Monday, March 10, 2008

First there was the Apple

Having posted about the ultra-new, not even released yet, Starcraft, I thought I might spare a few pixels to post about a game so old that it only had 8 colors. While not the oldest game I played, it does goes way back.

When I was in school the best computers were all Apples. Not Mac's... Apples. The good old Apple II was one of the first computers that schools were given. My Junior High school had 2 in the library. They had no hard-drives, only floppy disks. A disk held 512 kilobytes of data. You stuck your disk in the drive and flipped on the computer. Sometimes (rarely) you had to swap disks.

Oregon Trail was one the first programs designed to teach kids while still having a bit of fun. It was really a very simplified simulation of migrating West on the Oregon Trail. You started somewhere in the East and bought your supplies and then struck out for the West coast. You chose in what month you would start. At various points throughout the game random events would occur for you to deal with. Sometimes members of your family turned sick and you had to rest. Sometimes your wagon broke down. On the way you could buy more provisions (if you weren't broke and if there was a place to buy them) or occasionally fate would be kind and give you some discovered supplies. There were some 16 landmarks on the way. These were forts or rivers. You have to decide where and when to cross. The whole journey is a race to make it before you and your family starve or the winter sets in.

While completely simple, the program does a lot to make you think about walking across a place as big as the United States. It makes you remember that medicine was not advanced and diseases common. Personally, I can't imagine now how someone then could strike out across so much unknown land. They risked their wives and children. Lots did not make it. And they just did it.

Anyways, it is good to remember that a fun game doesn't have to be intensely graphical. The world of game emulators is out there for the gamer on a budget. Perhaps from time to time I'll post about one I'm playing... But for now... I have to hunt up some more food while my family rests with cholera. It's 187 miles to Green River Crossing and might be 20' deep this time of year. Time to chaulk up that wagon and float her across--hope the oxen can swim.

Game On!

No comments: