Like many people of a certain age, I remember trying and failing to successfully navigate the Oregon Trail with four of my family members in a covered wagon- not because I am that old, students. Rather because I was lucky enough to play the Oregon Trail video game. In the year 1848 and with a budget of only $400, it wasn't easy to acquire all the supplies you needed, avoid dysentery, and make it all the way across the country with any surviving humans or oxen. For those interested in a little nostalgia or curious as to what a real rager of a computer game looked like circa 1984, you can check out the Oregon Trail game here.

A memorable image from the video game Oregon Trail taken from
An image that haunts all of us who attended elementary school in the United States in the early 80s

For those who are interested in an Antarctic version of the classic game, sadly there isn't one- but I think it would be fantastic to imagine a redesign of Oregon Trail based on Antarctic exploration around the turn of the twentieth century. And then maybe one of my super-talented and nerdy friends could turn this into a reality (Oh, I'm definitely looking at you, Demetri).

Let's think about it- in the Oregon Trail game, people could fall ill and die from a number of different causes:
* Snakebite
* Measles
* Typhoid
* Drowning
* Broken leg
* Exhaustion
And, of course, the classic dysentery. Things weren't significantly safer in an expedition to Antarctica in 1910. Apsley Cherry-Garrard begins his book The Worst Journey in the World by stating: "Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised." If we remade the game for polar exploration, we would have to replace snakebite with frostbite, and maybe typhoid with scurvy. How else would the Oregon Trail have to change to fit this new environment with its own set of virtually insurmountable challenges? I'd love to hear your thoughts down in the comments, and I will try to develop this idea into a full-fledged lesson plan in the coming days. We can then turn our attention what it is like to travel to Antarctic in the current age.



Alex d

Great post! I think modding the Oregon Trail game to the South Pole is an excellent idea. I propose the game be called "Shackleton vs Amundsen - the Race to the South Pole" or "Shackelon's Folly". Put it on the App Store and I'd pay for that! You could choose your character to be Shackleton or Amudnsen or Scott and you could choose which ship - the Endurance, the Nimrod, etc... The only problem is the lack of good apex predator to kill our explorers - too bad bad polar bears don't live in Antarctica... (I suppose leopard seals can take out a foolhardy swimmer once in a while?).

Judy Fahnestock

Fun journal Sarah! I think your students should write in their suggestions. This could be an outreach project - have your students create a new app! :)

Joanna LaForte Biava

Comment here.