Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Spore Report

The full computer game, Spore, was released back in September. But for various reasons, we have taken awhile to get to playing it. Well, when I say, we, I mean my 7 year old son. Back in June, I reported on how joyful he had found the Spore Creature Creator. He made more than 100 in all. Now, with the full game, he got a chance to try his creatures out.

I am not sure EA Games realised it when they developed this game but what they appear to have done is to delve into the mind of my son and designed a game uniquely defined to maximise his happiness. Indeed, it only lacks one thing -- it is shackled to a computer and therefore comes under the rubric of 'parental permission to play' required.

The game starts with you as a single celled life form. You need to eat enough to grow and you need to avoid predators. As you do this you get to evolve into more complex and larger lifeforms. Along the way, you get to choose how you evolve -- eating meat, devoting your body to attacking things (like claws) or defensive ones (like armour). It is those design stages that delighted my son who could employ his full creative talents as the game progressed.

At one of these stages you get to procreate with others of your species (that somehow appear despite the obvious fact that you designed the first one). Anyhow that is just as well because you need at least one of those, after that, to be around so you can procreate and evolve. This is dangerous and I would often hear, "oh dear that big fish ate my child." It is a harsh lesson in life.

Eventually, you evolve enough to make your way, with much fanfare, on to land. That is when things really take off. You initially have a nest. I would then hear, "where's my wife? I want to have children. Oh there she is. I'll call her." At that point, there is an exchange of love hearts and some happy dancing, after which, the 'wife' goes to the nest and lays an egg. This offers another opportunity for some evolutionary design changes. Watching this another adult remarked, "did he just call her to do what I think he did?" "Yep," I'd reply. "And you are fine with that?" "Sure." "Ookay," as they walked slowly away so as not to startle the crazy people. In my mind, it seemed to be a fairly sanitised educational experience.

The game continues on with less evolution and more technological change. Then you get to design temples, halls, houses and various kinds of military equipment. You need that so you can either impress or conquer other nations/species. My son did not spend his life in military pursuits and preferred doing dances to win others over. He is that kind of kid. But one time I saw that he was being attacked by a particularly aggressive tribe. I suggested as night was falling that he immediately fight back and wipe them off the face of the planet. He gathered his mob with flaming torches and went over to the other tribe's village. Weakened from their own unsuccessful attack on him, as his mob came over the hill, they literally fled it terror. This was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in a computer game. And we laughed and laughed as his mob burnt that village to the ground. Good times. Good times.

As of now he has a full fledged civilisation and engaged in a combination of religious subjugation and World War. I think if he gets through that he will take to space and move on to other worlds.

All in all, this game is a great combination of creativity, problem solving, social learning and comedic fun. I recommend it wholeheartedly.