Educational game

If only this were a movie …

… because this was the suckiest game ever. I trace my lifelong disinterest in video games to The Oregon Trail, the “original” educational computer game.

The Catholic grade school I attended did not have a wealthy parish on which to foist its expense tab. We had no gym and therefore no real P.E. class. While most of the other Catholic schools bused their junior high kids to the public schools for extras like Home Ec, Art, Industrial Tech and Music, we had skills units where we learned macrame or the fine art of tye-dye. We made a lot of friendship bracelets. It’s seriously a wonder I graduated from high school let alone university given the paltry education I received in junior high especially.*

So the fact that we actually had a computer in 1978 is beyond comprehension looking back. The parish priest was a penny-pinching curmudgeon who absolutely would have been okay with burqa’s. The man loathed females. I imagine when the computer arrived, it was only with the provision that girls be kept off of it as I can’t remember any of my friends or I ever getting to do much more than watch the boys play Oregon Trail.

It was an Apple II. To give you some perspective on technology in schools, when I was student teaching in 1986, the junior high I was at had a computer lab full of these same computers. The first middle school I was assigned to in 1988 was stocked with Apple IIe’s. Progress at the speed of walking.

The Oregon Trail was a way for our social studies teacher to lighten his load. As the computer was located in a small room off the main office, he would send us there in groups of 6. If that seems too big and a really stupid thing to do – it was.  Six teenagers in a small, unsupervised room was a grave tactical error.** But with in excess of 30 students per class, I can’t fault the guy for his desperation though his method of divide and conquer did little more than irritate the school secretary.

Playing Oregon Trail was boring enough but as a group activity, it totally bit. I usually brought a novel along and read as the others tried to navigate an obstacle course of dysentery, venomous snakes and unfordable rivers.

Bullets were key. Caulk was crucial. And tombstones abounded.

Apparently one can still purchase this game on Amazon … for six dollars. Sounds about right.

*I did nothing for two years. The school was a zone. Why none of our teachers just cracked and showed up with a shotgun one day, I don’t know. We often thought the Social Studies teacher was capable of a break with reality as he was often reminding us of his tour in ‘Nam. If it weren’t for the fact that I wrote or read near constantly to keep boredom at bay, I’d be a shift supervisor at a fast food joint today.

**I was often guided in my own teaching career by memories of the idiotic things my junior high teachers did.