What to know about the “Trailheads: The Oregon Trail’s Origins,” a new documentary from Minneapolis-based MinnMax:

  • MinnMax interviewed the game’s original creators — Bill Heinemann, Paul Dillenberger, and Don Rawitsch — for the project
  • The documentary chronicles the roots of one of the most well-known games of all time and is packed with fascinating facts such as:
    • The Oregon Trail began as a school project at Carleton College in 1971 and was later donated to an organization called the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC)
    • Although MECC was sold for $130 million, the game’s creators didn’t see any profit
  • The documentary is free on YouTube, but viewers are encourage to donate to the New Vision Foundation (more information about the nonprofit below)

The Quote: Ben Hanson, Founder of MinnMax

“The documentary is about the importance of programming, teaching, and selflessness, so it made sense to pay it forward and point people towards supporting a great nonprofit like New Vision Foundation.”

Read more about the documentary in the release below. The release has been edited.

Check out more about MinnMax and the gaming content the outlet is creating.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — “Trailheads: The Oregon Trail’s Origins” travels back to 1971 to tell the surprising story of how a college project from Bill Heinemann, Paul Dillenberger, and Don Rawitsch was donated to the state of Minnesota and its organization MECC and went on to become one of the most celebrated games of all time.

The documentary was created by independent media outlet MinnMax (created by former Game Informer magazine editors) to help raise money for the nonprofit New Vision Foundation, which teaches underprivileged youth in Minnesota how to code.

“The Oregon Trail has an incredible legacy as an edutainment game,” said Kelsey Lewin, co-director of the Video Game History Foundation “Few games have reached such popularity with both educators and their students, let alone for several decades. “Trailheads” does the important work of elevating the history of ‘The Oregon Trail’ – highlighting the faces behind the beloved classic and sharing their stories.”

“Trailheads: The Oregon Trail’s Origins” was produced by MinnMax founder Ben Hanson and is out now for free on YouTube. “The documentary is about the importance of programming, teaching, and selflessness, so it made sense to pay it forward and point people towards supporting a great nonprofit like New Vision Foundation,” Hanson says.

“Established in 2016, New Vision Foundation is an immigrant-led nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide pathways to success for disadvantaged youth in Minnesota through coding and digital literacy classes,” said Executive Director Hussein Farah. “We want to foster opportunities for them to connect with the world of coding, introduce them to careers in technology, and create a robust pipeline of future high-tech employees who will be earning higher wages and therefore decrease the racial income disparities in Minnesota.”