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Watch This Short Video on the Forgotten History of ‘The Oregon Trail’

A great companion piece to Motherboard's oral history of every school's favorite game.

by Zach Budgor
Mar 3 2017, 2:00pm

As you might recall from a recent Motherboard article, the history of The Oregon Trail is pretty wild. In 1971, a trio of public school teachers in rural Minnesota created a teleprinter game as a teaching aid. From there, it got transferred into a statewide mainframe and, eventually, sold for profit. Yet the three people who created it weren't credited for decades, and still haven't seen a cent of the revenue.

The below video, from YouTuber Hodges Usry, is a quick-and-dirty look at how this happened, assembled from recent talks by the developers as well as archival materials. Usry told Motherboard he took inspiration from our in-depth interview with designers Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger when putting his video together.

You should watch it, and of course read the article, if you haven't already! They make a fine pair. The story behind The Oregon Trail is rich enough for a feature film: unfettered creativity butting up against the all-consuming profit motive sounds ripe for The Social Network treatment.

For his part, Usry concurs with something Rawitsch says in the video: that the The Oregon Trail endures because it wasn't conceived for profit. We don't disagree, necessarily, but it is nice to be paid.