Zoo Tycoon, a video game for Xbox 360 and Xbox one, allows “players [to] run a virtual zoo of their making. As they become more successful — a feat accomplished in part by raising happy animals — players will have the chance to release those animals into the wild” as reported by Polygon.
Once enough players release a chosen animal, Microsoft will donate money to a real-life related charity. According to Polygon, “The company has a certain percentage of its profits set aside for just such an occasion. [Studio Manager Jorg] Neumann told us the company partnered with National Geographic and several conservation efforts to help fight animal-related causes worldwide.”
Neumann adds that the built in educational components of the game, like herbivores and omnivores not being housed together, as well as in-game organizations seizing neglected animals are “a good consequence, given that we want to teach people to actually take care of animals … It’s an important thing to really get that.”
This is undoubtedly a fun way for people to raise money to help animals, and it’s a good step to see Microsoft Studios taking. However, when an organization partners with a cause, they theoretically recognize there is a problem that needs to be solved. In this case that problem is the neglect of animals, which lands them in zoos, and the zoos then (in theory) rehabilitate them and release them into the wild.
Why not take it just one step further and address the root cause of the issue? Why not have an interactive game in which players combat poaching? Or perform rescue missions related to real-world animal problems like destruction of habitat? To be most effective, the educational value of helping animals shouldn’t need to take place within the confines of a zoo.
Ultimately, the game will be raising money for good causes and that’s a great thing. Hopefully, it also challenges players to think about the real issues that animals are facing and perhaps inspire them to become a part of the solution.