Game Name – Spore
ESRB Rating – E10+
Suggested Age – 10 and up
Genre – God Game, Life Simulation, Real-Time Strategy
Educational Values – Decision Making, Critical Thinking, Analysis
Platform – PC, Xbox, Mac, PS3
Where to buy – Steam, Amazon
Would we buy it? – Spore is so much fun that I bought an extra copy for my father.
Just some of the creatures you can create
About the Game
Spore does not fall neatly into any genre category. The gameplay mechanics change with each stage, growing more complex as your race evolves further. Each stage can be played as long as the gamer likes. Culminating with the Space Stage, it has more than 500,000 planets to explore and terraform, creating virtually unlimited opportunities to explore and expand your empire.
The gamer starts out with a single celled species that you control to eat plants and animals. Over time your single celled little guy evolves into larger and more complex creatures. Using the “Creature Creator” you can make your species tall or short, fat or thin, herbivores or carnivores. You can add arms and legs and appendages wherever you like. Some appendages, like spikes or claws help your creatures fight better, while others help your creatures sing or dance better. The Creature Creator is a mini-game unto itself and a gamer can spend hours just developing new species.
You can spend hours in the creator
Spore is really five games in one (with a sixth mini-game for Creature Creation). Each stage of development plays like a completely different game. The gamer can take their time and fully explore each level, or simply rush through them to get to the Space stage at the end. After having played through it once, the game gives an option to skip through some of the design stages and head to any stage you prefer.
The five stages in order are: Evolution, Creature, Social, Civilization, and Space. The first stage is simply about collecting food and avoiding larger predators. The second stage, the ‘Creature’ stage is about making friends with or attacking and destroying other individual or small groups of creatures. By fighting and charming other creatures, you are able to continue to evolve your species to make them better fighters or dancers and singers.
For the third through fifth stage, you are no longer able to evolve your creatures, and you no longer control individuals. You control your Tribe in stage three, and your Civilization, in stage four. At the end of the Civilization stage, you control your world and are starting to head out into space. Once in space you are free to roam about in an almost limitless galaxy. You can conquer other worlds, mine them for resources, discover new life and new civilizations. Or just fly around.
What the Game Teaches Us
As with any complex game, Spore teaches the gamer about higher level, critical thinking, decision making, and long term planning. The Creature Creator is a practical example of an exercise in scarcity that every young gamer could stand to go through. If you only have a limited number of points to spend, how and where are you going to put them? If you want your race to be peaceful, would you give them claws and spikes and acid spit? Or would you make them the best singers and dancers?
The game forces the gamer to not only understand the choices and consequences, but analyze, evaluate them, and then synthesize a plan. Spore is not a singular gameplay experience where one can mash buttons and jump on turtles. (Though we all have wonderful memories or jumping on turtles, and that can teach us so much!) Rather Spore demands a level of sophistication in one’s thinking that, were it not cloaked in a cartoonish aesthetic with excellent tutorials, would be be intimidating. Instead, gamers of (nearly) all ages will be able to jump into Spore and enjoy watching their creatures dance, or build space ships without realizing just how much they are thinking and learning. They are just having fun, and that is exactly what we look for here at Gaming to Learn.
This world defies physics, but who cares?
General Feelings on the Game
I have picked up Spore a couple of times in the past few years. It is a little older (2008) but the mechanics are unique enough, and re-playable enough, that it always feels fresh. Even still, the first time I played through it, I never felt overwhelmed. Even as each stage grew progressively more complex, I felt confident. To test my experience I bounced it off of my father, who is not a gamer by nature. He enjoyed the game and managed to keep up with each level as he progressed without issue. If my father can do it, so can your kids.
I have been a fan of Sim games since the 90’s. It is fun, engaging, and challenging at the right times. I would recommend this game to anyone who has ever played and enjoyed a Sim game, or anyone looking for something a little more complex than point and click.