Science And Belief In Video Games Part 2: Jurassic World: Evolution
|Brian Joseph Johns|
This time around we're going to tackle science and morality explored in Michael Crichton's incredible book Jurassic Park, its expansion into one of the most successful Hollywood franchises and its most recent chapter to arrive on the big screen as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and as the incredible upcoming theme park video game Jurassic World: Evolution. Something that I will say is that Michael Crichton is one of my favourite authors, certainly having a profound impact upon my own life and love of both reading and writing. I've read the vast majority of his books excluding perhaps two and enjoyed the many adaptions to film of his books (including one of which he himself directed being The Great Train Robbery). His writing even prompted me to take mathematics courses on Vector Calculus and Complex Numbers in the early 1990s.
One of the biggest close calls in film history has to be due to the fact that at the time of pre-production of the film, the writers and producers were planning to superimpose the character of Doctor Ian Malcom onto the character of Doctor Alan Grant, hence erasing Ian Malcolm from the film version of Jurassic Park entirely.
Caution: Spoilers ahead if you if you haven't read the novel or seen the film Jurassic Park. Proceed to the green text below which indicates you've passed the spoilers. You have been warned.
Also changed for the film version of Jurassic Park was the character of John Hammond. Once again an enigmatic and magnetic actor and award winning director (Gandhi), Sir Richard Attenborough stepped into the role of Hammond resulting in a drastic rewrite of his character from being an obsessive capitalist trying to sell the public a high tech flea circus ignoring the morality involved, to a Disney-esque idealist trying to further both the wonder and joy of the audience and their interest in the sciences without sparing any expenses. Once again, in the book Hammond's character whose vileness surpasses even that of the undisciplined hacker Dennis Nedry (played perfectly by Seinfeld's Wayne Knight). In the movie John Hammond has become the kind hearted grandfather of the film averting the same fate as Doctor Ian Malcolm, that befalls his character in the novel. There you have some the greatest gems of recent film history. Now that I've paid my respects at the altar of great storytellers and thespians lets get back onto topic
With the upcoming release of the sequel to 2015's Jurassic World, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has been timed the release of the kind of Jurassic Park video game that all gamers have wanted from the creation of the franchise though we did not know that such a genre of video games would eventually exist. This game of course is Jurassic World: Evolution.
The video game allows players to create and manage their very own dinosaur theme park in the same settings as the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movie and novel franchise. Appropriately the video game was developed by Frontier Developments, the same developers who brought you the hit video games Elite: Dangerous, Planet Coaster and Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 (the last two being perhaps some of the best theme park management games available). Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 is based upon Chris Sawyer's Roller Coaster Tycoon franchise while Frontier Developments is the brain child of Astrophyicist/Programmer David Braben, who leads this team of talented developers and innovators.
Doctor Ian Malcolm: "Life overcomes."
(Click image above for great article from Slashfilm.com by Hoai-Tran Bui)
After all, in the words of Doctor Ian Malcolm himself, life overcomes.
It is that very force the player of the game contends with to create and manage a safe and profitable business that draws an ever growing audience to the park they create. How can one tame the most powerful force of which we're aware that even resulted in us, and contain that force for exploitation? To further make this whole situation all the more interesting, the game divides that challenge into three key divisions through which the park itself operates: Business, Science and Technology and Security. The goals of each of these divisions often contrast and contradict the goals of the other two, making the balancing act the player much achieve even that much more challenging.
All this while managing the living conditions for dinosaurs that ruled the Earth for more than three hundred million years but that's what this game is all about. Dinosaurs. All while the player is as much in awe of that fact as is the audience as the dinosaurs have been recreated meticulously with incredible animation and audio fidelity in mind. Playing this game in the dark might make you feel like you're lost on one of the islands in the region of Isla Nublar itself.
There are a wide variety of dinosaurs to bring back from extinction to populate your park. Some more dangerous than others. Some more entertaining than others. Some more clever than others. Some more hungry for a taste of the audience than others. Further, with the science and technology division many advances in developing entertaining species (as explored in the film Jurassic World) are possible though at the cost of security and introducing many unknowns into the game play itself.
Taming nature in this game is not all about the dinosaurs though, as they are not the only chaotic element that works against the order of the containment of life and nature. The weather and natural disasters themselves can wreak havoc on the innumerable systems you've developed to keep the dinosaurs contained and from running awry amongst the audience. There are many forces at work that could undermine the most capable of enterprises and the lure of stability. You'd best heed Doctor Malcolm's advice as he is also present in the game voiced by Jeff Goldblum, who heralds a cast of great voice talent for the game.
The game is due for release in June 2018 which is thankfully a short time away and will be available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Until then, the next time that you look at the world around yourself and every living creature, consider what kind of an immense journey through time it took to bring us each and every magnificent creature that inhabits this planet. We can only hope that life overcomes the hurdles that many species on this planet face. Perhaps with great stories, movies and video games that follow the legacy of Michael Crichton, enough of future generations will consider how we can foster and care for rather than contain life itself.
Brian Joseph Johns