many schools in both countries were equipped with BBC Micro computers, often the first such devices schools employed on a widespread basis. So for a generation of schoolkids, the concept of video games and education went hand-in-hand with the Micro. And what went hand-in-hand with the Micro? These amazing games.

Well, they weren't amazing games. Seeing them in the cold, harsh light of 2010 reveals them to be little more than typing trainers mingling with puzzle games, the two fused with a glue made entirely from cruelty. These games did not lead you by the hand, did not have an easy mode, and did not dazzle the senses with cutting-edge graphics or 5.1 sound.


Like The Oregon Trail, they asked you questions, and if you did not answer them correctly or quickly enough, you were often met with death. Is that how small children should be taught life lessons by a computer? That to trifle with their pre-determined responses is an error worth swift and deadly punishment?

If we want our kids to grow up fearing computers and the threat they pose, then yes, I'd say it is. It's served a generation of British and Australasian schoolchildren well, there's no reason it can't serve another.

I've pasted clips of some of the more notable and memorable games above, for Americans and Europeans to marvel at and for Commonwealth readers to simply reminisce. One game I couldn't find footage for, Raft Away River, I've pasted a picture below. In the absence of footage, know that it was basically a Professor Layton puzzle, only you needed to cross a river by building a raft. And yes, I'm pretty sure if you did something wrong, everybody died.

Illustration for article titled Not Everyone Played The Oregon Trail, You Know


Luke Plunkett

Can anyone remember the name of the one where you were piloting a deep sea submarine, and had to take a photo of a giant squid?