Video Games Need Better Dinosaurs. Paleontologists Can Help

The most ocean-focused event at the GSA was also one of the loudest voices in the chorus for pro-Ammonite games. On the final night of the conference, I stumbled into a Hyatt Regency ballroom for the long-awaited Friends of the Cephalopods social event. Under a vaulted ceiling, academics, museum employees and octopus-curious people passed around a bottle of Kraken Rum. They drank to cephalopods and laughed when a vertebrate struck up a conversation. Underneath in sable-like Coats, Olivia Jenkins was in charge of art and programming Ancient Oceans, an Ammonite roguelike game from the University of Utah’s Ammonite Motility Modeling Lab. In collaboration with Assistant Professor Kathleen Ritterbush, the game was based on the lab’s research into how ammonites lived and competed for resources.

In different oceanic epochs, players will take on different shell permutations as they try to survive and balance factors like speed, stamina, and hunger. Jenkins hopes Ancient Oceans will be fun for everyone – not just cephalopod friends. It sacrifices some accuracy for entertainment, but that doesn’t mean players won’t learn.

“I learned more about the Cold War from Metal Gear Solid 3 than I’ve ever done in the public education system,” says Jenkins. “Just because it was information that was directly relevant to me as a player could I learn about it and have an incentive to remember details.” Bonus information can be put into optional parts of the game, inspired by the Super Smash Bros. Brawl Trophy gallery. That Geoscientific Communication The paper’s authors also discussed similar options such as glossaries or encyclopedias as helpful guides for the paleo-curious without force someone to learn. “I try to encourage people to look at the information that the game provides without forcing it on them,” says Jenkins. “And that’s a difficult balance. I hope I scored.”

An augmented reality version of Ancient Oceans, which uses Unreal Engine 4 on museum iPads, is slated for release in Spring 2023, with more gameplay-centric versions coming soon after balancing and playtesting. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation, and Ritterbush has a budget for it Ancient Oceans updated each year as new discoveries are made in the laboratory and in the field. When a shell shape or species is discovered to have new advantages, this is programmed into the game’s backend and reflected in new winning strategies.

Paleontology studies the world’s oldest organisms, the bedrock of biology and ecology, but that doesn’t mean the technology for sharing that research is stuck in the past. Posters at the GSA have focused on virtual field trips, interactive fossil software, community building podcasts and more Minecraft– both for teaching and for simulating geological phenomena. Video games are just another tool to play with billions of years of history. This story can be played in as many permutations, whether it’s cooperative dig sims or all animal hunting games.

In a breezy rooftop bar, I met Vanderbilt University assistant professor Neil Kelley, who appreciated it Pokemon‘s animal diversity as well as its Pro-Blathers look over the roof. “In terms of representation of really obscure groups that never get any sort of popular media representation, there are a lot of them Pokemon‘ Kelly said. As we spoke, his child crouched beneath him and caught Eevee Pokemon Go. “Good exposure to biodiversity!” said Kelley as we noticed the live monster trapping going on below us. Eevee, Kelley explained, is a great example of adaptive evolution because Eevee can change herself based on environmental factors. I asked what adaptive evolution was, and before I could stop myself, I accidentally learned about paleontology once again. Video Games Need Better Dinosaurs. Paleontologists Can Help

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