Class Warfare Blog

September 14, 2019

Oh, This is a Really Bad Idea

Here’s the blurb announcing a new video game! Hurry, hurry, read all about it. . . .

“The newly released Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is an open world survival game where you control a group of “hominins” – our first ancestors – and explore, expand, and lock in new knowledge so your “clan” can evolve. It takes the players from 10 m years ago, and the common ancestor of both chimpanzee and hominins, to 2 m years ago, when you can play as an early version of Homo erectus. The aim of the game is ultimately to evolve to the point when humans began to leave Africa.”

* * *

No matter how much time is involved in the virtual world that has been created, the amount of time in our world that this game takes will be in hours and days, not millions of years. That will leave a subliminal impression. But, too many people now have the impression that evolution should be visible now to us, when in fact it is glacially slow, in fact evolution makes glaciers seem really, really fast. While the process is continuous (some people think that evolution stopped because it had the objective of creating us) being so slow makes it essentially invisible to ordinary observations.

The vast majority of events (mutations, etc.) are either neutral or detrimental, so such a game has to accelerate in the player’s minds the actual causes of positive changes. And the phrase in the blurb “you control a group of ‘hominins’ – our first ancestors – and explore, expand, and lock in new knowledge so your ‘clan’ can evolve” seems to indicate that the game developers do not even have even a foggy notion of how evolution, a mindless unguided process, works. The earliest point at which human “knowledge” might affect our evolution is right about now where we have the ability to modify genes in human embryos. Or possibly, our ability to control our environment will affect our ecological niche and we will adapt over long periods of time to that. (Those who think we can “evolve” to adapt to climate change or our strange new diet are smoking something barely legal.)

Hey, maybe it is part of a Christian misinformation campaign to discredit the theory of evolution. That might explain the existence of this “game.” Hey, if evolution can be guided, then there just has to be a “Big Guider in the Sky,” right?


  1. Do we get to wipe out Neanderthals and Denisovans?


    Comment by john zande — September 14, 2019 @ 10:53 am | Reply

    • Actually it would be cool that we had to learn to evolve. That would leave the fundies and Republicans falling behind at an accelerating pace!

      On Sat, Sep 14, 2019 at 10:53 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — September 14, 2019 @ 12:41 pm | Reply

      • True! Get enough points and you can switch from genes to memes, then watch as your ideas bring about growth or retardation. Could be fun!


        Comment by john zande — September 14, 2019 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

  2. Games can never really portray the realities, even as a ‘sim’. I will have a look at this game, nonetheless! The problem is that the mechanisms and nature of evolution, as applied to Earth’s biota (humans included) are largely mis-perceived at popular level, irrespective. I recall, as a kid, watching a Brit sci-fi show, ‘The Tomorrow People’, in which the next step in human evolution was portrayed as telepathy, teleportation and so forth, all coupled with a moral shift that made humans unable to kill. In short, sci-fi wish fulfilment, coupled with a resolution of the ethical issues that bedevil modern society. It was pitched for kids but was, inevitably, silly even at that level.


    Comment by Matthew Wright — September 14, 2019 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

    • I will be interested in your opinion of the game! Please let us know if you post on it or I will post your comments as a guest post. Steve

      On Sat, Sep 14, 2019 at 3:55 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — September 15, 2019 @ 11:20 am | Reply

      • Unfortunately it won’t be on PC (Steam) until some time in 2020. But I will look at it then for sure.


        Comment by Matthew Wright — September 15, 2019 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

  3. Kids have an uncanny ability to discern fact from fiction. Most kids are sharp enough to know that evolution is just a fanciful myth. This game isn’t any more harmful than Skyrim or Lego Avengers.


    Comment by John Branyan — September 14, 2019 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

    • “Kids have an uncanny ability to discern fact from fiction” says the man who can’t manage it himself. BWAHAHAHAHA!

      Branyan doesn’t get evolution, so he thinks the kids don’t, either. I’ve talked to secondary students — sixteen, seventeen year olds — at [name redacted] Museum who get it. They compare and contrast fossil casts of hominin skulls with primate skulls, and can see the difference. Pointing out the empirical fact of human evolution is a doddle.

      Branyan must know some pretty dumb kids. I wonder if they’re his?


      Comment by chris schilling — September 14, 2019 @ 11:39 pm | Reply

      • Understanding evolution is the first step to dismissing it. In ancient history, people believed the Sun was pulled across the sky in a chariot. In more recent history, people believed random chance over eons of time could evolve a living cell. Pointing out the empirical fact that both theories have been abandoned by educated people is a doddle.

        Worrying about evolution being misunderstood because of a video game is akin to worrying that Lucky Charms cereal will warp kids understanding of Leprechauns.


        Comment by John Branyan — September 15, 2019 @ 6:47 am | Reply

  4. Spoiler alert! We’ve already played this game… in VR!


    Comment by jim- — September 14, 2019 @ 5:49 pm | Reply

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