I bought Spore last week. And it’s safe to say that it’s the coolest game I’ve ever played. I’m not a big gamer, but I do like simulation games–Sim City, Civilization, The Sims, MySims–because you can’t die and there’s no clear mission to the game; you just create things and try to control the world you’re in. (MySims is a little different: you do have goals that you have to meet to advance, but you still can’t die.)
You might know about Spore, because it’s been pretty hyped, but for the uninformed, here’s the basic breakdown. There are five levels, or phases: cell, creature, tribal, civilization, and space. Each phase has its own style of gameplay, although creature, tribal, and civilization are pretty similar and have the same goals: either convert/ally with the other creatures in your world, or dominate/kill them.
The cell phase is fairly basic (you swim around eating, growing, and mating), but it’s crucial to the rest of the game because in this phase, your creature evolves, and you play with that creature throughout the rest of the game (it does grow arms and legs in the creature phase). You can continue tinkering with your creation in the creature phase–in fact, that’s one of the ways you advance to the next phase–but once you hit the tribal stage, you’re done doing any physical evolving.
The choices you make throughout Spore affect the path you take throughout the game. If you’re a vegetarian who makes friends with other animals, you become a religious city in the civilization phase. That’s me every time, because I can’t bring myself to eat the other adorable creatures! There are multiple outcomes for carnivores, omnivores, those who kill, those who make friends, and those who do both. And each one of these outcomes gives you different advantages and powers in different phases.
In the space phase, you get missions…and a spaceship. You travel throughout a vast galaxy gathering information, trading, making friends or enemies, colonizing planets, and ultimately, hopefully, becoming god.
Spore has infinite outcomes and possibilities, and the sheer magnitude of the game is mind-blowing. So, how does this single-player game fit into the library? Can it be a collaborative game? Can you base a program around it? Of course.
Spore relies heavily on user-created content. If the player is online, then he or she is going to be surrounded by the creatures of thousands of other Spore players. Additionally, creatures, objects, and buildings that the player creates are being made available to all the other Spore users out there. So even though a teen isn’t directly interacting with other players (like they would in Second Life), they are interacting with a massive world populated by the creations of people who aren’t in their physical space.
The Spore Creature Creator may be the most fun part of the game. The power of the creator is hard to explain; basically, every part of the creature is malleable and customizable. The initial body shape has a spine, and each vertebrae can be pulled, moved, and manipulated. And there are tons of add-ons and skins that allow the user to make a truly unique creature. Check out the Sporepedia for some cool and funny examples. It could be fun to host a Creature Creation contest. It could be just like a Halloween contest: award prizes for funniest, scariest, most creative, etc. If you have a color printer, print out the teens’ creations and put them on display.
Or wouldn’t it be funny to give them assignments? Make a creature who looks like your dad, your principal, your soccer coach, you!
Or, very simply, you could buy four copies of Spore and make it available to teens. Have a weekly or monthly get-together. Games don’t need to be competetive for them to be fun or for a group.
Do you have any ideas how Spore would work in your library? Post them here!