ARK Park: An up-close and safe look at the dangerous dinos of ARK

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‘Jurassic ARK’ probably would’ve been lawsuit fodder

ARK Park. It has a staccatoed cadence to it that’s so damn entertaining to say. I saw it on the Wednesday of GDC and spent the entirety of the week barking it out like DMX pretending he’s a dog. Steven, who just would not stop singing the first few lines of “Bad and Boujee,” would sometimes transpose the lyrics to “Raindrop, ARK Park.” We have a lot of fun with video games, a very serious topic.

Just as we crib from rap for ARK Park, ARK Parkcribs from Jurassic Parkfor its whole concept. We begin the demo in a visitor’s center, one that looks awfully familiar. It’s filled with holographic displays, each one committed to giving a little information about a different dinosaur. I pick up a holographic leaf and a holographic brontosaurus leans down to gobble it up, taking my hand with it in a weird translucent way. I offer it some meat and it isn’t at all interested.

It’s then that I teleport on top of a giant map (this is VR-only after all; blinking across short distances is about the only way to get anywhere) and choose a less manufactured destination. I’m going out into ARK Park to get an up-close look at the wildlife that runs this place. It’s clear that this venture isn’t a dangerous one because I’m not given a means to protect myself. ARK: Survival Evolvedis where you go to defend yourself from nature; ARK Parkis where you go to get a voyeuristic first-person glimpse at it, free from the constant threat of maybe getting trampled.

The first destination is a swamp. There’s a python to my left and I don’t like him very much. My guide (the guy giving the demo and talking in my headset) urges me to feed him a frog. I do and he eats it (the python, not the Snail Games employee). I hope it was one of those super poisonous frogs and now that snake gets really really sick.

After dicking around in the swamp for a bit longer, we go to a more forested area. A tyrannosaurus runs past us. It’s a spectacle, but tempered by the fact that I know I’m basically non-existent to him. I find some dodos and they scatter. The guide tells me that dodos are beloved inARK: Survival Evolved. I grab a fly out of the air and feed it to a new frog, my olive branch for feeding his brother to a goddamn snake just minutes earlier.

The last location is a cliff vista overlooking a gorgeous ravine. There are pterodactyls buzzing around my head. It’s all very nice and serene, even if the pterodactyls should probably be more of a nuisance. I take it in and then take the headset off. I’ve experiencedARK Park.

I can’t help but come away unenthused fromARK Park. I would’ve raved about this demo three years ago. Now, it feels like the same well-trodden VR experience but in a different setting. Maybe those who playARK: Survival Evolvedwill find more novelty in seeing those dinosaurs from a more immersive perspective. Everyone else is signing up forJurassic Park VR.

For those who areARKplayers, there’s some extra incentive here. Dinosaurs fromSurvival Evolvedcan be uploaded intoARK Park. Also Snail Games says that it plans to update the game regularly with new attraction, maps, creatures, and gameplay.

There’s assurance that there is plenty more to come, but I’m hard-pressed to see howARK Parkseparates itself as anything more than a mildly entertaining sideshow. Virtual reality has backed itself in a corner where this sort of thing feels entirely too dime-a-dozen. It’s too bad that we’re jaded to the point of meeting the splendors of an interactiveJurassic Parkwith a sigh and a “been there, done that.”