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Caryl Shaw and a journey into SPORE
Developed by Maxis, the same outfit that gave the world the legendary SimCity and Sims games, Spore appears to have gone gangbusters since its release just a couple of months ago. Maxis set out to make a game in which players could design and evolve their own creations, building them up from small cell-like entities into larger and more social beings, building and creating along the way, and sharing those creations with others. It is a game that can be played either socially or more aggressively, but the emphasis is always on creativity and the telling of one’s own story. As Will Wright, creator of Spore, puts it, the aim of the game is to turn out a generation of George Lucas’s, rather than a generation of Luke Skywalkers. Will expounds further on the game in this YouTube video:
OK, so lots of kids love it, so lots of adults love it too, and so families can sit around getting quality creative time together. But is it educational, or can it be adapted usefully to educational, especially higher educational, purposes? … Well, we might have to wait a while to get a definitive answer on that one. As Caryl Shaw, Online Producer for Spore, and a keynote speaker at Create World 2008, points out in this podcast episode, it is early days yet; good educational applications can take 12 months or so to emerge, and, after all, the game wasn’t designed primarily as an educational tool.
In the meantime, the debate within the teaching and learning community is beginning to heat up, with some commentators hailing Spore’s huge educational potential, while others express some serious concerns about just what kind of science the game may be communicating.
Find out more about Spore in this interview with Caryl Shaw, and get the real inside story.
And for a broader overview of the whole Games & Education interface, this Futurelab site on Games & Learning is probably not a bad place to start.