For the past several days, the internet has been abuzz with news from Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. One announcement in particular people can’t stop talking about is Silent Hills, the newest Silent Hill installment from the minds of Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear creator) and Guillermo del Toro, starring the insanely popular Norman Reedus. Basically, this game is big big big. It’s another defining example of what can come from combining the cinematic strengths of Hollywood with the interactivity of video games. Of course, Silent Hills is only the tip of the Gamescom iceberg. We’ve seen new footage for The Witcher 3, major Electronic Arts (EA) reveals, and the internet breaking announcement that the next Tomb Raider is (but actually isn’t) an Xbox One exclusive. A normal year for Europe’s biggest game conference, really.
There is honestly a lot to get excited about. In the gaming community, events like E3 and Gamescom are still huge deals. This is when major and minor publishers come together to present their hard work for us to enjoy in the future. If you’re Atari, you take the time to announce that you’re bringing an old favorite back with RollerCoaster Tycoon. Seeing as how the last two entries for the Nintendo 3DS and iOS software were overwhelmingly poorly received, fans haven’t had a great new outing since 2004. That’s a straight decade of nothing quality for a series that people used to love, which is never good. With RollerCoaster Tycoon World, Atari and Pipeworks Software will clearly try to make the series popular again.
Why was RollerCoaster Tycoon ever popular in the first place? It was a unique take on the ever popular simulation genre of gaming, in a vein similar to SimCity. Unlike SimCity though, RollerCoaster Tycoon was a representation of every kid’s wildest dreams. People love amusement parks to an unimaginable level. It’s a normal childhood fantasy to own your own park so you can go on rides without any lines and as much as you want. Sounds amazing right? On paper it does, but the reality of the situation is that running an amusement park is incredibly difficult. The amount of money and regulations that go into it is astronomical. But of course, when it comes to fantasies, no one really considers the true cost.
That’s where RollerCoaster Tycoon comes in. First released in 1999 for Microsoft Windows, RollerCoaster Tycoon literally put you in the place of an amusement park owner. Your job is to manage and grow your own park, eventually turning it into an extremely profitable venture. A LOT needs to be done for you to actually do this though. Just like a modern amusement park, every basic need of the customers must be met. You need to have accessible restrooms, available food stands, neatly organized landscaping, and proper line placement. The only way to be successful is if your guests are both happy and willing to spend money. You also need to make sure they’re still living, which means the rides must be safe and well-maintained. Most importantly, your park has to be fun. You can make the world’s biggest and fastest roller coaster, only to have it become a boring attraction that no one wants to ride.
So I know what you’re probably thinking. “How in the world was this ever fun? It sounds like a lot of work.” And to be honest, it is. Maintaining a fully-functioning park filled with thousands of happy guests is not easy. It takes a lot of time and concentration. It is a lot like actually running an actual park except on a much smaller scale and without any real consequence. But that’s a big part of the appeal though. If you are able to become successful, you do get a sense of satisfaction from actually accomplishing something you put your mind to.
There is a much bigger appeal that supersedes actually running the park properly however: being all-powerful. People love simulation games with such passion because they provide uninhibited control in a generally normal setting. Really, it’s the only way a “construction and management simulation” like RollerCoaster Tycoon can actually be mindless fun. You can build a roller coaster that suddenly ends out of nowhere. You can make your rides go so fast, the cars literally fly off the tracks and kill everyone. It’s so easy to turn your own park into an unstoppable nightmare land of death and destruction. Why even worry about money too when you can cheat your way to success? And isn’t this all a tab morbid and dark? Absolutely, but that’s what keeps people coming back for more. It’s simulation in every sense of the word, for good and bad.
I’ve always enjoyed simulation games, though I haven’t owned that many. No installment in the RollerCoaster Tycoon series entered my own personal devices until fairly recently. I did, however, play the game pretty extensively with friends. We very rarely spent time making a nice park of course. Most of our time was spent turning the places into horrible death traps. Like I said before, that’s the big appeal. It’s why RollerCoaster Tycoon is built so you can be a madman. It’s why games like SimCity have options entirely dedicated to catastrophic disasters. Being a normal business owner is boring. Creating virtual steel killing machines is not.
RollerCoaster Tycoon World is to be the first new installment on PC since RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 in 2004. Since so much time as passed and technology has greatly improved, the opportunities for an incredible new experience are vast. Already a big announced feature for the game is the addition of multiplayer. This is the very first time cooperative play is included and people are rightfully excited. Connected players can visit each others’ parks or even collaborate on making a joint masterpiece. Who knows, maybe you’ll be even able to create your own little avatar so you can experience other parks first hand guest. Now that would be a cool feature. Little else has been revealed about this upcoming release, but more will definitely come soon since this game is scheduled to come early 2015.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.