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Classic of the Month: Zoo Tycoon, Blue Fang Games, Microsoft Game Studios 2001, PC & Macintosh

Wednesday, 1. January, 2020
The personal classic presented by: Nicole Hanisch

I came to know and love Zoo Tycoon during long weekends and holidays. Together with my younger sister, I took turns playing either the zoo director or the visitor manager. We were the almighty rulers of our small animal park – until we ran out of money or ambition and went back outside into real nature.

Zoo Tycoon was one of my first "big" business simulations, which taught me to take care of my characters, be it animals, keepers or visitors, because only by fulfilling their needs could I reach my goal. My sister and I gave the animals names, built their enclosures, decorated them and made sure that visitors spent money at my zoo.
How realistic this actual process was, is questionable. In my tender adolescence, I was, however, more fascinated with creating the perfect environment for my gazelles, bears and lions, and getting them to reproduce in order to attract more spectators, raise more money to unlock special animals, enclosure parts or important elements for
my visitors.

In comparison, newer zoo simulations, for example by Frontier Development, are more realistic and complex, but would have probably put me off when I was young. In Zoo Tycoon, I was always happy about every newborn or acquired animal and grieved for the ones dying of old age. The fact that I was presenting animals for their rarity or aesthetic without considering their natural needs or species protection, was not yet clear to me and also not of importance in this older zoo simulation. However, my sister and I were excited to manage animals which we hardly got to see or were long time extinct in the real world.

Simulations, like the animal park in this game, give others the opportunity to offer a home to real, extinct as well as fantastic animals. Being an animal-loving kid, this inspired and shaped me. Especially if you did not own any, only a few or no fancy pets like a snow leopard,
it was very satisfying to name the small leopard, build a stunning enclosure for it and follow its long life.
Like all game genres, zoo simulations also evolved and are nowadays more critical and complex. I associate Zoo Tycoon with many good and nostalgic memories, even though I appreciate newer titles' diligence for digital animal welfare.
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