A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Oregon Trail is a Facebook adaptation of the classic educational sim for PC that lets kids experience what it was like to lead a wagon train west from Missouri to Oregon in the 1800s. The game is free to play, but players can spend real-world cash or participate in special offers to advance more quickly. Players can buy guns to fend off bandits, and there's a mini-game that lets them hunt for food by shooting animals to turn them into pieces of meat. Characters can die in the game from starvation or disease. While this game will be attractive to kids as young as age 9, since it is on Facebook, which has an age gate of 13, they will not be able to play.
What's it about?
THE OREGON TRAIL adapts the popular classroom PC game for Facebook by adding social gaming features like friends, online leaderboards, actions that require energy to perform, and bonuses that can only be unlocked by purchasing Facebook Credits. Players guide a wagon train of settlers travelling west across the American frontier. Along the way, you'll decide how to respond to random events like stampeding buffalo, thunderstorms, river crossings, and companions falling ill. You'll also manage supplies and decide which route to take. You can hunt for food, repair the wagon, and search for special items by playing three mini-games.
Is it any good?
In the Facebook version of The Oregon Trail, actions require energy and stamina to perform, which are reflected on meters. Once both meters are depleted, you can't continue until they are recharged, which can take a few hours of real time or can happen instantly by buying the game's premium currency, Trail Notes. As a result, where the PC version of the game emphasized planning and decision-making, the Facebook version of The Oregon Trail is less about choosing the best response to the situation and more about balancing energy, stamina, and food until you reach the next checkpoint. Choosing the best outcome to a situation typically involves spending Trail Notes. This is a major shift in the game, and one that makes it highly commercial.
The Oregon Trail is still packed with interesting historical information and has a polished and fun appearance, but the social features designed to entice players to fork over real-world cash serve to make the game more tedious and less fun than the original.
Online interaction: Players can see which of their Facebook friends are also playing the game without having to manually invite them. Friends can send each other messages and view their progress along the trail on an overhead map. Before setting out, players can select any of their Facebook friends to be part of the wagon caravan.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the history of the frontier. Why were so many settlers heading west? What kinds of hardships did they face?
Talk about what life was like back in the 1800s. What kinds of things did people do differently?
Discuss some of the famous historical figures featured in the game. What important contributions did they make to American culture and history?
Why do you think this classic educational kids' game was brought to a platform that is exclusively for teens and adults? Why are more and more Facebook games being produced?
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