Not because I have a short attention span, I just started playing Spore for the first time. Leaving aside all the wonderful problems that it has, and the great game that it is, I was thinking about the whole Will Wright philosophy, and how it relates to the ideology behind both The Sims and Spore: the idea of not having a game, but allowing you to play anyway.
As little sense as that last sentence makes, it’s true. I can’t consider The Sims or Spore as games (Well, Spore is more gamely than Sims), but they are still games. That fact is undeniable. You are running a digital life. As its been a long time since I played the Sims (And it was the original), I’m working from a vague sense of memories, so every bit of the next paragraph or so will probably be wrong, and/or fixed in the sequels. One of my pet hates of the Sims is how difficult it was without cheating. If you wanted any chance of running a life with no problems, you had to cheat. Making a baby was a damn pain as well. If you wanted this baby to live and not get taken away by social workers, you needed to skip work for 3 days. That usually got you fired. If you get fired, then you have to restart the career ladder. That really ticked me off.
One of the things I remember from reading an interview with Will Wright was how he likes to design games. He talked about what happens if you put a tiger in a plant pot. Or was it a zoo? More likely zoo. As you do so, the tiger will automatically walk up to the bars and examine them. He then went on to say that this was similar to how he played games. If something was ‘Open ended’, he spent most of his time trying to find these bars. Thus, he feels like he has to get rid of as many bars as possible. Which, although is a good idea, does not a good game make.
I admire the philosophy, but to be honest, the problem is that this design philosophy has to get rid of every bar. There needs to be no restrictions, and with this, the game becomes truely open. Once you hit a bar, the game is broken. The whole spell created by the open ended idea is just destroyed once you realise that you can’t get a small child and beat a small seal over the head. So open ended games? Should they really say ‘Do what you like’? Nope. Because you can’t. Yes, I know its very difficult to write a game that allows you to do everything, but Day of The Tentacle and Deus Ex had ideas for every eventuality. So, shouldn’t Spore be the same?