Gamifying Nature

Tier Zoo is a recently-started YouTube channel that humorously blends the “nature battles” genre of wildlife documentaries with over-analyzed gaming strategy tips videos. It is phenomenal. The details are on point–gaming concepts like skill trees, specs, and griefing are masterfully transplanted onto evolutionary traits. I love the videos already and I’m looking forward to the future of the channel.

The concept behind the channel is fascinating in other ways, too. Its perspective on life through the lens of video games is a surreal example of mimesis. Games are deliberately simplified and streamlined simulations of a (sometimes imagined) life–a distorted form of mimesis. But Tier Zoo’s videos cannot claim to be anti-mimesis. Instead the channel is something like entertainment looking at life through the lens of distorted imitation. Tier Zoo deliberately blurs the already-smudged line between reality and unreality, to great success.

Watching the Cat Tier List video makes me want to¬†play this game. But this “game” is the life that these animals live, a life that is often nasty/brutish/short. Tier Zoo highlights the lack of consequences (and, consequently, heft) that games espouse. In fact, that lack of ultimate consequences is one of the most appealing parts of gaming: you can always start again. If only real life offered such a panacea for failure.

It’s a fascinating concept that is played to great laughs if you’re in the target audience.