Oregon Trail
Remember, it's pronounced "Ory-Gunn."

Perhaps the most famous educational software title American schoolchildren are forced to play is "Oregon Trail." Anybody born within the reach of the Information Age has been assigned to the task of conquering this game, and as far as I know kids are still playing some version of it in today's computer labs.

The first Oregon Trail game was a text-only BASIC program, modified from another game called "Atom 20" (which I accidentally reviewed earlier). The second version for Apple, this one with sound and pictures, is the most famous.

As far as character selection goes, in the 80's you only got these three measly choices (whatever you play as in the latest version, you can probably accessorize and design a T-shirt for). It's a pity I can't take the role of the guy I'm related to.

Seriously--my ancestor came to the Northwest via the Oregon Trail. I have a framed certificate that proves it. I guess it must have turned out all right for him, because I'm sitting here. But if the real Trail was as hard and uncontrollable as this game, I feel darn lucky. Of course, he probably didn't name his children "Poopy" and "Fartypants."

(Yet his middle name was pronounced "Snotty," for real. This game hits too close to home.)

The year is 1848 and you, as an elementary schooler of dim maturity, must make a slew of weighty decisions that will determine the survival of you and your profanely-named family in the months ahead. It was rarely in capable hands, and the only kids that made it all the way to Oregon the first time were those brainy quiet girls nobody paid any attention to. Me; I found my hardships hilarious, and would yell them aloud.

"Ha--Milli Vanilli has dysentery! Serves them right!"
"SPLOOSH--there go my oxen to the bottom of the river! Radical!"

I'm sure Great Great Great Grandpa Snotty spun in his grave. The uglier truth is if I tried it again today, I'd probably act the same way.

How about you? Itching to go back on the Trail? This time, you won't get graded down. Unless you're doing this on company time.