Spore is not just one of the most highly anticipated computer games of the year. It is one of the most highly anticipated works of art and entertainment in any category. Think I’m exaggerating? Sales last year were $9.5 billion. Sixty-five percent of American households play computer or video games. The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 13 years. And forty percent of all game players are women and women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent). In 2008, 26 percent of Americans over the age of 50 played video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999. Super Mario Brothers has sold over 40 million units. Best-selling video games sell many times more copies than best-selling books and have as many viewers/users as top movies and music.
Games have gone way beyond blowing stuff up and killing bad guys and aliens. Spore comes from the people who did the wildly popular Sims series. It gives players the chance to create entire universes, starting with one-celled creatures who evolve into complex organisms. It allows for an unprecedented level of imagination and interactivity for the participants, even allowing players to exchange creatures and visit each other’s planets. Spore gives players (I think we need a new word here — maybe participants?) the change to be creative while absorbing lessons about logic, programming, and consequences. Executive producer Lucy Bradshaw said in an interview with the Washington Post
Every single planet you go to was going to bring this sense of surprise and awe to the game. That was central and why we made the creation tools the way we did. Not only that we’d made the building blocks and could tap into the creativity of a million players, but the fact that the content is so compressible. The model data for a creature is like 3 kilobytes, the thumbnail picture is about 18 to 20KB. So [that makes] a grand total of 25KB, which means that we can actually share all of this content without bandwidth issues.
And then we did things like the YouTube partnership, the Planetwide Games deal involving a Comic Book Creator, and a make-your-own postcard system that we put in the Creature Creator that allows players to take things outside of just the elemental game play, share it with other players, and see where those players might take it. We even did a Facebook application that ties back to our servers. We really want to see what directions players take all this stuff. We’ve built a really strong tool that lets users share their experiences in different venues, and I can’t wait to see what unravels next.
I love the way that Spore creates a sort of universal Wiki game, with everyone who participates helping to direct it.
And this discussion of games gives me a chance to share one of the funniest video clips I have ever seen, from the wonderful Australian music group, Tripod: