I tried to avenge Harambe in Zoo Tycoon

By Alex Alusheff

It’s been four years since Harambe the lowland gorilla was gunned down in the Cincinnati Zoo after a 3-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure.

Harambe became the internet sensation of the summer. People trolled the Cincinnati Zoo on Twitter until it deleted its page. Memes flooded the internet, most notably, Dicks out for Harambe. Harambe is even memorialized on clothing. As an Ohioan, I personally own a “Harambe loved Christmas” sweater.

Harambe never received justice. And Harambe loved justice. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to avenge him in Zoo Tycoon. If you read my RollerCoaster Tycoon article, you know how quickly this will devolve into madness.

I felt extremely nostalgic as I installed Zoo Tycoon: Complete Collection (2003) on my computer. I own the physical box set, which includes Marine Mania and Dinosaur Digs. I first discovered the game after a friend’s birthday party when we were 13. A bunch of us slept over, but I was the last to leave the next day, because he introduced me to this game and I was hooked. (Sorry Nick, for staying until 4 p.m. That was incredibly rude of me looking back.)

Who doesn’t love the zoo? You get to see exotic animals, learn cool facts, and feed the giraffes all while the smell of elephant shit permeates through the air, your clothes, and the food you buy.

Zoo Tycoon does a good job of bringing that home with you, especially the elephant shit. There’s always mounds of poo for the zookeepers to clean up in the exhibits. Sometimes the piles are plopped right next to where the food was set out, disregarding the age-old adage about not shitting where you eat. I could go on all day about that feature alone, but that’s not why I am here. 

The first exhibits in my zoo are lions and penguins. You start out with most of the items you need to make them happy such as foliage, rocks, and toys, making them the easiest exhibits to start with. I strategically put the lion exhibit near the front gates because they will be handy later for when the chaos ensues. I start with one male and two females. By the time I finish setting up the penguin enclosure, there are already two more lions birthed in the enclosure.

By now, the zoo is getting a steady stream of guests, but it’s not as easy to rake in the dough as it is in RollerCoaster Tycoon. The upkeep for the animals is super expensive. That’s not to mention all the costly terraforming and landscaping needed to keep the animals happy. Raising the ticket prices and costs at the gift shops and restaurants help, but not as easily as it does in RCT.

When I had about $10,000 saved up, I got impatient and decided it was time for the lowland gorilla enclosure. By the time I built the fence for the exhibit, one-third of my money was gone. After terraforming some hills and valleys, half my money was gone. Then I bought one male lowland gorilla, dubbed Harambe II. 

Almost immediately, he was pissed off. The zookeeper hint menu said there wasn’t enough dirt and grass terrain. There also weren’t enough trees, rocks or toys. He didn’t have a shelter to sleep in either. And, most importantly, he didn’t have a mate.

All money was gone at that point. I automatically received a $10,000 loan and try to make Harambe II happy. By the time I fixed the terrain and tree situation, I was  bankrupt again. This is because the penguins and lions kept having babies and it cost me a fortune in upkeep. I also mismanaged my park and increased the prices so much that it lowered profit margins.

I unapologetically sold some of the babies for money. It pissed all the animals off and it set the stage for the most epic revolt since Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). 

Harambe II had been howling for the past 5 minutes and beating on his chest in fury. That audio clip got really annoying after 30 seconds. I couldn’t  afford to buy him a mate because I couldn’t  take out any more loans. The only option was to set him loose in the park and fire all the zookeepers to prevent interference.

One of the advantages Zoo Tycoon has over RCT is that you can actually block the entrance to the park with hedges. I could at least afford to buy hedges at the time so no one could leave. 

Then I deleted the fence to Harambe II’s exhibit and … nothing.

Harambe II was so upset that he just sat there and threw a hissy fit. I thought he would have started rampaging down the pedestrian path. Wrong. The poor guy was depressed and just wanted love. 

I deleted all the trees and terrain to upset him even more. He finally ran out of the exhibit toward a child who was happily skipping along the path. 

This was it. This was the moment we’ve all been waiting for. This was as close to recreating the fateful events of May 28, 2016 as one can possibly get in an educational children’s video game.

The child skipped closer to Harambe II. The gorilla regarded the child, sat down, beat his chest and started to howl. Those were sounds of sorrow, not anger. In my quest to set him free upon the world to wreak havoc, I had only crushed his spirit by depriving him of the one thing he truly wanted. Love.

And Harambe loved love.

But that’s fucking boring. Seeing as lowland gorillas in Zoo Tycoon are seemingly not hostile to park guests, I decided to free the lions. 

The female lions jolted out of the exhibit. Well, the movement speed of everything in this game is rather slow, so they really moved just incrementally faster than the park guests. It was a little disappointing. It was nothing like what I expected after writing my Shuttle Loop disaster article. The male lion you asked? He relaxed on a rock the whole time. Typical. 

The lionesses sank their teeth into the guests and threw them around like chew toys. The hapless sprites would fly in the air and land a few tiles away from the lions. It was pretty amusing, but I was disappointed they weren’t mauled to death. 

When you set a lion into a zebra exhibit, you get that fighting dust cloud animation you see in old cartoons and then the lion is the only one left standing. My hopes were dashed when time and time again the mauled park guests would get up and “run” away. I also tried to drown a guest in the lions’ watering hole, but they can unfortunately swim unlike in RCT. Dinosaurs can eat guests, but I clearly can’t afford that luxury.

It was time to check on Harambe II. I figured he hadn’t gone far since he was too depressed to move. I scroll over to his exhibit.

There was no sign of him. There was, however, a lion cub licking its paw in the last spot I saw Harambe II.

I could only determine that Harambe II was so depressed he committed suicide by letting a lion cub eat him. The poor creature has been through about as much as the tragic Greek heroes of classic literature. In my quest to avenge Harambe, I had actually led my gorilla to his own demise.

However, I would like to point out that before the real Haramabe and virtual Harambe II died, they both had safe interactions with human children. They posed no threat to them. Zoo Tycoon was trying to tell us this all along. This game could have saved the real Harambe!

It’s clear Harambe died a pointless death when that toddler fell into his enclosure. It was as pointless as me writing this article.

Anyways, #DicksOutForHarambe.

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