January 2, 2007


Simulating Evolution in a Computer Game (Manfred Dworschak, 1/02/07, Der Spiegel)

Will Wright, the inventor of the bestselling computer games SimCity and The Sims, is working on a game unlike anything virtual-reality aficionados have seen before -- a simulation of nothing less than the history of life on earth, from the first single-cell organism to space travelers.

Life on earth will begin again later this year, at the dawn of time. Nothing will exist except an empty planet in an empty universe, facing a godlike player sitting at his PC. A tiny single-cell organism will appear, swimming along through the water, ravenous enemies in hot pursuit.

This is how "Spore" starts, an advanced simulation game that mixes computerized randomness with the laws of biology. A player can determine which life forms emerge from his single-cell organism. Then, step by step, he can straighten the spines of new generations, shape mouths and allow his creations to grow limbs and multiple heads.

The single cell -- if it survives -- will be the ancestor of virtual creatures never seen on earth. Three-humped camels with incisors the size of pickaxes might stroll across the screen; players who want to see crabs with the heads of sparrows and seven prongs protruding from whip-like tails can have it their way.

"Spore" will impose almost no limits on the creative drive. But evolution will have the last word, as only the best species will survive in the game's virtual ecosystem.

How are you going to convince kids that there's no such thing as intelligent design when you only have them for 45 minutes of Biology in 9th grade and they spend three hours a day every year playing games that are premised on it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 2, 2007 1:25 PM

The game is predicated on a Higher Power that manipulates and intervenes in the development of the creatures at every step. If that's 'evolution' then so is the Sears Tower.

Posted by: Gideon at January 2, 2007 4:37 PM

It's an Intelligent Design game marketed as an evolution game.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 2, 2007 4:47 PM


You repeat yourself.

Posted by: oj at January 2, 2007 5:51 PM


Ah, but that's the point, it's exactly what evolution is.

Posted by: oj at January 2, 2007 5:52 PM

I'm sure someone else has commented on it already, but the first cell being chased by ravenous enemies? Are they from outer space? Or just silicon-based carnivores?

And which "laws" of biology are the game based upon? Respiration? Expiration? Mitosis? Or just the author's preferences? Has psychobiology been incorporated? Neuro-psychology? Socio-biology? Or is it all fang and claw?

The utter chaos in the last two sentences of Dworschak's quote is quite amusing.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 2, 2007 7:49 PM

I must say this whole "your comment may take up to fifteen minutes to be published" thing has been crippling to the blog. Five hours ago the front page said this post had five comments, and as of now none of them have shown up. Is OJ's train running late these days, or what?

Posted by: PapayaSF at January 2, 2007 11:31 PM

"Oft evil will doth evil mar." -Tolkien

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 3, 2007 7:43 PM


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