Jurassic World: Evolution, a reality that many didn’t see coming is here.

It’s always fun when a new Jurassic World movie comes out which a fifth one does this upcoming Friday because it puts front and center the latest science of DNA manipulation and the field of paleontology.  I am convinced that the whole era of the dinosaurs is something we have only lightly touched on with our known sciences and it will likely stay that way.  I was stunned to find a Tyrannosaurus Rex thigh bone in various stages of excavation at a lab at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis recently where they actually let people touch it as they worked on it.  Twenty years ago, such a thing would be off-limits to any exhibit until all the scientific work had been done because of the rarity of such a find.  But these days what we have found from the past isn’t nearly as important as our future of just remaking it.  There is enough DNA and genetic mapping to bring back to life creatures from the past.  There is a serious effort right now to bring back to life a Wooly Mammoth, and once that happens there will be real life Jurassic Parks hosting all sorts of extinct creatures, and I think that’s very exciting.  The week of every new Jurassic World release has interviews with Jack Horner, who is a real paleontologist on the front of the science and he always says some very interesting things about the latest and greatest in the study of dinosaurs.

What was different this time however was a video game that was released to accompany the new movie called Jurassic World: Evolution.  It’s a park builder game where players on PlayStation 4 and other console platforms, can build your own version of a Jurassic Park and all the problems that are associated with that task.  That for me is very exciting as I love every one of the movies because of their adventurous approach to the sciences which contain within them all the reservations of gene manipulation mixed with the excitement of infinite possibilities.   I often say that one of my favorite places on earth is Epcot Center at Disney World, for many of the same reasons that Jurassic Park seemed like such an interesting place to visit.  But I am particularly in love and have been for a long time the Jurassic Park land at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando.  Even though the ride has become a bit cheesy in recent years due to its age, I love the feeling of the place and would love to visit a place for real.  I am very excited to see what Universal Studios is going to do with their renovation of that part of their park.  Apparently, they are closing down the land this fall to reopen a Jurassic World next summer. I will likely be one of the first in line to visit it.

But the new Jurassic World: Evolutions game allows you to build multiple Jurassic Parks and run them as a park simulator controlling the cashflow of even soft drinks and getting right down on the ground level of your theme parks and interacting with the guests.  In many ways its better than visiting a real theme park because you control the crowds and everything.  You don’t have to deal with the heat of a real theme park or the sticky pavement, or smelly bathrooms.  You can just build and visit such places in your living room and honestly, I had the same kind of emotions that I’ve had when visiting the real Universal Studios.  Granted, the real thing will always be the best way to visit, real experiences will always trump virtual ones, but its pretty damn close. 

What did stun me about this latest Jurassic game is the level of gene manipulation research that it allows players to embark on, even down to changing the color of the dinosaurs by arranging their DNA in a way to give them exciting skin flourishes that visitors to the theme park would enjoy, and help you make more money.  It became quite obvious to me that this wasn’t just a game anymore, but was a vehicle to carry the mind of mankind to that next level of genetic research, the ability to essentially build anything we want—to clone ourselves if need be, and to really dig at the roots of what makes life—life. 

I found the game to be a wonderfully intellectual experience coupled with just the raw thrill of building theme parks. I love games like that because I am a manager at heart, I love to be in charge of everything I do and theme park games like this give you complete control over everything in the game.  I especially like that when you tell a ranger crew to go work on a fence or to heal some sick dinosaurs they aren’t playing on their phones off the side of the road somewhere, they are always very attentive to your commands and they do exactly what you want and need 100% of the time.  That is better than in real life where managing such people takes an extra gear that most people don’t have, because people are always trying to get away with something and you have to constantly work with people at many different levels to get them to do basic things.  It practically takes a psychology degree to deal with people, especially if you have more than 50 employees, but in games like Jurassic World: Evolution, everyone does exactly what you say every time you say it meaning you get to manage a big amusement park at the level of an owner, and you don’t have to deal with the downfalls of human failures to concentrate.

One thing is very clear as this new Jurassic World movie is about to be released compared to the one that released in 2014, science has come a long way.  We are knocking on the door to a very new age where mankind is giving itself control over these very abstract concepts.  When a video game can give you the power to not only resurrect a dinosaur, but to make it blue, green or red depending on your preference, we are stepping into very new territory.  I can remember when some of the first cloning was being done to animals way back in the 90s and how much controversy there was over stem cell research.  These days, that controversy is nearly gone, the science of these concepts is nearly routine talk and without question the next generation will have many options to build genetic life into any form they desire.  If we want to see a Woolly Mammoth again in our zoos, we can just make one off the abundant genetic material that is coming out of northern Russia these days. If we want to see a Tyrannosaurs Rex, just make one.  And if we want to build new bodies for ourselves once our bodies have become old, or we might desire to make those old bodies new again with just the tweak of our genetic coding, then we’ll be able to.  And oddly enough, that is what all these Jurassic Park movies, theme parks and video games seem to be preparing us for.

Rich Hoffman

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