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SimLife as Successful Educational Technology

Reading lately about invasive super-species like the snakehead fish and lionfish, I can’t help but smile and remember the mountain beast.

The game SimLife came out in 1992, and I used to enjoy playing it on my computer at The Media Lab in the evenings.  I’d set up a world, and let it run all night.  One evening before I went home, I added a new species that I called a “mountain beast.”  I made the mountain beast the best possible at everything.  Does it eat plants?  Sure. Eat meat? Sure.  Live in deserts?  Sure.  Live in mountains? Of course!  Eats everything, lives everywhere.  I added a few mountain beasts and went home.  And in the morning… I had nothing but mountain beasts.  Every other species had gone extinct!

It was a memorable experience.  Ecosystems are complex and hard to understand, but I felt like my mountain beast experience taught me something.  So tip of the hat to the memory of a good simulation, and to my mountain beast. 

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