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Roam as a dinosaur in a factual video game simulator

6/9/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

The new exhibit in Sternberg Museum of Natural History is an arcade for dinosaur fans.

"Be the Dinosaur: Life in the Cretaceous" disguises a learning experience as a video game. Visitors can pilot a Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus and navigate the prehistoric world.

Visitors learn how to make the dinosaurs sniff to find others or food, drink water, join a herd, attack and regulate its digestive process. Everything in the simulation is based on scientists'  knowledge of the time period, said Laura Wilson, curator of paleontology.

"I think it's a great combination of entertainment and science," she said. "If you really pay attention to what's going on in the game ... it is a very realistic reconstruction of how scientists view the Cretaceous world."

The exhibit's technology reflects a shift in how the museum appeals to visitors.

"I really think it's a cool way to get a new generation with different expectations for entertainment engaged in science," she said.

The tame violence in the game is comparable to a PG movie, Wilson said. A dinosaur's death is marked by a red tint on the screen before it fades to black, and a message appears encouraging users to learn more facts to play successfully. There are stations surrounding the games offering lessons in dinosaur behavior, the food chain and plants.

Marlene Windholz brought her 6-year-old daughter, Alisha, to the new feature.

Alisha played as both dinosaurs and said she enjoyed it more than the other exhibits.

"She's trying to eat the bushes as a T-Rex, and I said the T-Rex is a meat eater, so you can only eat meat," her mother said.  

The video game component is another aspect of education not found in the traditional exhibits.

"They're blending the best of both worlds," she said.

The traveling exhibit will be open until Labor Day.