Video games have always lifted from the movies—occasionally they even do a good job—but the new trailer for ARK Park is so shameless about it that it deserves special notice, because it inadvertently serves as a kind of mental map of the industry’s limited imagination. Just give it a look, it’s astounding.
The game is a virtual reality spinoff of ARK: Survival Evolved, an upcoming survival adventure game from Washington-based Studio Wildcard. That game looks like a mishmash of ideas from all sorts of not-that-different sources—from Game of Thrones all the way to Return of the Jedi—but ARK Park, from Chinese developers Snail Games, shows one aesthetic influence above all others. See if you can spot it!
“Influence” is maybe the wrong word here, though, because for the first half of the trailer, ARK Park looks like it was cooked up by copyright lawyers looking for a test case. From the first shot of what is clearly the monorail from Jurassic World and its aviary-like dome through the Jurassic Park front gate to the tracking shots of velociraptors tearing through the underbrush, this wants to be a Jurassic Park game so badly that it makes direct-to-DVD ripoffs like Age of Dinosaurs and Jurassic City look dignified and original.
But ARK Park isn’t a direct-to-DVD movie, it’s a video game, which means it’s not enough to see dinosaurs: you have to shoot them, too. The second half of the trailer exists only to reassure gamers that, yes, there will be plenty of guns. Here the aesthetic looks more like Jurassic Park ancestors The Lost World or King Kong: the player gets to meet a majestic giant ape and a creepy giant spider, then shoot them. In the classic tradition of video game gun porn, it looks like you can also customize your weapons, eventually building this comically phallic rotary cannon the size of a bus:
It’s like the video game industry in miniature: given virtual reality technology that could be used to let people have the experience of being surrounded by dinosaurs, the developers chose, instead, to let them relive the experience of watching Jurassic Park. And then they dumped in a bunch of guns and grizzled special forces types and called it a day. It’s possible that ARK Park has a sense of humor about this that’s not visible in the trailer, in which case the issue isn’t so much ARK Park as it is the fact that marketers at Snail Games think there’d be a bigger audience for Jurassic-Park-With-More-Guns than whatever they actually made. (They’re probably right.) Anyway, all the best video game reviewers are on YouTube these days, so here’s a YouTube review: