If you haven’t heard the big news, The Internet Archive recently released over 2,000 classic MS-DOS games to play for free online. One of the free games available is seminal childhood favorite, The Oregon Trail.
Because I’m still a 10-year-old at heart, I seized the opportunity to play one of my all-time favorite computer games once again.
Knowing I might not immediately possess the proper skill to conquer the Trail after a two-decade layoff, I opted to feel my way through the linear, two-dimensional world of middle America with a party of Seattle’s least-favorite sports figures. That party consisted of:
1. A young’n named “Cyler.”
2. Another young’n named “Ayala.”
3. An adolescent named “Figgins.”
4. An older fellow named “Chone.”
5. A leader named “Wakamatsu,” who we can only imagine would often fight with Chone and Figgins.
As a farmer from Illinois (the worst occupation you can pick), I took to the trail with $400 worth of supplies, food, clothing, and oxen. With meal rations set to “Meager” and our pace at “Grueling,” things did not go well.
At our very first river crossing, the unthinkable happened.
In an attempt to ford the river, our party lost 20 bullets, one wagon wheel, one wagon axle, over half our oxen … and both Ayala and Figgins. Yes, two of the most miserable Seattle Mariners of all-time drowned before we’d made it more than a couple hundred miles from our home. Seriously.
Of course, there are benefits to witnessing 40-percent of your party drown in a river. For one thing, food was consumed at a much slower rate than before. For another, those extra sets of clothing we’d purchased before we set off could be bartered for additional supplies. And then there was the fact that one less person was around to fight with Wakamatsu, which undoubtedly took team morale to an all-time high.
Shortly after the river incident, Chone was stricken by injury:
That snakebite quickly spiraled out of control, and just one day later this happened:
Just 206 miles traveled and 60-percent of the caravan was already deceased. Only Wakamatsu and Cyler remained. But look at all that food!
Two months passed with no incidents. Then, after making our way through a fort or two, another scare arose:
That must have been the worst fever in the history of mankind, because just three days later, tragedy struck:
We hadn’t yet traveled 500 miles and already we’d buried Figgins, Ayala, Chone, and Cyler. Only our leader, Wakamatsu, remained. But even he wasn’t spared…
Likely sensing that one man didn’t need all those clothes, a brazen thief struck one month after Cyler’s passing and stole a set of Wakamatsu’s clothing. Bastards. At least our leader remained in fair health. Fair health can only take one so far, however.
At the very next river we were to cross, Wakamatsu encountered rough waters. The wagon tipped while caulked and floating. A substantial amount of food floated away, as did a seemingly unnecessary set of clothing. Worst of all Wakamatsu, sadly, was lost at sea.
The entire party had passed in mere months. Someone (a good Samaritan, perhaps) was able to rescue Wakamatsu’s body from the river and give him a proper burial, at least.
My first time back on the Oregon Trail in a number of years didn’t go well at all. In fact, like the namesakes of my party of five, what I experienced was an unmitigated disaster.
Alas, in the wake of a quintet of tragedies, I attempted to take the trail once more, this time with a different strategy. And suffice it to say, things went much better in the second go-round: