[REVIEW] Jaws.io is Weirdly Addicting for a Game About Shark Murder
Universal Games and Digital Platforms' Jaws.io shouldn't be nearly as addicting as it is. Like other .io games, Jaws.io has a very simple premise: you drag yourself around a map to collect items and grow in size. The player with the highest score at the end of the round wins. It's very, very similar to Hole.io, except with a few twists – players start out on a simple boat, which evolves to their choice of fishing boat skin as they level up. The first player to kill one of the free-roaming sharks turns into their shark skin and is then hunted by the other players. Unlike Hole.io, Jaws isn't a battle royale so you do come back to life after you die.
Players can be taken out by the shark player or by other fishing boats, if they're run into by a larger-sized boat.
You can check out the official game trailer for a look at the gameplay and some of the skins you can buy or earn.
What sets Jaws.io apart from similar mobile games is the sheer satisfaction of eating everything in sight as a shark. Sure, the narrative is troubling in some real socio-political ways, but chomping down on helpless swimmers and boats is incredibly fun. Especially with the satisfying crunch sound effect. It's far more satisfying than being a black hole.
As for the socio-political ramifications, Jaws.io like Shark RPG Maneater, falls into the usual trap of viewing sharks as nothing but giant garbage disposals with teeth. Its the kind of shark narrative that leads to shark panic and near extinction. Thanks to the film that Jaws.io takes its name from, people still fear sharks as massive maneating predators to this day. Which isn't exactly accurate. Unless you decide to hop on a surf board near a Tiger shark, you won't come into contact with many sharks. The Great White Shark is rarely known to attack humans. In fact, the total number of fatal shark attacks worldwide was only 4 in 2018.
Due to human interference like overfishing and bycatching, as well as shark culls, all shark populations are in rapid decline.
Now, I'm not saying Jaws.io will lead to a decline in the overall shark populations of the world. That would be insane.
However, the "all sharks eat people" underpinnings of Jaws.io are reductive. And since non-shark players need to kill the shark player in order to take on the role of "Jaws" for the round, the game forces a narrative that looks at sharks only as threats. Which is just wrong. Sharks are apex predators and help keep ocean populations in line. Sharks are actually great for the environment.
However, the most painful inconsistency in Jaws.io comes with the shark skins. Players can unlock a whale shark skin in Jaws.io which makes no sense to anyone who knows sharks. The Whale shark is the largest shark species, but they're also filter feeders like the Basking shark (another Jaws.io skin). So they wouldn't eat humans, boats, piers, or helicopters. And yet they attack just as viciously in Jaws.io as their carnivorous cousins.
So, setting aside my personal feelings about shark representation in media, Jaws.io is an incredibly addicting mobile game that fits in perfectly with the .io genre. It just also advocates for the indiscriminate killing of sharks, and that's hugely problematic.