By John Painter updated on 06/26/2009
My son and I have been fans of Spore since it came out for the Mac, and really since Spore Origins came out for the iPhone last summer. I don’t know how many hours we’ve put in navigating its primordial tidal pools and evolving our spores, but the time we’ve spent together playing this game has been substantial. I think that our time together, learning when to help others and when to defend ourselves is an added bonus.
In short order I’ve become intrigued with the game on a number of levels, and no, I don’t mean the 35 levels of play.
I’ll forego what I think are the games philosophical underpinnings are, or speculation as to why Wright is promoting panspermia theory.
Instead I want to touch on how Spore draws one to pondering the meaning of life. I’ve played a number of hands of Texas Hold Um and not once did the nature of life, the very fundamental and human wonderings come to my mind. Indeed after a good round of Spore with my son, I end up thinking all sorts of things.
After one recent game, where my son was trying to think of a name for his spore, I found myself think about Mary Shelly (of the Frankenstein order) and the peculiar Gothicism found in her early walks with her father to the St. Pancras churchyard where her mother was buried. As the story goes, that is where her father taught Mary to read and spell her name by having her trace her mother's inscription on the stone. No wonder Shelly would eventually question what constitutes life and non-life, albeit in literature. I could not help but draw some parallels to my sons efforts as he hen pecked a name for his spore, looking to me for approval as he typed in BAD BOY. As I asked him why that name, he replied, “I think he’s going to get into trouble.” Like Frankenstein’s monster, life is a matter of decay and rebirth, infinitely complex, infinitely organic.
So I find myself wondering, could Spore be teaching my son more than just how to survive the tidal pool? Recalling Robert Fulghum’s rudimentary advisement to follow the golden rule, it all seems too simplistic is Spore teaching the meaning of life? Though the games title implies that one is learning something of Spores origins, isn’t there really more going on here than that? Contrary to Fulghums assertion that primarily if one just plays nice everything will work out, Spore teaches us something a little closer to the science of life, that one needs to eat smaller creatures. Indeed life seems predicated upon a certain amount of dis-equilibrium to continuously make room for equilibrium, a yin and yang? My wife, who’s a vegan, debates that one has to eat other creatures, yet she will fess up that one can not survive by eating things which have no life… ahhh we’re back to pansporea and biogenesis now.
Well my son isn’t thinking about Shelly let alone anything deeper, but he is actively engaged in mastering the concepts necessary to ponder the meaning of life in this game we call Spore.