The couple of years before Spore’s release, we were led to believe that the game was to stick on the “scientific” approach. However, it changed over it’s course and we were given what we had now – completely different from when we first saw Spore demonstrated. However, it was still featured on various scientific websites, the National Geographic Channel, even in magazines.
Speaking of magazines, journalist and and consultant Margaret Robertson held her topic “Lessons Learned From Spore – Its Science And More” at the GDC event today. She made mention that Spore was never meant to be a serious game. Gamasutra brings details from her full speech, check out a sample below then hit their website for the rest!
Robertson has launched an investigation to find out what sorts of teachers are using Spore to teach science. She says, however, “They don’t exist. I’ve done a whole bunch of research and I’ve not found anyone using Spore to teach science.” Instead, Spore is being used in ways that may surprise the gaming audience.
It’s being used for applications from creative writing (helping kids understand story construction and perspective) to introduction to 3D modeling and teaching teamwork — particularly with kids with developmental disabilities. It’s also being used for emotional literacy work with autism — where educators are looking at games as tools for communication.
Per Robertson, there are many common elements of the Spore-utilizing educators she’s spoken to. Nobody is using the game itself; all are using the free Creature Creator tool — because it’s free, which frees them both from expense and from paperwork and bureaucracy. It’s being used with young kids — under 12. It’s being used collaboratively, again mainly because of financial (equipment) restrictions, and it’s being used in ways that can be output in other media — as skits, stories, or comics (using the mashon.org Spore comic tool.)
So why don’t educators use the full game? “The science was a huge problem for many people,” says Robertson. It’s also too expensive and EA does not offer any sort of flexible educational licensing program (a complaint echoed and amplified by an audience member at the end of the session.) It’s also too time-consuming to play the game through, and too complicated in its many phases.