So I went ahead and bought Spore.
For those of you who don't know what that is look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spore_(game)
Right, so there has been some protests from religious twitts, mainly creationists, that this game puts evolution in a favorable light and whatnot. That is all bullshit, but that is what we have come to expect from these people, so that is hardly newsworthy. So instead of ranting about that, I will here give my first impressions of the game. Consider SPOILER WARNINGs hereby issued.
1. The game does not in any way accurately portrait the process of evolution. Sure, you start out as a protozoa, an small single celled creature that (fairly quickly) gets to a stage in which it can climb onto solid land as a fully grown animal. There are several flaws with this, but I guess it all comes down to simplification. After all, it's a game.
That is not the main problem I have with people thinking this game shows how evolution works. The main point is that there isn't any real evolutionary pressure involved. There is no natural selection of any kind. The second is that at no stage does the creatures evolve naturally, through random changes. Instead you are given the job of putting the creature together, making this closer to Creationism than Evolution with regards to its actual functions.
Sure, you might say, a game that leaves everything up to natural processes wouldn't be much fun to play, and I concede. I'm not sure it would have. But in all fairness, lets not call this a good illustration of how Evolution works, cause it ain't.
2. The game comes with a really silly DRM that will only allow you to (in effect) reinstall the game three times even after you register it online (which you have to if you want to receive and share content). Go figure. It's not a huge deal for me in practice since I'm likely to have grown tired of the game long before I've seen the need to reinstall it three times, but the principle is still stupid. Not unlike all other DRMS I've seen.
3. I personally think religion is treated rather kindly in this game, mainly because if you (at the tribal stage) go for the peaceful solution and make friends with everyone, you automatically end up as a Religious society in the next stage. This pissed me off a bit, but not terribly. I guess they just needed something to fill in the blank next to Economic and Military. But at least that tells us that if anything, religious people should be cheering this game on rather than criticize it.
4. It's a fun game, at least for a while. The creature/building/vehicle creator has lots and lots of options and possibilities, and if you like this sort of thing (I do), it will keep you occupied for hours. I've only just started on the space exploration part, but hopefully it will prove to be as fun as the other parts. It does seem to be a somewhat short game though, quite possible to complete in a couple of evenings, but it does have some replay value, not the least because you can share creations with other people over the intarwebs.
5. In the end it's just a game. It won't do as an educational tool for teaching people about Evolution. For that it's nowhere near complex enough and the mechanisms in the game are all wrong. Neither will it be any kind of threat towards religion as such seeing as it doesn't bring any arguments to the table. All in all the "controversy" is wasted and pointless, but then again, most controversies are. All the people yelling can relax and sit down.
It's a game. The end.