More Spore

By Carl Zimmer | September 2, 2008 2:31 pm

Following up on yesterday’s post on Spore, here’s a new video Seed magazine put up about, in which Spore designer Will Wright and astrobiologist Jill Tarter. Tarter brings up some of the same concerns I’ve heard from other biologists (and today from Larry Moran at Sandwalk). What do you think of Wright’s responses?

Seedmagazine.com The Seed Salon

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution

Comments (5)

  1. Matt

    Well, strictly speaking, his defenses are true – a game that more accurately portrayed the process of evolution would be a lot less fun to play. You need a world that demands a tinkerer, demands Newton’s God to keep things in their orbits, in order to have compelling reason to play it. That said, the criticisms he’s getting are a bed of his own making. If he hadn’t tried to use science and evolution as a marketing tool for the game, I’d find his points to be more credible. As it stands, it seems like Spore (as fun as it looks) does more to promote misconceptions about evolution than anything else.

  2. Tyler

    I think it’s pretty clear, given you personally guide the evolution in spore, and that it occurs over a very tiny number of generations, and doesn’t deal with stuff like speciation, that it’s not meant to reflect reality. It’s a game.

    Unless someone is an ID advocate, I don’t think they’re going to assume Spore reflects reality. The person he’s talking to obviously has little familiarity with video games or the sim genre, given her statements about decision making and save games. I think this is probably the core of the disconnect here.

    Having fun spawns interest, playing builds your intuition, and with cogitation you outgrow the model. I think it is reasonble to say that Spore is a way to get kids interested in biology, certainly. Teach them biology, probably not. But Wright isn’t saying it will, either.

  3. Wright glosses over another shortcoming it has in terms of being an educational game.
    While focusing on interactivity and stimulating imagination/craetivity, he doesn’t seem to be much of a supporter of raw knowledge.

    Sid Meier’s series has the Civilopedia. Now, you can safely ignore the Civilopedia and still play Civ fine. But it’s definitely interesting for those who might be interested.

    Will Spore have something similar? Something that has explanations as to what adaptions (biological – eg. spines, poison – AND cultural – eg. national anthem, trade) have been at least theorised to be beneficial for.

    You can’t have much of an educational game without at least attempting some kind of education.

  4. Brian

    It seems all the hype leading up to the Spore release has fostered a false sense of scientific relevance. Granted, EA has released free developer prototypes of various models used in the creation of Spore. However, no documentation renders them almost useless as a learning tool.

    Contrast this with Steve Grand’s ‘Creatures’ game, which had an API and volumes of information about the inner workings of his vision of modeling behavior, brain function and the passing of genes to future generations.

    Looking back, I think history will see Grand a larger contributor to this area than Wright.

  5. Steve R.

    This whole grilling of Will Wright is just pointless and stupid. As is people on the science-side of things, deploring SPORE for teaching ID, and not-exactly using natural selection and mutation as the mechanism. If it did, SPORE would be a horrible video game; and it is an entertainment game, NOT an educational game.
    Things in SPORE aren’t 100% perfect, but there is a thing called creative license. And the game gets some of the big ideas right, like the change of biological forms over time and adaptation.
    Of course, if the kids become interested, they will dig deeper and learn exactly how evolution and natural selection works. Who knows how many people were inspired to get involved with science and technology because of Star Trek, which was choc full of all kinds of scientific errors. (And an aside, how god awful 2010 was despite/because of it’s painstakingly accuracy for scientific detail!)
    If this game is a fraction of a hit that the Sims was, it could potentially turn millions of kids and adults on to biological science!

    Will Wright and EA have give the scientific community a wonderful tool to show some basic concepts behind evolution, its up to the scientists and educators to make use of it.

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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