As educational video games intended for children go, MECC’s The Oregon Trail is already bleak in its depiction of life in 19th century pioneer life in America. After all, this was the software that made a pop culture byword out of “You have died of dysentery.” But even The Oregon Trail had to sugarcoat things a little for elementary school students. MECC kept in the buffalo-shooting, river-fording, and bead-trading, but the company left out the whiskey, the wild parties, the cross-dressing, and the children crushed beneath wagon wheels. Fortunately, for the now-grown Oregon Trail fans of the world, Vox presents its own R-rated Oregon Trail for an adult audience hardened by years of violent cable TV shows and internet pornography. This is not a playable game, by the way. It’s a four-and-a-half-minute presentation video with some 8-bit-style animation. For those who want a quick, quirky history lesson, it gets the job done.
First, Vox’s version of The Oregon Trail reminds viewers that the bankers and farmers who took part in the real Oregon Trail knew very little about how to travel across the country or use firearms properly. As a result, there were a lot of truly stupid accidents and deaths along the way. And back then, medical care was sketchy at best. The most common prescription along the trail was whiskey, except for guys with VD. They got boiling water poured it on their crotches. But at least some of the whiskey got put to good use, as the travelers had some truly kick-ass parties along the way. If this sounds fun, remember that the pioneers also cooked with buffalo shit and also sometimes ate puppies to survive. These are just some of the sad, sordid, and sticky realities from which The Oregon Trail shielded young players.