How The Oregon Trail shaped education and game-based learning

Back in the seventies, a little computer game called The Oregon Trail changed schools forever.

Don Rawitsch, the co-creator of the original The Oregon Trail, spoke at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2017 about how the classic game spread to K-12 schools everywhere and influenced future educational software.

The Oregon Trail is a simulation of the famous westward migration in the 1800s of U.S. history, when families traveled in a covered wagon for 2,000 miles, an arduous six-month trip. The computer game launched in 1971 and maintained high popularity from 1979 until 1995. It was one of the best-known school software of that era.

Interestingly, the way students learned in the game—by replaying and adjusting their strategy with each new experience—was also the way explorers benefitted historically, with survivors passing on valuable knowledge and insights to family members who had yet to make the trek.

Watch the whole talk with Rawitsch below.

Stephanie Carmichael Stephanie is the editor-in-chief of the Classcraft Blog and the Head of Content for Classcraft ( She's a proud advocate of games for social good and loves talking with teachers about their amazing experiences in the classroom. Email her at [email protected]
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Education, game-based learning, history, The Oregon Trail
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