Keeping Spore

The new big thing in Gaming is apparently “Spore“, a game in which the player gets to build a creature and lead it through its evolution until its development into an intelligent, social creature (and the game progresses into the space age at its advanced stages).

I can straightaway note an extremely large number of things I like about this game, even without having played it yet. The creatures look ultra-cute, the game design and concept is smart, the idea of evolutionary biology forming the focus of a major game is rather cool, no firearms OR hot cars are in attendance for once; also, from what I see of the creatures being designed by players, it looks as though people are relishing playing the monsters for once instead of hacking them to bits.

(I would like to say at this point that I’ve done my fair share of video-monster-termination, and many’s the time I have sent an alien robot flailing headfirst towards the ground in a manner calculated to cause maximum damage, pain, ill-will and bonus points.)

So, yes, I’m all for Spore.

Just a thing or two worry me….

The first thing is that the game is in the genre of “god games”; now I know I’m going to sound like a total lame-o here (even more so having used the term “lame-o” itself which is probably so grossly outdated I’ve lost any cred I may have had) but an evolution game which relies on deliberate design by the player…well, it might be sending the wrong message, you know?

I know all the answers; they’re good answers, too: “it’s a GAME, it’s supposed to be FUN TO PLAY, it’s not a science tutorial or true-to life simulation”

“If you want to try your hand at designing a real-life evolutionary game – go ahead, see how many people will queue up to buy it”

“Enough proper scientists have been involved in the development of the game, so whatever could’ve been done in that direction most likely was done. And anyway, anyone with half a brain can distinguish between the computer game and reality.”

And so on. I’m okay with that. I understand computer game developers have a lot of constraints on their hands with market forces and playability, and I’m not suggesting they’ve done anything wrong; I just wanted to point out that god bit.

My second problem with the game concerns racism, or rather sizism and speciesm. Why, may I ask, do microbes form only the first and lowest phase of the game? To “succeed” the player must “grow out”of the microbe phase and develop into a complex social creature. Well, I object!! A microbe already is a complex creature! (also a social one, while we’re on the subject) Why does “better” always have to be “bigger”? Such anthropocentric bigotry. Most species on earth, especially the most succesful ones (measured by numbers; always, always, measured by numbers) were microbes, are microbes and shall in all probability remain microbes and pretty damn good ones at that. Hmpf.

Say it loud – I’m small and proud.

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2 thoughts on “Keeping Spore

  1. I tend to agree more with your first comment – Spore should have made the evolution issue much clearer. Like you, I understand the commercial reasons that had left the “intellectual design” as an option, and yet I was expecting a bit more out of a game that deals mainly with evolution.

    I must say that I am still puzzled by this game – there is a huge hype around it, but I am not sure that this hype is justified. I might be wrong here, but I am afraid that once the game is released, many people will be disappointed, since behind the impressive idea hides a relatively simple and maybe even boring game. That is why I have decided to wait a while before I join the crowds and run to buy this game.

    One way or the other, I am happy that this game will be released soon and hope to see more games that relate to science (even if it is only on the paper).

  2. This is a game, man, lighten up. You know, I started playing “Civilization” when I was 12 (that’d be, hmm, 11 years ago!) – the game does a similar trick by following the same people/civilization for about 6000 years – I bet my ass that managing world conquest by the Khmer empire is not a very reasonable outcome of any “re-run of history”, but you know what? I learnt SO MUCH about human history and, well, basically gained a lot of general knowledge about history, archeology, religion, even some anthropology, just buy playing a silly, over-simplified simulation.

    Considering that any game is basically a game that has a “god element” in it (within constraints, of course, the gamer is he absolute commander of the characters he plays) – I think this just might bring Biology, and credible Biology at that – to a lot of people. Maybe even more than Richard Dawkins does with his myriad of books.

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