For my Creative “Essay” assignment, I used the game “The Oregon Trail”. Many of us have fond childhood memories of playing “The Oregon Trail” in the classroom of elementary school, where it was intended to teach us about the harsh reality that was frontier life. However, my friends and I instead made it a multiplayer game. We all sat around the computer, input our own names into the game, and tried to see how fast we could kill off each other. The winner was whoever was last standing. When I talked to my friends from college about this some years ago, they all remembered similar experiences. It was because of this discussion that I began “Go West!”, which is now a fond memory among my circle of friends. “Go West!” was my attempt to bring back the “multiplayer” Oregon Trail experience to the “modern age”. I was able to find the classic version available to play on the internet for free, allowing myself to run through the game on my computer. Along the way, I would take screenshots of what was happening, and post them on Facebook, using the “Notes” system so that it would be kept together on a single page where all my friends could collaborate. I would pose important questions to them, such as what supplies we would purchase or what manner we would cross rivers, and take screenshots of the results of their choices.
Here we are, nearly two years after the first time I wrote “Go West!” for my friends, and have begun its sequel, “Go West! 2”. This time, I am using The Oregon Trail, Fifth Edition, which my roommate had. Though I am playing the game on my computer, it becomes a completely separate entity with my friends through Facebook. I have asked for their assistance in suggesting members of the wagon train, what year the wagon would leave and where it would depart from, where it was headed, and other such choices. The game now reads as what many have come to call a “Lets Play”, where one individual actively plays the game while others interact with them. This creates a sort of text and visual log of the game, and makes for a whole separate experience entirely.
For those interested, you can find more examples of what a “Lets Play” is at lparchive.org