So, EA (the makers of Sims and other such life absorbing games) released Spore, which you can see with all of these goofy ads around the city about evolution. (Which, delightfully, has angered the intelligent design folks.) And being the crafty little journalist I am, I wrangled myself a copy, hunkered down in front of a large screen/high def iMac, and tried my hand at playing God.
Immediately, I was hooked. Designing my little critters in my own image, they started as vegetarian (which received many laughs from the peanut gallery, running defenseless from giant things that I could barely see with dreamy Brian Eno music playing in the background). Like, here:
Which is beautiful and fun (but really stressful), but then the fun began. I ate enough of something and killed enough of something else that my tiny little cells turned into brains and I got to walk onto land. And I looked like this:
Those things on my butt? Apparently, they are for speed. So I evolved a bit and changed, got myself a family, and went about my herbivore lifestyle. It was entirely engrossing. I was getting my arse handed to me by those who chose to give themselves fangs and a taste of blood (because the Spore database draws from other users creations - I've heard my little guy has since been seen in space in other people's games).
Openly, admittedly, my goal was to create the cutest frakking thing you have ever seen. I wanted to literally melt the heart of my enemies. So I became a pig/bird:
Gosh thats adorable. I had horns for fighting, arse wings for speed, and HUGE cat ears (we all know huge ears = dangerously cute). What you have to do is run around this little world, befriending other creatures by doing a dance for them and singing (or making them extinct by chowing down on them) and then you gain a bit of power - another trait, more DNA points to purchase an upgrade. Well, being as cute as I was, I had all the charm in the world, so I quickly became this:
This is not my cutest development - but as someone pointed out - hands are necessary. Though, I am a fan of those toes and tail combo. I had great flying skills. Anyway, I was having a blast - tweaking my nose, dancing for six armed bird-men, singing songs and making friends and using my wings to sneak into carnivores homes and stealing traits. And then, BAM - I had to evolve.
I mean, Will Wright (aka the Sims Daddy) didnt' really think this evolution thing through enough. Its great that I can control almost every aspect of my body. It's wonderful that I am not locked into any type of quadra/bi-pedal tradition here, but what if I don't want to evolve? What if I want to run around as a duck/deer all day? But alas, there was nothing more I could do. No more points to score. No many steps up. I had to end up like this:
And then, to my dismay, like this:
As soon as I hit the tribal stage, the stage that Will envisions our human traits begin to emerge, that our ability to interact on a social level develops, I totally lose interest. You literally have a choice between conquering, or befriending. Not developing weapons. Not exploration. Not farming or planting.
(Note: The above is not nearly cute enough, much to my dismay)
That's it. Diplomacy or war-making. This dichotomy is disturbing to me as an observer of social behavior, and boring to me as a game player.
Granted, I just hit civilization and I'm hoping things pick up here. I made a building bit Spore quit on me and it wasn't saved. It was a cute building - I'm still trying to charm myself out of any sort of confrontation. But the "if you can't eat em, join em" mentality is a little dismaying, especially from someone as enlightened as Mr. Wright. I was really hoping to have an open ended, super intuitive and intertwined experience - not a guy that directs me to my destiny: be a war lord or cute pig/cat-winged thing who dances for acceptance.