November 30, 2022

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Ranking (scientific) of ancient video games

Hundreds of video games use extinct animals (dinosaurs, mammoths) or fossil themes (fossils, scientists). It was one of the first examples 3D Monster Maze (1982), where the players chased Tyrannosaurus Rex; today jurassic world evolutionwhere players have to build a dinosaur park on 5 different islands, is one of the best sellers with more than 3 million copies.

These games are often the first occasion when young people deal with paleontological topics. But how scientific are they? This question was asked by a team from the University of Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who reviewed more than 270 video games on the platform. steam In the past ten years. there Search It was published a few days ago by the magazine Earth science communication.

Wrench the phone on YOUTUBE. “The idea came to Thomas Clements and Jake Atterby,” says one of the authors, Valeria Rossi, an Italian researcher at University College Cork. They have a YouTube platform, Palaeocast gaming network, where real paleontologists participate in video games and comment on them from their point of view. We wanted to give as complete a picture as possible about the sector, highlighting its strengths and strengths.” Above all for the benefit of teachers and educators, who must know the concepts, established or inaccurate, conveyed by the various games on the market.

Many video games (such as Jurassic World: EvolutionAnd the zoo tycoonAnd the jurassic world legoAnd the Animal Crossing: New Horizons) contains glossaries, encyclopedias, and databases with a lot of information on the existing species. But sometimes science and fiction get mixed up without warning. “in the game The Sims 4 Unlikely fossils are presented as fossils of cow udders or human ancestors’ whiskers,” the researchers recall, for example.

A dinosaur comes out of a computer screen: these creatures are the most represented in video games.
© Shutterstock

Positive balance. What is the general budget? The researchers conclude that “most ancient video games convey good paleontological communication by integrating physical and biological processes into the game that, directly or indirectly, increase participants’ levels of knowledge.” Natural environments, full of flora and fauna, are often carefully reproduced and give players the opportunity to immerse themselves in reconstructions. However, most games focus on very specific aspects of paleontology (such as fossil collection, genetics, evolution) and can take liberties Creative to create an engaging gameplay.

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Therefore, fossil video games mix correct information with flights of imagination, which often leads to misinformation. But what are the most important aspects?

The five categories that Old video games It has been divided by researchers.
(to me)
ancient animals as adversaries (Turok: Dinosaur Hunter); (B) ancient animals as tools (Super Mario World); (c) Fossils as collectibles (Animal Crossing: New Horizons); (Dr) animal management)jurassic world evolution); (And the) animal simulators (Syrian).
Image (F) Demonstrates the use of animal parts as an aesthetic adornment (fortnite).
© Geoscience Communication 2022

Little and beast. So what are the most common flaws researchers have found? The second: “savagery” and “lack of biodiversity.” “The Beast” is the depiction of prehistoric animals in a way that appears frightening and brutal. “A result obtained by reducing soft tissues, increasing body size, and enlarging claws, teeth and horns. The researchers wrote that this makes it easier for the player to kill them. And this approach is not limited to carnivorous dinosaurs, but also herbivorous dinosaurs or mammoths.

Oftentimes, to emphasize the wild side, games also introduce mythical creatures such as griffins, basils, and pterodactyls: “But video games do not distinguish between mythical and real animals, and this can confuse players,” the scientists warn.

Another common defect is the “lack of ancient diversity”. The games are based on a handful of famous dinosaurs (dinosaurAnd the TriceratopsAnd the stegosaurus), with the addition of woolly mammoths and toothed cats. All other types – except for rare exceptions, such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons Collection in Miocene Africa – not represented. The researchers caution that “a disadvantage also depends on the fact that building new digital resources is difficult and expensive, so we rely on already available reconstructions.” The problem, however, is that this gives the false impression that there were very few life forms in antiquity.

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Dinosaurs in different versions

acting Tyrannosaurus Rex in video games.
(to me) 3D monster maze (1982); (B) Primordial Rage (1994); (c) Tomb rider (1996); (Dr) The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997); (And the) Dino Crisis (1999); (F) Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis (2003); (g) Turok (2008); (h) Dino Day (2011); (The) Barkasaurus (2020); (j) second extinction (2020); (K) Syrian (2017); (to) jurassic world evolution (2018).
© Communication in Earth Sciences 2022

distorted development. The balance becomes more controversial when one examines how palaeontology is represented. In particular, one of its basic concepts, evolution, is most presented in a distorted way. In some games, like pokemon, Evolution is presented as an upgrade dynamic: creatures evolve into larger and more powerful forms as they gain more experience. In fact, this is a transformation, not an evolution.”

Still worse than the possibility (as in the game Germs) to acquire new morphological features by preying on other organisms, “as if evolution were the result of a conscious decision by an organism,” the scientists wrote. “In fact, beneficial traits (strength and endurance) are acquired randomly, and are likely (not certain) to be passed on to the next generation.”

in Ancestors: The Epic of the Human Race The evolution of early humans is described as distinct leaps from one species to another rather than showing the presence of multiple species simultaneously. “By presenting evolution as an overly linear and simplified process, the game also reinforces the old idea that humans are the highest product of evolution.”

Impossible reproduction. Another frequent distortion is the subject of the cloning and resurrection of extinct animals by taking their DNA from ancient fossils, as happens in terraria, where a small dinosaur is revived. It is also a masterpiece of science fiction, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. But the authors of the research report that players put their feet on the ground: “Currently we are unable to extract viable genetic material from fossil remains” to revive “extinct animals.”


Examples of collectible fossils in video games.
(to me) No Man’s Sky (2016); (Bahraini dinar) Stardu Valley (2016); (And the) Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018); (q) The Sims 4 (2014); (I) stars bound (2016); (n) Maine Craft (2011); (or) series Pokemon (1999); (Point) Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020).
Note: Unrealistic mustache fossil (h); bone (And the) Qualified as a dinosaur remains and is in fact the skull of a walrus.

© Communication in Earth Sciences 2022

Sex and colonialism. Mistakes and stereotypes abound even when it comes to describing the work of a paleontologist. “Many games can create the misperception that fossils are in all kinds of rocks and that a destructive technique (hammers) is required to extract them.” Equally misleading is the idea that fossils can be assigned anywhere, and worse, that they can be freely sold and bought: many video games rely specifically on accumulating wealth through the sale of ancient artifacts.

The image of a paleontologist is also often cliched: he appears as a lonely brilliant scientist (often with Charles Darwin or Indiana Jones), and is often male. When present, women are represented in a more sexual way (emphasizing the breasts and hips) than male characters.