Oregon Trail

I served as the lead designer and team leader for the "classic" 1985 version of The Oregon Trail game – the version that introduced most of the features and details that people now associate with the game. This section of my website tells the story of how that famous product was created.

You Have Died of Dysentery

The Making of the Oregon Trail Game

The Oregon Trail is perhaps the most famous educational computer software game ever created. Even today, references to the game can be found throughout popular culture. Familiar memes – such as “You have died of dysentery” and the tiny image of an ox pulling a covered wagon – can be found all over the internet.

The game has a long history, dating back to a simple text-only version in the early 1970s. But when people make nostalgic references to The Oregon Trail, they usually refer to the 1985 Apple II version (or to the nearly identical 1990 DOS version). Virtually all of the famous Oregon Trail memes originated with the 1985 design.

As the lead designer and team leader for this best-known version of The Oregon Trail, I am in a unique position to relate the history of how the game was created. Click on any of the links below to begin reading about the topic of your choice.

NOTE: You can also find lots of fascinating information about the history of The Oregon Trail game, including some of the same stories presented here, at died-of-dysentery.com.