Art Imitates Life: Long-awaited Spore Video Game Based on Real Scientific Search
Electronic Arts’ eagerly awaited video game, Spore, which was released yesterday, is based on serious scientific research that is out of this world. Literally. The game, which incubated for five years in the studios of the world’s leading developer of video games, takes much of its inspiration from the real-world research of theSETI Institute, an organization dedicated to the deep scientific understanding of life in all its forms on Earth and to exploration of the cosmos for evidence of life, especially intelligent life.
In partnership with EA, the SETI Institute is giving gamers a special opportunity to join its membership organization, TeamSETI, at reduced cost. The Institute also plans to augment its web site (www.seti.org) so members will be able to access interactive activities, get special updates on the Institute’s research (as it applies to the scenarios found in Spore), and read game-related blogs by scientists Frank Drake, director of the SETI Institute’s Carl Sagan Center for the study of life in the Universe, Jill Tarter, Center director for SETI research, and many of the Institute’s other scientists.
Spore is the latest brainchild of Will Wright, who once wished to become an astronaut and is best known for designing the hit video simulation games “ Sim City” and “The Sims.” Wright notes, “I’ve long been interested in the work of the SETI Institute because the people there are trying to find real alien life using massive telescopes and other tools of science. Microbes on Mars or intelligent beings on a distant planet – they’re investigating it all.”
Spore allows players to create cosmic life ranging from microbes to complex sentients, and have them form social groups and even reshape galaxies. The Creature Creator, a Spore software tool that’s already available, allows anyone to quickly design their own “aliens” for use in Spore, starting with a basic body form and adding appendages, facial features, and various skin textures and colors.
Even serious scientists can quickly become enamored of this interactive Mr. Alien Potato Head:
“I’ve been searching the skies for signs of intelligent life for more than four decades,” said Frank Drake, Senior Scientist at the SETI Institute and the man who pioneered the use of large radio telescopes to hunt for signals from other societies. “I’ve often given thought to what aliens might be like. Well, this is the first time I could quickly bring to life a hypothetical extraterrestrial, even if only on my computer screen.”
The SETI Institute’s flagship search for intelligent beings elsewhere is about to gain an impressive boost as the first antennas of the Allen Telescope Array – a massive radio instrument located in the Cascade Mountains of California – are used to hunt for signals coming from the dense star clouds that lie in the central regions of the Milky Way. Eventually, the Allen Telescope Array will speed SETI experiments by hundreds and thousands of times. Updates will be ported to Spore TeamSETI members regularly.
“Young people study science because they’ve become emotionally involved,” notes Drake. “Many of my colleagues point to movies or sci-fi novels that first spurred their interest. Well, tomorrow’s generation of scientists could very well get their start today playing games like Spore.”
About SETI Institute
The Institute's mission is to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe, and to apply the knowledge gained to inspire and guide present and future generations. We have a passion for discovery, and for sharing knowledge as scientific ambassadors to the public, the press, and the government.