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Playing the Word Game – Spore Reviews and Response

September 11, 2008

Reading today’s post of my blog cohort Michael Abbott (Brainy Gamer), he proposes the argument for the depth of Will Wright’s latest opus Spore. Much of the contention is between the reviews and the actual product; mainly what seems to be the substitution of “complexity” and “depth.”
The problem is that it’s a word game. Both Michael Abbot and his prominent blog associate Leigh Alexander are playing the roles of message board posters justifying the game–which is perfectly fine. But many of the criticisms for the scores that the Spore reviews are that claims that they are reviewing the game to pander to the hardcore gamer rather than the game’s intended demographic of the casual audience.

“Complexity” and “depth” as discussed by both Abbot and Alexander is a touchy subject and relies on too many subjective assumptions on the reviewer and the reader. I believe former Computer Gaming World/Games For Windows Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jeff Green put it best is that there is a lack of consistency in the various stages of Spore. This is where most of the contention for reviewers seem to have with the game.

The biggest gripe seems to be with the Tribal and Civilization stages of the game. Maybe this is because these genres of gameplay can be easily compared with equivocal games from other franchises. But I don’t believe reviewers are that irresponsible or naive to simply place all fault on these stages because it is done better in other games. Rather the preference for other stages such as the Creature Creator or Space stage is so apparent it eclipses the other elements of the game.

Abbott writes:
The achievement of Spore is just this. Its extraordinary complexity has been made invisible, and its depth has been hidden inside a menagerie of colorful creatures.”

I do not believe the depth of the game remains hidden, it seems to be widely apparent on where the depth lies in Spore. In the reviewers’ defense, the review scores that Spore has been recieving is nothing to be ashamed of. They may also be inconsequential to the casual market that does not follow these scores. What we have here is typical player contention with the reviewer on the content of the review. It’s a word game as with translating any text. Regardless, Spore is an admirable achievement I am sure will not be forgotten.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for your post, Randy, and for your thoughts on Spore. I see all this as not so much of an argument with reviewers or contentiousness over words, but more as an examination of what should be considered legitimate gameplay. My objection to the ways Spore has been characterized by some reviewers is that the core aspects of the experience have been trivialized, while the less important elements have been over-emphasized.

    The depth provided by Spore doesn’t come from the game mechanics of the stages (which I agree are simplistic compared to other games that focus solely on these). The depth comes from the myriad of ways I engage with the game worlds, creatures, and other players, via my own interactions with them – as well as the many essential ways my creativity can impact the environment of the game. This kind of long-term gameplay can be incredibly compelling, but it also tends to be very individualized and nearly impossible to account for in a review.

    I don’t really have a beef with game reviewers, most of whom work very hard to do their jobs. I just think a certain gap has arisen between the ways professional game reviewers play games (on deadline, one after another) and the ways many of us play them in the so-called real world.

    I hope this has been helpful in clarifying some of the issues you raised in relation to my post.

    Keep up the good work!


  2. Oh, and apologies for nitpicking, but my name is spelled with two t’s (Abbott). 🙂


  3. LOL! I enjoyed this post, but I’m laughing because I just dropped a similar Spore “Review” Bomb on my blogspace as well. We share a bunch of the same ideas, so I will definately be subscribing and look forward to reading future post…

    P.S.
    Our blogs are quite similar in visual style as well. Anyway, good luck to you and keep writing!


  4. Thanks for the feedback Michael and Omari. I will definitely start checking out your blog more often Omari.



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