The Oregon Trail On Apple Arcade Addresses Native American Stereotypes

Gameloft wanted to weed out historical inaccuracies and other cliches in the new Oregon Trail mobile version.


Oregon Trail has been a staple in the classroom for decades, and a new mobile version has updated the game's representation of Native Americans.

Gameloft Brisbane, the team behind the new version of Oregon Trail that hit Apple Arcade in April, spoke to NPR about some of the changes made to bring the educational computer game up to more modern expectations of Native American representation. Creative director Jarrad Trudgen said the team wanted to weed out historical inaccuracies and other cliches about Native American culture.

To do this, Trudgen brought in three indigenous historians to consult on various aspects of the game, including the music, naming conventions, speech patterns, and more. One aspect that was addressed in the game was the use of bows and arrows for Native peoples, which can carry stereotypes for being seen as primitive. While Trudgen wanted to use bows and arrows, University of Nebraska historian Margaret Huettl informed the Gameloft team that Indigenous Americans of the time would have also used modern tools--such as rifles and metals--for crafting and hunting.

"There are a lot of popular games out there, Tomb Raider and Last of Us, and like these big games--where bow and arrows are sick," Trudgen says. "That wasn't our intention at all, obviously. We were just coming to it sort of as a naive 'bow and arrows are cool' angle."

The Oregon Trail also gets a visual overhaul on Apple Arcade.
The Oregon Trail also gets a visual overhaul on Apple Arcade.

Speech patterns were also adjusted in this new version, as older Oregon Trial iterations depicted Native Americans speaking broken English. The historians told Trudgen's team that Native peoples were fluent in a variety of languages and that English probably wasn't their first or primary language.

"It's like a trope to make Native American people seem primitive somehow," Trudgen said, "when actually there were a lot of bilingual or polylingual Native Americans at that time."

The Oregon Trail was one of the 180 games Apple added to its subscription-based Arcade service in April. The game is billed as a "modern twist on the trials and tribulations of the road to Oregon," replete with "procedurally selected random events" that affect the party and the game's outcome.

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