Will Wright: Spore

October 27, 2006

I’ve only ever played 2 computer games:  Worms and Sim City.  So it brought me a great deal of pleasure to listen to Will Wright (creator of Sim City) speak at Pop!Tech.  Now, I’ve always been cynical about computer games.  I have pretty appalling hand-eye coordination so I never got into the whole gaming culture.  And the idea that you spend all that time on something and have nothing to show for it baffles me.

But Will’s demonstration of Spore absolutely blew me away.  At first, Spore seems like a god-game.  You create a little creature, guide it through a couple of generations, it evolves, lives in a little herd community, the herd becomes a society and progresses on towards becoming a space-faring civilization.  The idea is that with a few relatively simple rules, an extremely complex game can develop with every player no longer Bilbo Baggins but rather JRR Tolkien.  Players collectively make the game as you go along and as your little creature roams around in its little virtual world, it has the opportunity to interact with creatures that other players have created (although, this is still a single-player game – multi-player games take this concept to a whole new level).

 As an aside, later at lunch, I had the opportunity to sit with Ivan Marovic.  He is a young Serbian activist and a key figure in the Otpor (”Resistance”) movement.  He spoke at last year’s Pop!Tech on this game he developed called “A Force More Powerful”, which teaches players the tactics of non-violent resistance.  Wow.

With everything online and freely available, the economist in me wonders what kind of meaningful data these games will generate about human behaviour and preferences.  And if the argument goes that violent games cause people to be violent in real life, shouldn’t we make more room for games like “A Force More Powerful” that teach peaceful conflict resolution?  The idea that gaming and social justice can interface in a productive way fascinates me.

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