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Oregon Trail creator wants to see game reimagined from the Native American perspective

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Don Rawitsch dreams of modern interpretations of his educational classic

oregon trail

During a classic game postmortem panel at the Game Developers Conference yesterday, Oregon Trail co-creator Don Rawitsch answered a number of audience questions about the hit educational game that he helped make in the early ‘70s. One of the most interesting answers was in response to a question about what Rawitsch would do differently if he were making Oregon Trail today.

“If I were to create something like Oregon Trail today, I would create the Native American version,” Rawitsch said. “What would it be like on the other side of the wall, so to speak?”

Early in the panel, Rawitsch spoke about how the popular stereotype of Native Americans from Western movies as savages who would attack innocent travelers was historically inaccurate. In his research while working on Oregon Trail — which included reading dozens of diaries of travelers who made the journey west — he discovered that it was much more common for Native Americans to offer aid and information to any travelers they encountered.

Native Americans would offer directions to landmarks, he said, and inform travelers on which plants were safe to eat and where they could hunt animals for food.

Rawitsch also said that he would love to see a modern version of Oregon Trail that was more focused on multiplayer. This could take the form of multiple travelers taking their own paths across the country, with their decisions affecting each other, or it could involve each player taking on an individual role.

“Imagine being in a wagon train with a bunch of people you don’t know,” he said. “I would love to see what social dynamics come out of that.”