As many of you are aware, it was recently brought to our attention that some of our players’ health records have been handled with less sensitivity than we would have liked. Specifically, if you died of dysentery between 1986 and 1993 while playing Oregon Trail, that information was likely shared with your cousins, neighbors, or other persons who were allowed access to the Apple IIe in your family’s basement. Some of those disclosures were repeated through other channels, at times using custom Print Shop banners taped to windows or bedroom doors. In some instances, players logged in under other users’ names so that they could create tombstones claiming that the deceased person was a lame dorkwad. On the earliest versions of the game, which weren’t set up to block obscenities, the publicly available information about users was even more damaging, graphic, and physically impossible.
This was an entirely unforeseeable usage of the tombstone functionality of Oregon Trail. If anything, our zeal for the social sharing of sensitive medical information was way ahead of its time. And, although Oregon Trail users were complicit in the exposure of their sensitive dysentery information on our platform, we like to think that we’re better than that. If we’re not then we need to get off our high horse right now. No, really, this horse is scaring us. It is weirdly tall and has trampled some of the crisis management people we brought in to help craft this statement.
Still, we like to think that creating really deeply offensive epitaphs was not the only reason you played Oregon Trail. We know, from listening in on your most recent sessions with Dr. Paulsen, that your other entertainment option was to go buy carob chips with your emotionally distant father while he ranted about the Iran Contra affair. That sounds nice.
We would like to assure our users that we were unaware of just how prevalent the offending tombstones were until our current CEO found one claiming that he himself had died of dysentery in 1988 and “looked like a penis.” This information was identical to a review posted on Glassdoor, and is something that finds its way into Mother’s Christmas letter every year, and is therefore known to be the work of a bot or sibling. Tactics of this kind have no place in a democracy and Mother told you to stop, Jeffrey. Users are encouraged to take common-sense measures to identify old hard drives and back over them in a borrowed Buick Sentry with Dr. Paulsen on speakerphone. He’s our doctor now, too. Is that weird?
Some news outlets are claiming that, from the beginning, the creators of Oregon Trail were aware of the relentless, albeit fictional, HIPAA violations built into the game’s platform. Our attorney said this is the most blatant case of res ipsa loquitor he has ever seen, which must mean “sorry not sorry.” Besides, if Oregon Trail is about anything, it’s about grit and personal responsibility and a growth mindset.
Our big focus for the coming year is finding new ways to engage people with Oregon Trail while sharing less private dysentery information. Whether it’s life outcomes based on income stratification or just shooting at natural resources, there is still so much about Oregon Trail that we can celebrate.