New Apple Watch App Lets You Walk the Oregon Trail in Real Life
Credit: Zack Frank / Shutterstock
While this is far from the first time a game has crossed over into the real world, it’s a first for Apple Arcade and one of the rare cases where fitness explicitly factors into gameplay. While augmented reality titles like Niantic’s Ingress and Pokémon Go encourage folks to get out and move around, they aren’t focused on specific fitness goals.
However, since The Oregon Trail is all about the journey, Gameloft wants players to experience what it’s like to walk the 2,000-mile path in real life. The result is The Oregon Trail: StepTracker, an Apple Watch app that will measure your distance along a virtual Oregon trail.
The watchOS app accompanies an update to the Apple Arcade version of The Oregon Trail that also ties into the Health app, so you don’t necessarily need an Apple Watch to participate. Steps can also be recorded from your iPhone, but Apple Watch owners will find it more engaging — and more accurate — to use their wearable for this purpose.
You also don’t need to be an Apple Arcade subscriber to take advantage of the Apple Watch app. It’s a free download from the App Store, and although it will sync your progress to The Oregon Trail if you have the game installed, it can also be used on its own as a standalone step tracker to provide Oregon Trail themed walking workouts.
While walking with the app, you’ll “encounter” 64 real-world locations as you walk the 2,000-mile distance from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon. This includes 11 settlements, 22 natural features, 15 river crossings, eight landmarks, and eight Pony Express stations to help motivate you along your journey.
The watchOS app also offers trivia and other facts about the real-world milestones found along The Oregon Trail in the 1800s and a stats screen that will show your “journey statistics,” including daily steps, days traveled, the number of virtual locations you’ve visited, and comparisons to the previous week. All your progress gets saved to Apple’s Health app.
Since this new feature is intended to reflect what it would actually be like to walk The Oregon Trail, it uses real-world distances. In other words, if you walk 10,000 steps a day, it will take you a little over a year to make it to Oregon City.
If you want to make it before the harsh winter sets in, you’ll want to run instead of walking, and fortunately, the app can handle that too. It works at any speed to track your distance, whether walking, jogging, or pushing a wheelchair.
If you’re an Apple Arcade subscriber, you can also download The Oregon Trail, which will pull data from Appel’s Health app to show your progress along the in-game trail. However, in the full mobile game, you’ll also need to pick your traveling companions, keep your wagon stocked with supplies, and face other dangers and unexpected random events. Gameloft says the watchOS app has “99.99% less dysentery,” but it’s not making the same promise for the mobile game.