It's now been over two months since we've shuttered ourselves in our homes, hoping to slow the spread of COVID-19. As the parent of a small child, evenings and unwinding haven't actually looked that different for me (we didn't get out much anyway), but observing the same four walls all day and night has left even my regular routines feeling a little dull. I've got plenty of great eBooks going, and we've definitely seen some thought provoking documentaries on Kanopy, but we got to the point where we just needed something a little different (and it also needed to be fun and feel a little like a date night!)......
Enter Oregon Trail Deluxe Version.
If you grew up in the 90s and had a computer at home, or had access to one at school or the library, there is a good chance you are familiar with this game. Released in 1992 (although earlier versions have been available since 1974), the simulator sets you up as a frontier family headed out west in the early-mid 19th century, for a fresh start. You select your occupation, load your wagon, and try to make it to the Willamette Valley before winter settles in (dodging cholera, snakes, fording rivers, hunting, and trading along the way). You score points by delivering as many healthy occupants as you can to the west coast, with as many supplies and funds as you can keep stocked.
You may now be asking, "A 90's computer game for a date night? Really? Especially a frontier one?" .... The answer is "Oh yes!" We had a BLAST. Not only was it a chance to relive a fond activity from our childhoods, but we had an evening activity that introduced some strategy and history too! The occupants in our wagon besides me were my spouse, child, cat, and the furry frenemy that has taken up residence in our shed during this pandemic (that we have not-so-affectionately referred to as "Shed Rat"). I'm happy to report all of us but Shed Rat (which we weren't all that sad about) made it to the Willamette Valley safely, before winter came!
How were we able to play this 90's computer game on our iMac? FOR FREE?! Thanks to the Internet Archive, and their Software Library of MS DOS Games. It's amazing that computers have gotten so fast that you can now completely simulate an old operating system and run a game all in your web browser over a home internet connection. In addition to their library of MS Dos Games, the Internet Archive has an archive of even more vintage software, as well as texts, moving images, audio, images, and old websites. Another favorite game of mine from their archive is Sim City, which i'll write about next time (stay tuned!)
Interested in exploring the pioneer spirit, but not so interested in playing a 90s computer game? Check out some of these great resources accessible from the library's digital collections: