If you didn't know, The Internet Archive just released a ton of old video games online, which you can play for free. I've been playing the Oregon Trail all day (don't tell anyone), and then I saw this, done by Matt Brown over at SB Nation's Ohio State blog Land Grant Holy Land.
So, I did something similar over at Frogs O' War, TCU's SB Nation site, and now, I'm bringing it here. I'm putting the Dallas Mavericks' starting lineup, Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tyson Chandler, on the Oregon Trail to see if any of them die from dysentery. It should be fun.
However, what I've discovered is that it's pretty easy to go slow, buy a ton of food and take the shortest way to Oregon City and make it without much incident. That tends to be boring and not worth writing about, so I'm instituting a few rules.
1. Food Restrictions. I will buy the maximum amount of food to begin the game (2,000 pounds). After that, I can only get more food through hunting or trade.
2. I will not stop to rest. Over the course of this trip, our wonderful Mavs will get sick, tired, and break bones. A good way to counter these things is to rest. We won't do that. These Mavs are about perseverance and playing through pain. That's what they'll do.
3. Steady Pace. You can alter how fast your oxen go, with settings of "steady," "strenuous," and "grueling." To ensure that our oxen don't get worn out, we'll only travel at a "steady" pace. That sounds like it is taking the easy way out, but it also makes the game last longer, allowing for more things like cholera.
4. We will not pay to ferry across any rivers. A little caulk and some prayers will be good enough for us.
So... LET'S DO THIS.
And with that, we embarked on our journey. It did not take long for things to go terribly wrong.
80 miles. 80 miles into a 2,000+ mile trip and Monta broke his leg. Fantastic. Any normal group of people would have taken that as a bad omen, but not this band of merry men. They forged on.
The wagon came to the Kansas River, which was low, just 1.3 feet deep, and fording it was not a problem. Same went for the Big Blue River, which was a measly 1.6 feet deep. Despite Monta breaking his leg, the trip was off to a rather smooth start.
We made Fort Kearny with no problems, although a thunderstorm slowed the wagon down a day. Rajon noticed that food was depleting at a rapid pace, so he went hunting. He shot a deer and a buffalo. Pretty good haul. 1000 pounds, to be exact. Unfortunately, despite being in peak physical condition, he was only able to bring back 100 pounds. It was here that I began questioning his dedication in the weight room.
However, the trip continued on, Dirk was happy with the buffalo meat, and everyone seemed in good spirits, until....
(NOTE: I entered in everyone's first name, so this is Chandler Parsons, not Tyson Chandler, and no, neither of them are lawyers).
This was only our second injury of the trip, but then again, we were less than 1/4 of the way through. We didn't slow down, per Rule No. 2, and we made it to Chimney Rock without any other incidents. Things were still looking good. It was only 86 miles to Fort Laramie, just a few days away. We traveled on.
We made Fort Laramie with no problems, although Rajon did take the wrong trail, which cost us two days of travel time. The next big landmark was Independence Rock, 190 miles away. We embarked from Fort Laramie, but the first night, something terrible happened.
FIVE OXEN?! GONE?! We only had three left. Things were going to slow down terribly, and we were still 178 miles from Independence Rock.
Fortunately, everyone was still in good health, we had enough food, and more bullets than Washington. I wasn't concerned.
It was slow going with only three oxen. We were only going nine miles a day, and food was being eaten very quickly. Chandler and Tyson kept having "eat-offs." One night, during one such eat-off. Dirk wandered off to go to the bathroom. He didn't come back for five days.
He claimed he was out hunting, but he didn't come back with anything, and the gun was in the wagon the entire time. It wasn't really worth arguing about, so we trekked on.
Eventually, we made it to Independence Rock. We didn't stick around for very long, thanks to our no stopping rule. However, it was time to go hunting again. This time, Tyson went out into the wilderness.
It was at this point that I seriously began questioning the weight lifting regimen that Mavs underwent in the offseason. 100 pounds was better than nothing though, and while 867 pounds of buffalo stayed behind to rot, we kept moving.
We reached the South Pass without issue and turned for Fort Bridger.
The Mavs, as it turns out, are really heavy sleepers.
As we passed through Fort Bridger, we broke an axle. Fortunately, the Mavs are pretty handy. They were able to repair the wagon in just a day.
A few days later it started snowing. It was cold, obviously, and one of us got sick.
Measles schmeasles. Tyson is a warrior, and he wasn't about to let some disease slow the wagon down.
A few days later, disaster struck.
At this point we were down to two and a half oxen. Things were going to be even slower. At this point, we were also getting low on food again. However, instead of spending the day hunting, we kept moving.
This is when I started worrying. We lost most of our spare parts for our wagon, and we were still 82 miles from our next opportunity to trade for more. Nothing else terrible happened though, but when we got to Soda Springs, no one wanted to trade with us. Probably because they were all terrified of five guys dressed identically all of whom were bouncing round balls.
So, we kept on going. Before we reached Fort Hall we dipped below 250 pounds of food left for the trip. It was time to go hunting again.
Chandler went out and shot a deer and a bear, and came back wearing the bear head like a hat. Once he returned we continued on down the road.Next up was one of the longest legs of our journey. 182 miles from Fort Hall to the Snake River. We only had 202 pounds of food left, 2 oxen, and an overwhelming opportunity for disaster ahead. These Mavs, though, were not afraid.
A few days later though, Chandler got tired.
He told us not to worry, and it's not like we could stop anyways. So we kept going.
On December 1, 1848, we ran out of food. Time to hunt again. This time it was Dirk's turn. He shot three bears and a deer. Unfortunately, he could also only bring back 100 pounds. This game is dumb.
We ran out of food again seven days later. Fortunately, the game took pity on us.
Thank you, kind Indians. Unfortunately, they only gave us 30 pounds, so we would have to hunt soon. Before we did though, disaster struck.
NO. NO. NO. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
It was at this point I had to convince myself that I wouldn't quit if Dirk died. We only had 15 pounds of food, so I went hunting three times in a row to keep from having to deal with it.
Things would only get worse a few days later.
Great. WHAT'S NEXT.
We had lost our loveable big man. If you look closer, you'll realize that the game notified me of Tyson's fever, and his death, pretty much back to back. There was nothing we could do. Morale at this point was incredibly low.
We had no choice but to go on. Unfortunately, the thief reappeared, stealing bullets from our wagon in the middle of the night. I swear, that guy was relentless, and without Tyson to defend it, the lane to the basket of bullets was wide open.
Just a few days later, we were hit by another illness.
It was snowing hard, we were getting caught in blizzards two or three times a week, we were only going seven miles a day, and food was really low. So, I had to alter our rations from "filling" to "meager" so we didn't have to stop and hunt so often. I had no idea what effect that would have on the remaining four Mavs, but it was a risk worth taking, despite Chandler's illness.
For those keeping track, that is the second time Dirk got dysentery on the trip. With low food, cold weather, and sick wagon-mates, I feared the worst.
A few days later we got snowed in where we were. We lost eight days. The thing about Oregon Trail is that if you lose multiple days, the game just simulates through without letting you do anything. By the end of the eight day simulation the Mavs had been without food for three days. So, the standard go hunting a few times, bring back a couple hundred pounds of meat, routine, happened again.
Despite all this, I still held out hope. There were four Mavs left and only about 300 miles to go.
Just as we started going again though, Monta had exhaustion. With three of the remaining four Mavs in poor health, I figured it wouldn't be long until the game was over. Couple that with the fact that we were coming up on a river, and I was sure defeat was imminent.
The day after Monta was exhausted, one of our remaining oxen died. The injured one had healed up, so we had three for a while, but now we were back down to two.
I thought for a moment that it would be worth reupping their rations, but with only 200 miles left in the trip, it was time to just knock out the rest.
Two miles later Chandler broke his arm. I don't know how you can break your arm while sitting in a wagon, but hey, he did it.
At the end of January (we STILL hadn't reached the river yet), we got snow bound again. This time for seven days. Oh, and we had only gone two miles since Chandler had broken his arm. I went hunting, and came back to this news.
They were falling apart completely. At this point, I thought it might be best to give up. But I didn't, because I'm dumb.
Kinda saw it coming. His death was swift. He didn't feel any pain.
Now it was just Rajon, Dirk, and Parsons left for the final leg of the journey. I should also note that at this point, we were traveling just two miles a day. It was really slow going. However, because Tyson and Monta had died, the guys were eating less food, so, silver lining.
Just nine miles from the river, one of our remaining two oxen was injured and there was a fire in the wagon that claimed 20 of our 54 pounds of food, as well as nine of our ten sets of clothing. That meant two of the three Mavs left would be riding in the nude until we could acquire more clothing.
Just a few miles down the road, one of our oxen died. We were three miles from the river. The next day, our last ox was hurt. We were traveling less than a mile per day. It was imperative that I get another ox, and soon, but I had no idea how long that would take.
(On a sidenote, by the time I got to this point in the game, I had been playing for two hours. This was taking much longer than anticipated. Oh well, sacrifice, am I right?)
At this point in the game, I decided that if Dirk died, I was going to quit. As if the game could read my mind, this happened.
You know a game has done terrible things to you when you're cheering for your favorite athlete of all time to die.
I had to go hunting again, I was going hunting almost every other day, and I was certain Dirk wasn't long for this pixelated world. I was wrong, though. He's a dogged, stubborn SOB. Chandler broke his arm a few days after that, because he's made of glass, but it seemed things were looking up.
That is, until this.
I dropped to my knees in my living room. What had I done?!?
I decided to keep playing. I traded for another oxen, so I had two again, so Rajon and Parsons could keep on moving.
To spare you the rest of your lives, I'll just jump to the end.
Over the rest of the travels, Chandler broke two legs, an arm, and got lost for 6 days. I can only imagine what Rondo was thinking. I bought more oxen at Fort Boise (but no food), and that helped speed things up. We cruised from that point on, hunting when we needed to, all the way to Willamette Valley.
We arrive in Oregon City on July 8, 1849, one year and seven days after we departed.
It was a hard journey. Monta died. Tyson died. Dirk died. But Rajon and Chandler persevered. Maybe Portland will take them in.