Playing with creation

Spore is a new video game, created by the same fellow behind the virtual world phenom “The Sims.” This time, he’s taken that virtual world experience to a new level–one that begins when a virtual comet slams into a primordial virtual world, giving a player the virtual building blocks to start from single-celled scratch.

Time Magazine makes note of the game in last week’s issue:

God rested after he created life, but you’re just getting started. Next you shepherd your fledgling life-form through its single-celled stage until it’s ready to crawl onto land, at which time you decide where its various eyes and ears and limbs and less easily identifiable appendages go. Then it must learn to feed itself and reproduce. Eventually, it forms tribes and builds cities. Finally it achieves spaceflight, whereupon you guide it off into the galaxy to meet other sentient species.

You can’t turn the entire history of life into a video game without wrestling with some heavy philosophical questions, but Wright seems to have steered a middle course that avoids both religious and evolutionary blasphemy. You could read Spore equally easily as a model of evolution or of intelligent design, with you in the role of Intelligent Designer. (O.K., it’s a bit blasphemous.) “A game like this can actually generate interesting, meaningful conversations between people,” Wright says. “I think that’s the best thing it can do.”

That’s an interesting point on its own, but wait! There’s more! First on the conversation block?, a site run by a segment of Christians who object not to the blasphemy (O.K., perhaps a bit) but more to the notion that it “teaches” evolutionary theory and undermines creationism, whatever it represents as a potential metaphor for intelligent design.

(It bears noting an interesting potential sidebar conversation, there: can video games make great teaching tools?)

PC News points to the review calling it “well good” entertainment in icily wry fashion. A short excerpt shows the real problem they have with the games creator, though, whom Time says describes himself as “definitely an atheist. Well, agnostic atheist maybe.” It’s not even that he didn’t immediately condemn the new art movement of “Spore-nography”—new “species” that physically resemble genitalia. Rather:

“I used to like Will Wright,” continues “He created Sim City, a fantastic game that celebrated the earth that God created for us and allowed you to use all your God given abilities to make an ideal society. But if you ever felt like you had too much power, God would come in with a tornado or an earthquake and put you back in place.

“You would think that as a member of the Episcopal Church, a smart man like Will Wright would not be capable of creating Spore. However, we must be reminded that the Episcopal Church is the only church in america that ordains homosexuals on a regular basis.

The Time story is here, and the PC News story with a link to the Antispore site is here.

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