Video games pulled directly from nature and natural processes
May 3, 2020 9:16 AM   Subscribe

To keep busy during the pandemic, I've gotten into video game emulators and really enjoy the Atari 2600 game Frogs and Flies. I was wondering what other video games (any system, any time) is based directly on natural processes. Non-anthropomorphised, just natural things doing their natural thing.
posted by Sreiny to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, there's SimAnt, SimEarth and SimLife, though they are more simulations/sandboxes than games.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:31 AM on May 3, 2020 [5 favorites]

Deadly creatures - the game allows players to play as a tarantula and a scorpion, engaging in combat against other creatures.
posted by pyro979 at 9:53 AM on May 3, 2020

Also for the Atari 2600, there's Frogger and Freeway, both kinda about animals living in the human world (the former more than the latter, I suppose--I don't know that chickens actually do a lot of road-crossing). So is NES game Duck Hunt. (If that one counts, then there are scores of hunting and fishing simulators.)

Ecco the Dolphin and Jaws Unleashed are probably a stretch. Goat Simulator and Untitled Goose Game may be of interest.

If Pokemon count as natural (though fictional) things, then Pokemon Snap, in which the player is a wildlife photographer, might be another example.
posted by box at 10:01 AM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Odell Lake - Play as various fish and eat other fish. I remember playing that on Apple II.
Flower - More recent and more abstract, but play as the wind moving through various flower-filled settings.
posted by past unusual at 10:04 AM on May 3, 2020

From the same Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium which brought you Oregon Trail: 1986's Odell Lake and the 1995 sequel Odell Down Under!
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:05 AM on May 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm having some serious Odell Lake flashbacks right now...
flOw might do it for you. It's a little abstract, but in the way that all life is strange at that scale. You're just a single celled organism trying to get bigger.
posted by clockwork at 11:08 AM on May 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

There’s an iOS game called Fungi that uses some concepts of mycelial growth to make a sort of mmo rts game.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:20 AM on May 3, 2020

I enjoyed Shelter 2
posted by imelcapitan at 11:21 AM on May 3, 2020

Kind of a stretch but Dwarf Fortress does insane amounts of natural processes to generate worlds. It starts with geologic stuff like magma flow and plate tectonics then does a few millennial of hydrology to weather rock and deposit sediment. Then it runs a whole biome generator and does some ecological processing before doing a round of political/national/historical stuff.

Then you just muck around with dwarves for a bit until something kills them. But the world building based on natural dynamical systems processes is amazing.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:38 AM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Neko Atsume would count, I think (you put out pillows and toys for cats to bat at and loll on, and they oblige).

Zen Koi is mostly koi swimming and eating things.

In the game with the horrible goose I guess the goose's activities are directed, but you could probably argue the things it does could fall within the scope of natural activities for some geese. (On preview I see it's been mentioned.)
posted by trig at 12:48 PM on May 3, 2020

Rain World is a survival platformer with a big map and expansive ecosystem with many plants and animals that vary from region to region. You play as a "slugcat" somewhere in the middle of the food chain--you can eat smaller creatures and plants, but have to avoid or kill predators. The AI of the creatures is quite nuanced...different species of predators behave in their own ways and you learn to recognize these behaviors when evading them. In addition to the predators, you have to find shelter every day to avoid deadly rain. Unfortunately the game can be pretty frustrating and is based as much on luck as it is on skill. But if you have patience and like exploring a simulated natural world it can be a fun challenge!
posted by Lurch at 1:22 PM on May 3, 2020

Survive! Mola mola! Google Play app, but also on iphone interesting in that you're playing the species, rather than the individual. The goal is to die every unique way to better prepare later generations! There was a metafilter post on it ages ago that will explain it better than I can here...

Molas are pretty distinct with a large and oddly-shaped body.
However, they are actually very delicate. The smallest thing can make them die (´・ω・`)

【Cause of death】
Dive into the deep-end too quickly
→Wow, the water is so cold!

Sun bathing
→When I woke up, I was on land

Jump to kill a parasites riding on the body
→Fell and struck the water!
posted by clockwork at 2:03 PM on May 3, 2020

Conway's Game of Life is a simple simulator of simple life, i.e. bacteria, cells, that sort of thing, where you set the initial conditions and then it plays itself according to very simple rules for death, life, and reproduction.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:26 PM on May 3, 2020

The Sanctuary Woods games, Wolf and Lion (check GOG or for copies) were very well-researched, non-cute games about the life cycles of wolves and lions. IIRC the games were made in cooperation with a conservation program to make the gameplay more accurate. As a result they’re both rather difficult!
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:08 PM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Abzu tells a fictional story, but you encounter and learn about lots of real fish and the environments they live in
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:36 AM on May 4, 2020

It seems like I've seen several tiny games that fit this category over on the PICO-8 forums, but rather than go dig them up, I'll just link to my favorite, 8 Legs to Love, about being a spider and building your web to catch bugs. (Although, I suppose the later levels quickly become less true-to-life.) You can play it in-browser at that link.
posted by Lirp at 6:26 PM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

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