Did You Know the Oregon Trail Game Was Created Right Here in MN?!
Did you know that The Oregon Trail -- unarguably one of the best educational computer games of all time -- was created right here in Minnesota?
I recently stumbled across a 2016 NPR interview with Paul Dillenberger, one of the creators of the Oregon Trail.
In the six minute interview, Paul shares how he and two other student teachers created the game:
I was in Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and I had always wanted to be a math teacher...So there was another math teacher and a social studies teacher, and Don [the social studies teacher] wanted to do a unit on westward expansion, and he came up with this board game idea. And Bill and I kinda looked at each other...we were both computer programmers...and Bill said, 'Ya know, maybe we can put this on the computer, this might be a good application.' And Don said, 'Well, I need this in two weeks,' and we said, 'well, we can probably do that.'
Paul went on to share how such aspects of the game like decision making and consequences become such an integral part of the game:
We worked all these probabilities into the program, so, like when you're in the mountains it's more likely to snow; if you're crossing a river you're more likely, maybe, to have your wagon get swamped.
Regarding dying of dysentery in the game -- one of the most memorable tragedies that can befall you or a member of your traveling party -- Paul just laughed: "I know there are t-shirts to that effect."
Paul goes on to share the success of the game -- they knew they had "something special" when there were lines of kids going out the door in Minneapolis. Shockingly, Paul admits that he and the other two received no money from the game despite over 65 million copies being sold. They have become famous for creating it, however, and he finds purpose in knowing he's "touched the lives of so many people."
You can listen to the whole interview here.