2001: A Spore Odyssey

Forget the hammy title.

It was recently announced that Spore, the evolution game from Electronics Arts, and brainchild of creative maestro Will Wright (also responsible for the Sims franchise) is going to become a movie.   This is peculiar for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the narrative of Spore is, like many games, unsuitable or certainly unseeable as a filmic experience.  To elaborate, Spore is the game where you begin as a small cellular lifeform and through survival in the seas of a distant planet you grow and evolve, your ‘creature’ gaining all sorts of creature ‘parts’ as you specialise and adapt to the environment around  you.  Thus Spore is even atypical for a game in that you don’t have a character or avatar who grows with you during the course of your playing experience, but instead an entire species.  When you die, your creature won’t return, but one of its offspring will.  Thus Spore charts the experience of evolution, from the seas, to the plains and landscapes where you must compete with other creatures to become king of the food chain to the far reaches of space when you finally learn how to be become a pious space faring civilisation, or a blood thirsty empire – it’s your choice.   How do you adapt the experience of life, death and evolution on such a scale to a two hour film?  How do you connect with the audience? The survival of the fittest is not a theme that particularly induces laughter, emotion and entertainment.

Secondly, Spore’s high concept design centres around the aforementioned survival of the fittest ethic, a subject which is still highly controversial to some.  Exploring existential themes of evolution in a galaxy without a god is a masterstroke which cements Spore’s place in the history of the development of games, even if the game itself is less than the ideas which drive it, but videogames are a form played by a certain demographic who must share a certain affinity with a computer to be able to play that game; cinema is different.  Take Creation, the recent biopic starring Paul Bettany and wife Jennifer Connelly about the life of Darwin and the way his own ideas conflicted with his and his wife’s religion.  Pretty much no one saw it, as barely any North American cinemas dared to show it.  And Creation opens interesting and constructive discourse between religion and science.  What could Spore offer?

Thirdly, as the title of this post suggests, the game is heavily influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey.  While 2001 may ponder upon the evolution of man from the proto-humans to the technology muted future to the starchild, Spore just lets us play that.  You can even place a black monolith on other worlds inhabited by creatures and give their evolution a head start and even more, there’s a cut scene in the game directly taken from the famous revelatory monkey scene.

Thing is, I can’t see Electronic Arts, attempting to milk their cash cows a little further, fancying taking a gamble in a failing film industry on an existential romp through the history of time charting the evolution of three eyed leprechauns from the planet Boris Twatus  – can you?


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