Video Game Review: “Spore”


Spore Screenshot
— by Eric Schwartz

The meteor hurtled through space, warming and breaking apart as it approached the yellow star.  One small piece, compelled by gravity, landed in the warm, shallow waters of a planet orbiting the star.  The tiny bacterium, frozen into a cryogenic stasis during the long journey through the void, woke up and found itself in an environment well-suited to growth, after some changes…

Spore is a video game that chronicles the journey of life from a single-celled organism, to a land dweller, and on to various stages of intelligent civilization.  This summary does not do justice to what it is, however, the most complex and complete simulation game ever made.  After swimming about in the ocean as an omnivore and growing steadily, I made my way onto the land looking something like this:

Failed Spore Creature

This was ill-suited for life on land so I decided to change things up a bit, ending up more like this:

Young Brotox

As this creature, rather randomly called a “Brotox,” for no reason other than I liked the sound, I wandered about the continent, running into other creatures I either befriended with my persuasive songs and dances, or hunted to extinction.  By doing so, and by finding convenient bone piles scattered about, I was able to discover new kinds of body parts and evolve into a much more fearsome creature, at least to the planet’s other inhabitants.  To my own eyes, I looked a bit silly, but evolution does sometimes lead down unlikely paths.  By the time I reached sentience, I looked like this:

Brotox Adult

My species began building huts, going to war with other tribes and forming alliances, very quickly building a technological civilization focused on trade.  Through judicious alliances and the occasional war, the Brotox empire set for space to terraform planets, making friends (and enemies) with other space-faring empires.  

Now, Science Metropolis is a web site for science and science-related material, which begs the question of why a brief review of a video game, no matter how fun and (very) addictive it is?  Well, a game like Spore does do good for the cause of science education, with one unfortunate side effect.  Most importanty, Spore makes evolutionary biology understandable and interesting to the player. When a creature gains an “adaptaption,” it makes sense why it is beneficial.  The only flaw is that it also makes evolution appear to be a simple progression.  Evolutionary reality is intrincically subtle and lacks any sort of intelligent intervention, which is after all, exactly what a player is. 

Still, Spore is a lot of fun, and that is what matters in a video game.  Just take any “science” in it with a grain of salt.  It bodes well for the future of this type of game as makes an effort to go according to actual biology.  Who knows how the genre will continue to evolve….

For up-to-date information on Spore, visit Space Oddity’s Spore Blog.

Posted by Joseph, under reviews  |  Date: September 25, 2008

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