As the world of video games collides once again with religion, an article over at Eurogamer has the blogosphere abuzz with scorn for atheists who appear intolerant of a video game. Well, it’s not really the original article that’s getting people fired up, it’s the snippets taken out of context from the interview.
What is Spore? Spore is a video game for multiple platforms that combines elements from real time strategy, life simulation and “god” games. You follow the evolution of your creature from a single-cell organism to a vast civilization of advanced beings. Scheduled for a US release on September 7, 2008, the game has been highly anticipated for years.
In the original article, Will Wright describes himself as an atheist and said that, generally, the majority of atheists had no problem with the way religion was portrayed in the game. He said that even religious people didn’t have a problem with it, either. Oddly it was those he termed ‘militant atheists’ who had the most negative reaction. Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t go into specifics as to why the ‘militant atheists’ had issues with the game. There have been suggestions that it was either the “supernatural” powers that were given to religious civilizations or the fact that religion wasn’t specifically named in the original game design. What were first represented as ‘cultural’ influences later were termed ‘religion’.
Creator Will Wright chimed in on the issue within the same thread:
As you might know I’ve been very interested in using Spore to motivate an interest in science. At the same time we want to make a fun, humorous, playful game. The superpowers in the game were added both to make early decisions you make in the game (cell, creature, tribe) continue to have consequence in the later levels and also to add more humor and playfulness to the overall experience.
If you look at the Civ superpowers they are more realistic for the economic and Military strategies than they are for the religious. We could have labeled the religious powers differently (maybe enhanced memetic transmission or fundamentalist jihad) and given them the same rough effect but they would have felt a bit more gritty and out-of-character with the rest of the game.
Possibly adding weight to the ‘militant atheist’ criticisms, earlier in the year notable atheist PZ Meyers challenged use of the term “evolution” being applied to this game, referring to it instead as Intelligent Design. You, the player, are forcing the eventual destiny of your creature instead of leaving it up to natural selection. One could argue that it’s still evolution by artificial selection, but I digress.
Although this squabble is really a non-issue, I felt the need to point out that some people have been running with the idea that Spore was being trashed by atheists simply by having religion in the game. Although it grieves me that some people would have anything negative to say about this game (one that I’ve been waiting a VERY LONG TIME to play), there are obvious limitations within the game that someone interested in pure science would find annoying. But, after all, it’s a game and it’s meant to be fun.
Waiting millions of years for your creature to evolve into space exploration might not be exciting enough for everyone.