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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

E for Everyone: 'Spore'

Why should you play "Spore" (2008)? Because it’s five games in one and each is equally a fun gaming experience and a learning opportunity. "Spore" is a game released by Electronic Arts (EA) in which the player creates their own organism with parts they collect by exploring the world. Because its intuitive gameplay isn’t commonly considered a blocker to new players, "Spore" will likely appeal to you if you enjoy biology, character customization, superb educational tools that don’t shove the condescending tendrils of academia down your throat or any combination of the above.

The game is divided into five phases of evolution, each represented by a different kind of gameplay. The player navigates a single cell around a tide pool in the top-down style Cell Phase, romps across the planes of the planet with a herd in the third-person style Creature Phase, establishes connections and creates tools in the real-time strategy Tribal Phase, races for resources and becomes the dominant society in the larger scope real-time strategy Civilization Phase and travels to the stars in the explorative Space Phase.

"Spore" is a pure expression of what EA learned from "The Sims" (2000) and its sequel, "The Sims 2" (2004). "Spore" kept the character customization and growth and then gave its protagonists a greater purpose: become the superior species in existence, one tier of life complexity at a time. That goal is much more compelling than “Become Celebrity Chef,” an aspiration from "The Sims 2." In "Spore," the player engineers their creature, starting from a single cell, which will eventually evolve into a species that spans planets.

Evolution translates to a vital level of competition that lends beautifully to the video game medium, and the developers made the gameplay easy enough to understand that any 10-year-old could fall in love with it. "Spore" teaches about cell taxis, environmental compatibility, community building, the struggles of nations to balance religious, economic, and military aspirations, and the meaning behind being an active member of this universe.

What’s important about what unfolds in the events of "Spore" is that your every success can be traced to a series of decisions you have made. If you befriend other packs of animals in the Creature Phase, you unlock parts you can add to your creature that make you better at befriending more creatures. The same is true of fighting other creatures. Constant battle will allow you to evolve your creature into a formidable – and antisocial – warrior. The player chooses to strike whatever balance they would like between a peaceful and warlike creature, and this decision persists into the next phase in its evolution. Every decision affects this balance, from what you make your creature eat to how many cities your civilization conquers through religious conversion. The weight of these decisions puts a great deal of power into the player’s hands, and it feels amazing.

At the same time, any error can be erased by loading a savefile, and any previous creature from the player’s account can be seen in the background at any phase of the game. This provides a safe environment for experimentation, which is very important when appealing to a more carefree audience. No matter which way you approach it, "Spore" is a beautiful combination of several games that teaches a wide range of important skills and topics appropriate for all alignments.