I probably shouldn’t be allowed to write here. I am most definitely not a seasoned gamer and some of the things I say may be accidentally offensive. I look back on my childhood to see that my gaming repertoire exclusively contained The Sims 2, a dance mat (which, as a 90s child, I was obviously amazing at) and the never aging classic that is Zoo Tycoon.
"I found it in a charity shop about a year ago and just had to have another go for old times’ sake."
Ok so never aging is a bit of a stretch. For those too busy playing real games to have ever experienced Zoo Tycoon, it’s a PC game where you are basically given a large field and told to build a zoo on it. The seemingly simple task is made harder by the customers’ inability to be happy and the animals’ pickiness of terrain variety but as a whole, it’s fairly challenging for an 8 year old. I found it in a charity shop about a year ago and just had to have another go for old times’ sake. The graphics are laughable and it’s literally impossible to make everything happy at once but you still get to run a zoo without getting out of bed, and that’s the aim in life really isn’t it.
The first version had two expansion packs, Dinosaur Digs, because every good zoo has dinosaurs, obviously, and Marine Mania, where you basically got to make your own SeaWorld, which was still seen as a positive thing in 2002. The dinosaur pack provided you with scientists to genetically create new dinosaurs (copied straight from Jurassic Park) and added the extra stress of the dinos eating your guests, so never claim this game isn’t thrilling enough for you.
The marine option allowed you to perform shows with your animals, which brought in loads of money and made the rest of the zoo pretty useless in terms of income. Simulated people in the noughties were obviously a lot less conscious of animal cruelty.
For those actually living in the 21st century an Xbox 360 version was realised in 2013 because apparently there was just so much demand for a console version. Although the graphics were much better and they fixed some of the issues with large animals getting stuck behind tiny rocks, the public were outraged, or at least mildly unhappy, which the animal diversity and general standard of the game. As the world called out for more virtual penguins, the Xbox version crashed and burned.
I remember playing this game for hours on end, making bets with my friends on who could make the best zoo, even sitting with four people all round one screen trying to make a zoo together (would not recommend, I need full creative control). I’m not going to say that 80 is the best game ever as I’m not qualified to make that sort of claim, but I will say that out of the three games I had as a child, it was definitely one of my favourites.