There are a lot of ways to try and figure out who is going to win the championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes. You can defer to Vegas, you can rely on advanced statistics, you can parse through game tape, you can blindly guess, or do lots of other things. We've been writing, podcasting and more about all the different matchups for this game, but here at Land-Grant Holy Land, we're about doing things differently. We needed to figure out a true, failsafe method for forecasting this game.
Suddenly, inspiration struck.
As you're probably aware, you can now suddenly play thousands of old DOS games, for free, right in your browser. You can play Prince of Persia, or the original SimCity, or a few of the classic Sierra point and click adventure games. I'm a big fan of Conquest of the Longbow myself.
But you and I both know the best game on that list. You probably didn't even have to look at the link. We're talking about The Oregon Trail.
So that's pretty topical right? That got me thinking. Forget F/+ for a second. Forget recruiting star rankings. Let's break this down the only civilized and proper way, and see who The Oregon Trail thinks is going to be the champion.
For those unfamiliar with the game, the gist is this. You have a party of five individuals, and you try and guide them on a covered wagon death march across the plains from Missouri to Oregon. You buy and manage supplies, hunt, and try to ward off snakebites and Cholera. We'll name the five members of the party after Ohio State and Oregon players, and the team with the most living guys once we get to Oregon, or the team with the last guy standing (because who are we kidding, we're not going to actually beat the game), wins.
So here are the basic rules of the simulation:
* I am not trying to influence who lives or dies in any way, and am actually trying to win the game. Granted, It's been nearly twenty years since I first played this game on the Apple IIe, and maybe I don't remember exactly when to ford rivers and how many wagon tongues to buy (or what a wagon tongue is), but if I screw up somewhere, it's an honest mistake, not because I'm secretly trying to make sure Royce Freeman gets dysentery or something.
* I selected the 'Carpenter from Ohio' option, because being Ohio, and being a banker is the sissy move. I bought enough supplies to make the trip, and I left in April.
* Oregon is the higher seed and the favorite, so I gave them three of the five slots in the party. One of them is their mascot, Puddles, because that's a funny word to type.
Okay, with that, let's do this. Let's go to Oregon.
The game actually started off with a run of fairly good luck. With our wagon making a brisk pace, we reached the first few checkpoints without incident, and even managed to float the wagon over multiple rivers without losing any supplies. I passed the time by going into the woods and decimating our nation's buffalo population, while taking only a tiny fraction of the meat back to the wagon. If there is one thing that Ohio State and Oregon fans can bond over, after all, it's beating the crap out of Buffalos.
But then, just a few hundred miles into the journey, disaster struck.
I did my best to save him, and by that, I rested for a few days. If there is a "visit a CVS" or "give party member dysentery medicine" option, I missed it. After a few days of resting and healthy helpings of Bison meat, Ezekiel died. Cardale was outnumbered 3:1, and the journey had just begun. This is a bad omen.
Shortly after our party passed Chimney Rock, we ran into a gravesite, which the game asked us if we wanted to check. This is what they saw:
Who the hell is Voland and why does his tombstone sound like Harry Carey? Is our party being led into some sort of elaborate trap? The Oregon Trail is weird.
Amid constant reminders that the grass was poor and the water insufficient, our group trekked on. Puddles managed to get bitten by a snake TWICE, but both times, thanks to rest and Buffalo meat, he recovered. I tried to shoot different animals, but when you speed an Apple IIe up, it makes shooting a rabbit almost impossible, and why waste bullets on small game when you can kill a buffalo and get a zillion pounds of meat? Deal with it.
The group passed Soda Springs without incident, and then I started to get excited, since this is typically the part of the game where I lose control and everybody dies. We hadn't had any bad luck, the wagon barely experienced any problems, and the buffalo and bear were prevalent. Finally, nearly 1,300 miles into the trip, we had a hiccup.
Okay, that doesn't seem too bad. Shoot, players break their legs and come back during that season sometimes. Just rub some bear meat on that and take a few days off and we should be just
Wait, you can die of a broken leg?!? No wonder this game is impossible.
We trudged along, after a few broken wagon parts and a robber who made off with the rest of Royce's clothes, but the overall health of the party started to falter a little. Fort Boise was just ahead, and I figured we could buy stuff there, take a few days off, and recover a little bit. Right before we got to the fort though, this happened.
I'm not sure how exactly one gets Typhoid, but it apparently kills you SUPER quick. Like, as soon as I hit the space bar, hoping that I could pull up the menu to rest, the game announced that Marcus had died. Only the habitually snakebitten Puddles and Cardale Jones remained.
We left Fort Boise, and I elected to make way towards Fort Walla Walla, which is as close to the promised land of Oregon City that I've gotten since I was, I dunno, eight? Our food supplies were dangerously low, forcing me to go shoot a bear every few miles. Puddles continued to suffer from exhaustion, forcing us to camp as well. MAYBE QUIT FOOLING AROUND WITH YOUR STUPID MOTORCYCLE, AND YOU WOULDN'T BE SO TIRED, EH PUDDLES?
Puddles broke his leg right before we reached The Dalles, the last stop before Oregon City, but I didn't have enough food to rest for a long period of time. Plus, we were getting into October, and staying out in the cold too long was risky. I gave Puddles as much rest as I could, but it apparently wasn't enough.
You know who hasn't had a bad thing happen to him this entire trip? Cardale Jones. Now, freed from having to share food or any of this stuff with his Duck wagonmates, could he buck history and actually make it to Oregon? The only thing that stood in our way was to navigate the Columbia River. The game instructed me to move my wagon from side to side, avoiding rocks, and to park it on the shore after the third navigation arrow.
I'm not afraid to admit this was actually really stressful. Again, on a fast computer, the emulation made it legitimately tricky to avoid the rocks, which did NOT stop coming. I managed to avoid the last onslaught of rocks, saw the third navigational sign, and started to steer the wagon towards the shore. Suddenly...
THIS IS BULLSHIT
So no, despite good fortune and capable management, I wasn't actually able to beat The Oregon Trail. At the end of our journey, this was all that remained:
However, Cardale Jones survived the longest, and short of my inept driving, didn't actually have anything bad happen to him throughout the trip. As far as I can tell, that means The Oregon Trail actually predicted Ohio State to beat Oregon. Or at least, last the longest before succumbing to disease and early death.
I'll take it. Go Bucks.