Sporeâ„˘ is a computer game released in 2008, commonly known for its recurring concept of evolution, both biologically and technologically/culturally. Spore takes you not only through a creatures’ family tree, but the way culture and technology develops after it becomes a dominant and sentient species. Â Spore gives you the remarkable ability to design your own animal and mold it until itâ€™s capable of developing technology. The creature you follow and manipulate is one of a species that is on an evolutionary path to become the most technologically advanced creatures on the planet and eventually become the dominant species such as the humans on Earth. Spore grasps the concept of evolution pretty well, however, Spore does not always follow biology correctly.
Spore bases itself on the concept that life had traveled to Earth (or in this case, a habitable planet) via a comet. A cut scene begins: a comet crashes into a habitable planet, breaking into small (some microscopic) pieces along the way. A camera focuses in on a crystalline rockâ€”and then it bursts. A small little microbe climbs out with nothing but a mouth and flagella (bacteria/cell propulsion organelle).
At this point you can swim free and you eventually evolve, adding parts and changing structures. You eventually evolve to a multi-cellular organism too big for the primordial ooze. The game (due to time constraints) skips over a portion where one plays as an aquatic creature, and makes the player evolve legs. You take your first steps on land and onto a nest, eventually evolving to a far greater species. At the pinnacle of your evolution you begin to develop tools and such. After becoming a tribe, one will start a city, then an empire, and eventually join together to create a spaceship. You fly around the universe meeting aliens, befriending and battling. You spend the rest of the game in the space age and become an interstellar expert.
If you just skimmed through that, thatâ€™s fineâ€”because here is the main point of the post: Spore stays close to reality, but jumps in and out of it at times. Spore has added and subtracted many concepts, due to time constraints and child-friendliness; such as an underwater stage (where your creature is a fish) and a city stage (focuses on one city rather than multiple).
Sporeâ€™s perhaps gravest mistake, was the gaining of parts (e.g.: a mouth, a foot, a tail, a wing). Although vital to the game, Spore designers did not want to give out the best mouth, or feet, or â€śgraspersâ€ť until it was the right time. The solution to this issue, was to create bone piles that a creature could stumble upon andâ€”in some unexplained phenomenaâ€”gain the ability to develop so and so part (e.g. a horn or an improved mouth). The farther one got from their nest, the better the parts would be. In reality a creature will not be able to stumble upon supernatural bones, the best mutation of a litter/breed will survive to reproduce (more often).
Sporeâ€™s second mistake, was again the concept of evolving new abilities and parts. (depending on the player) creatures may appear to gain parts for no apparent reason. For example, a player might decide itâ€™s cool if you made the creatureâ€™s legs have one joint, and make them 20 feet tall. Without a doubt, it will be interesting, but it will not be logical. A creature could be made with outgoing colors and not be poisonous or a poisonous mimic. In nature, a creature will (over time) evolve to fit an environment, not evolve to look pretty cool to us humans.
Third, Spore bases itself around the chemical, DNAâ€”although all earthlings contain it, there is a great chance that if there is other life in the universe, it will not share the same genetic principles. It may not even have genes to begin with. Astrobiologists claim that nucleic acids may not be the only chemical possible of storing data. (â€śTerra Firma.â€ť The Planets. BBC 2: 24 Jan 1999.Television. 13 Oct 2010)
Spore does, however, keep the concept of evolution alive and is one of the first games to do so. Spore is a step towards biological themes being used (more commonly) in everyday life. Spore helps young people get a better sense of evolution and sets them on a path to biological knowledge.
Here is a video I made using Spore, featuring a Striped Bakersaurus (Virgae Scitmagister) and its trusty son jumping around and having fun!
How effectively does Spore educate young people? What other games do you know that use biological themes in their game play? Should Spore be used as an accurate representation of evolution?