Gameloft Brisbane’s recently published remake of the classic game Oregon Trail prioritizes historically accurate depictions of Native Americans.
A new The Oregon Trail video game remake focuses on more accurate depictions of historic Native American cultures. The Oregon Trail was originally developed by student-teachers Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger in 1971 as a playable, in-class teaching tool, before being produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium in 1974. The game proved to be a sensation and endures as a fond memory in the minds of many who played it when they were children. Before the 2021 release, twenty-one different editions were released, comprising over 65 million total sales by 2011. The game was the inspiration for fellow exploration games The Yukon Trail and The Amazon Trail.
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Despite its popularity, the original The Oregon Trail reinforced numerous historical inaccuracies about Native American peoples and their cultures. One of the goals of a modern remake was to correct tropes, presenting a historically accurate representation of Native Americans of the period. Everything from the musical instruments, weapons, and how contemporary Native American groups spoke was taken into consideration for the newest title in the series.
According to OPB, development studio Gameloft Brisbane and creative director Jarrad Trudgen wished to publish a historically accurate version of the game which depicted Native American groups accurately. Trudgen brought in three indigenous historians to give their expert opinions during the production of the game. The historians advocated for more appropriate names of game characters, while also recommending that Native Americans fill more in-game roles than just guides and trappers. University of Nebraska historian Margret Huettl, who has Lac Courte Oreilles ancestry, told OPB that Gameloft Brisbane was serious about getting the history correct, including the abuse suffered by indigenous peoples on the Oregon Trail.
“That settlement of Oregon then was initially just a theft of land,” said Oregon State University anthropology teacher and member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, David Lewis, to OPB. Lewis remarked on how Native Americans did not have any rights and suffered continual loss during the historical period depicted in The Oregon Trail.
The Oregon Trail is a classic game that has, in some respects, stood the test of time. This historically accurate remake opens the door for future versions of the game to reevaluate more of the series’ historical roots. This newest version, dedicating itself to correcting inaccuracies involving Native American cultures, is a positive step in the right direction. As the video game industry becomes increasingly diverse and and mainstream, every culture must be shown respect and not depicted as stereotypes.
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The Oregon Trail is available now on iOS.
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