+
The Oregon Trail game got a revamp with more authentic Native American representation

Anyone who came of age during the late 80's and early 90s is at least somewhat familiar with The Oregon Trail game. As one of the most popular computer-based video games of all time, it's a well-loved classic for late Gen Xers and early Millennials.

The game was designed to be educational, to teach kids about the Lewis & Clark expedition and westward expansion of the United States in the mid-1800s. Players were part of a wagon train traveling out west, encountering various challenges and pitfalls along the way, including the dreaded dysentery that led to countless players' demise.

Kids loved it. But unfortunately, not all of its lessons were accurate. In fact, the representation of Native Americans in the game perpetuated common stereotypes and myths about the Indigenous people of the time. Even one of the co-creators of the original game has said in recent years that it should have included a Native perspective.


Now, a new version of the game has been released through Apple Arcade. Developers at the company Gameloft are targeting the newest installment at the same generation who played it as kids, but in the new version, they took conscious steps to make sure their representations of Native Americans in the game were more authentic.

In this version, for the first time in the game's history, Native American characters are playable. And to make sure the characters are portrayed accurately, developers hired three Indigenous historians to weigh in on the game design and suggest improvements.

First, the historian listened to early test music for the game and said the flutes and drums were overkill. They also nixed the use of broken English.

The game's creative director Jarrad Trudgen took their advice—and the reasoning behind it—to heart. "It's like a trope to make Native American people seem primitive somehow," he told NPR, "when actually there were a lot of bilingual or polylingual Native Americans at that time."

The historians weighed in names and imagery of Native characters as well.

As a University of Nebraska historian with Lac Courte Oreilles ancestry, Margaret Huettl had access to old photos and drawings, which she researched to get a more accurate picture of what different tribes' clothign and style would have been. "Initially, all of the Native people [in the revamped game] had braids," Huettl told NPR. "And I think we suggested, maybe they don't all have to have braids."

She said she is glad the developers listened to her and the other Indigenous scholars as they suggested appropriate names for characters, as well as roles they could play beyond trappers or guides.

One of the most significant changes was the elimination of the bow and arrow—something that Trudgen initially wanted to keep. But when Huettl explained that Native Americans at that time were much more likely to have a rifle, and that bows and arrows were more of a stereotype, he and the game developers understood.

"That wasn't our intention at all, obviously," Trudgen said. "We were just coming to it sort of as a naive 'bow and arrows are cool' angle."

That's exactly the sort of oblivious misstep consulting with the historians was designed to help them avoid, so the bows and arrows went.

According to Game Rant, the new version of The Oregon Trail includes a disclaimer from the developer, explaining its intent to properly represent Native American perspectives in this installment. It also points out the truth—that the Westward expansion the game is based around was not a positive experience for Native Americans. It was brutal colonization that still has repercussions today.

While it's not possible to encapsulate the full scope of history in a video game, adding authentic Indigenous representation to one of the most popular educational games of all time is a vital step in the right direction. Kudos to Gameloft for taking the time and consulting with the people who can make sure it's done right.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

Keep ReadingShow less

Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

Keep ReadingShow less