Monday, August 11, 2008

Spore and Atheists

Here's an interesting interview with the creator of the game Spore, Will Wright.

In the interview Wright talks about being an atheist, his initial fears about offending religious people with the representation of religion in the game, and the surprising fact that most criticism of the religious aspects of the game are from what he calls "militant atheists".

"I'd probably be best described as an atheist. I'm open to the idea that there is some creator somewhere. I can almost envision humans one day being able to create a micro-universe."

"I think our bigger fear was that we didn't want to offend any religious people; but looking at the discussion that unfolded from this thing, what we had was a good, sizeable group of players that we might call militant atheists, and the rest of the players seemed very tolerant, including all of the religious players."

"I didn't expect to hit hot buttons on the atheist side as much; I expected it on the religious side," Wright revealed. "But so far I've had no critical feedback at all from anybody who is religious feeling that we were misrepresenting religion or it was bad to represent religion in the game. It was really the atheists."

I'm not going to get into my dislike of the ridiculous term "militant atheism" in this post. We'll save that for another day. But what do you think about what he says? Do you think it is offensive that a video game would have a religious aspect to it?

To me, it seems like that is the entire premise of the game and one should obviously know that going in. You are playing a "god-like role" by creating life, or something. I haven't played it, but would like to give it a try sometime. Tell me what you think.

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lordkuato said...

Bottom line is, it's a game, it should be taken as a leisure activity and nothing else. Religious belief has nothing to do with it.

I loved Populous where you assumed the role of a god, that didn't mean I believed in a god, it just meant I liked the game.

ytseone said...

Is it offensive? Well, not to me. It's a pretty benign videogame. Apparently it is offensive to some though. So they should refain from exposing themselves to it. Simple enough.

James Tracy said...

I don't know much about this particular game, but I like Will Wright and I really enjoyed his Sim City and The Sims series when I was younger. If the game is about evolving societies, and religion is a "natural phenomenon" as Dennet calls it, then having religion in the game makes sense to me. Again, I don't know how that element plays out in the game but still seems sensible.

But then again, maybe I am not "militant" enough.... >:(

DB said...

The claim by "militant atheists" is quite lame. All Sim games show some aspect of godly control. There are countless games about controlling societies or civilizations with a heavy bit of religion involved, but if those militants thought a bit they would realize that all religion is in a game is a method of controlling the people in the ironic.

Kind of off the subject though, but good call on being critical of fellow atheists. As we have been discussing on my blog and everywhere else is that some people (Christians, Muslims, etc) aren't being critical of their own. We have to keep each other in check and militant atheists are going a bit overboard on this one.

I'll be checking this game out for sure.

The Amiable Atheist said...

Thanks for the comments!

DB: I agree, whoever is complaining about the religious aspect of this game is being ridiculous.

I do, however, have an issue with labelling them as "militant atheists". I suppose I will have to do an entry on this topic, although many people have already discussed it in detail.

I find it ridiculous that an atheist is labelled as militant because he or she may write books or speak out about the subject. I keep hearing about the "new militant atheism". It seems that simply being open and unashamed of your atheism is enough to be called militant. It is clearly meant to demean.

I wouldn't call the people in this case militant. Just ridiculous.

Their ridiculousness has very little to do with their atheism and a lot to do with their intelligence. said...

It almost seems to me like people trying to raise a fuss for lack of anything better to do.

I suppose 'Just ridiculous' does fit nicely. The militant atheist generalization really irks me. I've had it thrown in my face more then once for simply speaking my mind. These reactionary types only perpetuate that negative image. *sigh*

I'm not much of a gamer but they've been talking about this one for ages and Sim City is good fun. I'll likely jump on the bandwagon and check it out.

The Barefoot Bum said...

It would be nice if we knew how many supposedly atheist criticisms he was receiving, and precisely what they were criticizing.

shaman sun said...

Hey there,

I think getting angry about the presence of religion is something that should be embraced? To me it seems the common understanding is that religion had its place, and its own reasons, in a world in which we were in the dark with science, and couldn't understand the once-mysterious. Religion was that answer. Carl Sagan wrote alot about this. To have religion arise in Spore seems only accurate! At least for a video game. So, to me, being against it is not seeing the bigger picture... Perhaps it just shows the reluctance of some to see how religion is and was a part of the human experience... I'm going with the Sagan attitude on this one.

Kate said...

So far, only ONE article on this subject has gotten it right.

You see, the real problem is NOT the inclusion of religion in Spore; that makes perfect sense since religion has been around for as long as humanity has.

No, the real problem is that religion in Spore grants the player MAGICAL POWERS.
This is something religion in the real world DOESN'T DO, and for a game that claims to be a universe simulator, Spore really ought not to include @#$%ing MAGIC.

That was the REAL objection atheists had on the webboard, and I find it marginally distressing that Will Wright got that wrong, especially since he even responded to us on the board.

The Amiable Atheist said...


since I have not played the game I was unaware of this aspect. I also wondered what exactly these "militant" atheists objected to, since Wright was rather vague in the interview about it.

Thank you for clearing it up!

GTA_Tom_V said...

the game is really awesome actually. As an atheist and a HUGE supporter of the theory(fact) of evolution, I EXTREMELY enjoyed playing a game where i got to evolve a creature i made.

THERE ISN'T "@#$%ing" MAGIC IN SPORE. play the game. learn. What i think this guy is talkin about is how later on in the game when you become a 'space-faring' race, you can do something called 'terraforming' which is basicly redesigning planets. Its not 'magic' because the game never defines or specifies HOW the weapon/launcher/thing that you shoot at the planet to change the environment works, so there is a plausibility to it.

No, i dont think its offensive, but then again im an atheist, so i actually USE my brain.

There will always be SOME christian dumbass out there that will find a problem with it. But realisticly, how many christians are even technically savy enough for a complex game like Spore anyways?

I just found this site on accident while looking for kool atheist pictures for a shirt im designing and wanted to say something.

ohya, one more thing, FUCK RELIGION.

DB said...

Oh ya, I forgot to follow up on this post. Spores is a sweet game actually. The evolution aspect is pretty basic in principle, though any improvements I would suggest would only make it more complicated than it needs to be. People shouldn't be so uptight.

GTA_Tom_V said...

Also, one more thing:


If this game WAS based completely on reality, it would be a piece of shit.


Because then there would BE NO game! How would you control a whole planet of people? In real life we only control only one person, ourselves.

Its not godlike abilities. Its just a different way to play a game, other than realistically which would really mean sitting back and allowing the characters to make their own decisions. But then it would be a movie, not a game. A game is only a game when the viewer takes part in the action. true?

Ashley said...

The game is too much fun, but its contain is a little bit polemic... Anyway, the creator did a fabulous job when he designed it.
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