Got a bit excited at lunchtime reading this in the paper, thinking that it looked really good, if a bit outside of my normal interests. Spore is, apparently, the computer game of the moment - the new creation by the chap who designed the Sims series, and a complex and rather fascinating idea. Handing you over to Naomi Alderman:
It's easy to get started: simply pick a name for your tide-pool-dwelling amoeba, decide whether it's carnivorous or herbivorous, and start zooming around the water, finding food and gathering enough points for a DNA mutation. Like other simulation games, Spore rewards thought and effort, but it's also simple enough for anyone to enjoy passing half an hour growing a tiny creature into a larger one. Eventually your species will develop enough to form rudimentary legs and crawl to ground. Then it's time to mutate some more, develop intelligence, form tribes, civilizations and eventually travel off into space.All of which had me thinking, hmmm, that does sound interesting, and wondering if I should get a copy and try it out. With a few honourable exceptions (Frogger, Matchday II, Prince of Persia, Championship Manager) I've pretty much proved impervious to computer games, but this does sound fascinating. So just spent five minutes looking up the game and reading reviews and, guess what? More detail just provokes the same feeling that most games do; disinterest. It's not that I don't have interest in the technology, the narrative or the societal implications of gaming; I just don't want to play them. And yet I've spent the afternoon working on the computer game based books I am shortly to publish. Hmm.
With its educational subject matter, Spore is the kind of game any parent should be pleased to find their child absorbed in, and although it wears its learning lightly, the brutal truth of evolution is hard to miss. How do you succeed as a carnivorous creature? By hunting other smaller creatures, of course; even if they're squeaking pitifully as you devour them. And if you focus your creature's development on features that will help you hunt, you might find that you, in turn, are unable to escape becoming prey. In Spore, nature is red in tooth and pixel.
Still, I bet some of you are interested in Spore, hence the post. Dave? Sam?