Computer games based on real ecosystems

BBC games used to have two: Big Al and The Evolution Game.
In Big Al you chose whether to eat or escape from prey and it worked out for you depending on your size at the time relative to the other critter and its food preference. If you didn’t eat enough you would starve, and your growing was, I think, dependent on your age. You also had to uncover more area to hunt in, at some risk of meeting a bigger allosaurus. You finally have to find a mate.
In The Evolution Game, you start as a nondescript animal, and actually become more carnivorous or herbivorous lager or smaller, with forward or side facing eyes, etc, depending o which of the items you encounter you choose to eat and how else you respond to them. The creature at the end looks different from what you are in the beginning.
This was my favourite, but it disappeared from the website. Big Al was there for a few years after Evolution Game, but I don’t know if that site is functioning. I tried to find it some time back and couldn’t find even the main site where the game are listed.

I have about 90 pages of different concepts detailing “nature simulators”, but I’m moved away from those recently. The problem is that “video gamers” are not really the sort of people interested in those experiences. That is why some of the best nature games, like Endless Ocean 2 “tanked” so badly – they were amazing, impeccable games, but there was no audience in the “gamers”. The sort of people that would enjoy these games are not shelling out hundreds of dollars on a video game console. As a result, developers are not interested in investing in these sorts of games.

One of my missions is to share wildlife with this “gamer” community – but to do that efficiently, you need to start with a video game framework first, rather than a nature one. Remember Pokemon? This is a game that is based on combat, exploration, and conquering objectives. But instead of real gritty war themes, it uses mythical creatures to represent its motives, and the game itself. This is one of the most popular games in the world – not because of the exploration and creature discovery, but because it is a video game at heart.

My top nature games are as follows:
Endless Ocean 1 and 2 (particularly 2, heavily invested marine life games with hundreds of species)
Everblue 2 (diving game with marine life)
Afrika (African safari/photography)
Beetle King (hardcore insect collecting, unreleased game, but fully playable)
Animal Crossing (“village life” simulator game, but with “bug-collecting” and “fishing” as hobbies)


He missed a lot – there’s a ton of inaccuracies not given, some very significant, but it still remains one of the most accurate bird depictions in a video game to date.

maybe it’s overly optimistic but i don’t feel like this has to be true and i think there are many who might respond to a really fun game that is immersed within a really active and responsive ecology, something procedurally generated and awesome… i think the bigger issue is this is incredibly difficult to do well, and also very computer intensive, so many people start out with this goal but end up with something gutted and dead inside like Spore or No Man’s Sky. Maybe just having one small element of ecology within a larger world could work. I am really interested in games where there is no guaranteed result and choices effect things in unexpected ways. Like dwarf fortress except with enough interface to actually use the game. But maybe I am weird…


I can only speak from a sales/market perspective but I think this is true, sadly. The closest reasonably well-selling games that are close to simulators are games such as Journey and ABZU (was mentioned earlier). But these games succeed not necessarily because of the “exploring nature” theme, but because the main investment is story-based, minimal as it may be.

To convince anyone to spend time working on such an ecology game, you’d need to prove there is an audience. I think the mobile market is the closest that we’ve ever had to potential here, since everyone has phones these days.

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While these two games are evolutionary simulators and not true ecosystem simulators, SPECIES: Artificial Life, Real Evolution by Quasar and Thrive by Revolutionary Game Studios are still good scientific games. Just note, however, that they are still in their very early alpha stages, so they way be very buggy sometimes.

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SimIsle. It might not seem like an ecosystem simulator, but in a larger sense it is – it simulates the ecosystem of a developing country and the ways it is being exploited. You make decisions about cutting down rainforests, mining, manufacturing, or developing tourism, and you have to be mindful of how much money you have, which means that although you do have an “ecology score,” it is hard to maintain because of the need to meet your development objective. The descriptions of game elements are rather cynical, which suits me fine, because I do tend to be cynical about development and its inveterate greenwashing.

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Alba: A Wildlife Adventure” just came out today - haven’t tried it yet but it seems lovely, according to this review.


sorry but this game is far too relatable ;)


Games structured around more realistic situations and environments have been hypothesized
to elicit behavior that is more consistent with behavior in the real world (De Lucia et al. 2009).
For example, Fiore et al. (2009) claim that “This should provide tools for policy analysis and
research on decision making that combine the inferential power of replicable experimental
treatments with the natural ‘‘look and feel’’ of a field domain.” Figure 3 shows how this
might work. One could use a series of versions of a game to test how the use of more realistic
environments as the basis for the games changes behavior compared to more hypothetical,
fantastic or abstracted environments.

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