The Minnesota Education Computing Corporation might not be the most recognizable game developer today, but if you went to elementary school in the US anytime in the eighties or nineties, then you've almost certainly played -- and probably learned something from -- one of its educational games. The company started in 1973 as an initiative to put more computers into classrooms across Minnesota and eventually created over 300 different software titles, including the version of The Oregon Trail that became the cultural touchstone it is today. Now MECC and The Oregon Trail are finally getting the recognition they deserve in a retrospective exhibit from the Strong, the National Museum of Play.
The museum actually inducted The Oregon Trail into the Video Game Hall of Fame back in 2016, and the new exhibit will include playable original versions of the game so younger generations can experience the excitement of hunting for buffalo in all it's 8-bit glory. Aside from teaching countless schoolkids grammar with Word Munchers, MECC is also considered a pioneer in STEM education that popularized computer learning. To preserve that legacy, a group of former MECC employees, including Oregon Trail co-creator Don Rawitsch and co-founder Dale LaFrenz, recently donated a cache of documents, videos, and software to the museum that will show how the company evolved from a part of the public school system to a beloved piece of our collective memories.
The Oregon Trail, MECC, and the Rise of Computer Learning exhibit officially opens on June 17th. But if you can't make it to Rochester, New York, you can also explore and play the original on Archive.org or take a trip down memory lane on MECC's own site.