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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #56: Spore

Released for the PC in 2008, Spore hit right when our first child had been born, and I was in need of some mindless diversion during feedings and naps. Unfortunately, it wasn't mindless. If anything, it was too mindful, requiring attention to detail and intellectual engagement beyond what I had on board at the time, as any exhausted new parent would testify. The game itself was groundbreaking and brilliant, with open-world sprawl and customizations galore.

Organized into stages, Spore invites the player to initiate and guide a lifeform from its earlies stirrings in the primordial muck to interstellar travel. Ambitious, no? My favorite stages were the first two, Cell and Creature. In Cell, your little water-borne paramecium has very little defining characteristics. You decide whether it wants to consume plant or animal life, and then get on with earning fins for speed or spines for defense or jaws for attack. Choose colors, shapes, and on and on. The more complex and bigger our dude gets, the more choices there are. Eat or be eaten, grow, evolve It's fun and not terribly difficult, though each choice has consequences. Eventually, he gets big and evolved enough that he graduates onto land and the Creature stage begins. Here, you shepherd your organism (now a legged beastie) through making a nest, finding fruit or smaller animals to eat, and building relationships with members of its own species. You sing and dance and mate and reproduce, and then encounter rival species that you might befriend, compete with, or annihilate. Again, your creature grows and evolves and earns new physical and mental traits. Eventually, you reach the Tribal stage.

To be honest, this is where I would tap out. It would just get too complex and engrossing for me to manage with my level of sleep-deprivation and interest. my understanding is that most of the game happens after this, with Tribes and Civilizations and Space. Someday, maybe, I'll go back and do the whole thing. But who has the time?

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