The Science of Spore

The-science-of-spore_1 Ed Regis in Scientific American:

[F]or all the research that went into it, Spore comes off as a mixed success at replicating the inner workings of evolution by natural selection. On the plus side, in both the game and the real world, there is competition among individuals: Darwin’s well-known “struggle for existence.” In both, the more fit survive, and the less so die out, duplicating the basic evolutionary principle of survival of the fittest. In the game and in real life, simple entities develop into more complex ones, a pattern that is a common, though not an inevitable, feature of Darwinian evolution. Finally, in both Spore and in nature, life-forms tend to be bilaterally symmetrical, even though exceptions occur in real-life creatures such as amoebas as well as in some of Spore’s unicellular organisms.

Spore encompasses five stages of development: cell, creature, tribe, civilization and space. There are some potent differences, however, between evolution as it actually operates and Spore’s animated version of events. For one, in the “cell” and “creature” stages of the game, organisms win “DNA points” when they achieve certain goals. Evolving to a higher level of existence is a matter of acquiring DNA points, much as travelers might accrue frequent-flier miles in an effort to go places. In the real world, in contrast, organisms evolve through random genetic mutations, by sexual reproduction and by other mechanisms but not merely by amassing DNA.