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The Oregon Trail Theory Of Traumatic Retro Gaming

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The Magical Hanukkahtime Section Variety Hour is an eight-day cruise through every section at BC Magazine except the one where the author has any knowledge whatsoever. On the fourth evening: BC Gaming!

It's hard to walk up to a child of the '80s or '90s, ask them what they thought about the computer game Oregon Trail, and punch them in the face if they never heard of it. For the classic historical fiction game was basically the only floppy disk they had on school computers that was both encouraged by teachers and remotely fun. Perhaps compared to the thrilling spelling software and Math Blaster titles available, the legend of the Oregon Trail built up into the Internet generation today and its plotlines are occasionally found into every day hipster conversation. In fact I'm not sure how one caulks a wagon or why caulking a wagon causes it to float, but more importantly I'm not certain anyone else knows — or cares.

And yet back in the winter of Aught Three my pristine view of this wondrous was game was shattered via a selfish, cruel act of playing it again. To make it blunt, the game really blew. The game seemed Chrono Trigger-esque in length back then, but in the 2000s was over quicker than most Detroit Lions seasons. Also, there really wasn't much challenge to the game.

And thus the Oregon Trail Theory Of Traumatic Retro Gaming was born. While some games may be tempting to dust off and stick in the ol' 5-1/4"-floppy-to-USB-adapter, it may not be worth it, because the game today may seem linear, oversimplified, and downright dreadful.

One day for lunch my co-workers decided to take a trip down memory lane and go to Chuck E. Cheese's, because they know how to party and they also had a mad Skee-Ball jones.* I declined the offer, knowing full well that the games and prizes once thought genius by a 10-year-old would probably seem dull and poorly made by today's manufacturing standards. (Also, a tad creepy.) While they had fun, the overall vibe I got from them was "we probably won't be doing that again."

That's why with the discovery of DOS emulators like Boxer, it's probably best to exercise a dinosaur genitalia-sized modicum of caution when trying out old games in the coming year. Right there on my desktop sits a copy of Major League Manager, a text-based simulation of 1989 baseball. (When steroids were fun, delicious, and family-friendly!) I remember a clunky interface and some extremely plain sights and sounds. I recall sinking hundreds of friendless hours into that game, yet … if the game turns out to be lousy, then that's just one more reason not to trust my inner child. That is, assuming of course, it didn't die of cholera.

* Here's another reason that today's parents are raising a generation of pussies that will get their asses kicked repeatedly: when I grew up Skee-Ball consisted of 10-, 20-, 30-, 50-, and sometimes 100-point scoring holes. Reportedly the Skee-Ball at this Chuck E. Cheese's had increments of 10,000- to 100,000-point holes. As if it needs to be said again, Skee-Ball inflation has ruined the toughness of these children and deserve to be enslaved by the first alien race that comes along with long range fire capability.

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