Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday in History: Opportunity

America is the land of opportunity. People traveled thousands of miles across an ocean to reach it, and if it wasn’t the opportunity that they wanted, they packed up and traveled another thousand miles or so to the West (these were the days when Ohio was considered “the wild west”). If the West wasn’t what they wanted, they had thousands more miles ahead of them to find an opportunity that suited them.
The reason we call America the Land of Opportunity is because, for the first time in history, people were moving across oceans and landmasses not because they had to, but because they wanted to. They were struggling through hardships and enduring adversity not merely to survive, but to strive for a better life for their families.
If you were in school in America after 1974, you know about the Oregon Trail. Not necessarily because you had an awesome history teacher, but because of a video game.
There are tons of these screenshots all over the
internet. This particular one comes from vizzed.
When I was a kid, playing The Oregon Trail at school was more about naming the party members after your friends and then laughing at whichever one of them got dysentery, but it didn’t change the fact that I was learning. I learned that the Oregon Trail started in Independence, Missouri and forded the Kansas River, the Big Blue River, the Snake River, and a couple others. I learned that many caravans stopped to rest along the way at Fort Kearny, Fort Boise, and Fort Walla Walla.
It wasn’t a riveting game, but it did teach the player about the hardships that travelers had to struggle through. They had to worry about food, about the health of both people and animals, about the wear and tear that their equipment and clothing had to endure, and about the miles they had to travel and the dangers they would encounter on their way. Plus, it had some fun mini-games.
The best part (aside from learning history while having fun) is that you can still celebrate this day in history, May 16th, 1846, when the first major wagon train left Independence to brave the trials on the Oregon Trail. You can do that by downloading the revamped Oregon Trail game app (2012 version) to your phone and reliving your days in Mrs. Roth’s classroom when you crowded around the old computer in the corner of the room and watched Darin navigate the wagon down the river. If you don’t have a fancy phone, there’s always the 2009 flash game on Kongregate. If neither of those things appeal to you, you could always attempt to make your very own version.
After all, America is the land of opportunity.

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