Will someone please think of the children!

What are games teaching children?

I came across http://www.antispore.com, the blog belonging to a religious nut-case who is concerned about what spore is teaching children. Clearly concern about teaching evolution over creationism is stupid, there is so much evidence in favour of evolution, it has even been observed in a lab[1], that is is not considered a theory any more. But it did get me thinking, what are games teaching children?

Religious nutters aside I do think there is a problem with games including evolution, it is not that they are teaching evolution, but rather that they are not teaching evolution. The two obvious games to look at are Spore and Pokémon.

The evolution featured in Pokémon is misleadingly called, as it happens within the life cycle of a single Pokémon the correct term is in fact metamorphosis. This kind of misleading nonsense is not good for anyone, though not in quite the same way some of the religious extremists in America would have you believe. No, it is a bad thing because it makes it harder for people to fully grasp what is actually quite a difficult subject later on. Evolution is quite complicated, and though I understand the theory[2] myself I would not want to try and explain it myself (see my reading list at the bottom of the page for some people who can explain it well). Even if it doesn’t make it harder to teach evolution, any misinformation on the subject makes it easier for creationists to spread their “message”.

Spore is probably a worse culprit in this than Pokémon, as it is actually marketed as evolution but when it comes to the gameplay it is no more evolution than an RPG like Dragon Age. It is not about survival of the fittest (regardless of what the marketing says) but rather choosing upgrades for your creatures “next generation”. You might as well be levelling up a single character.

If you want to play an evolution “game” on your computer download the breveCreatures screensaver. No, it is not really a game, you just watch it, which makes it far closer to evolution and far better for helping you grasp the subject than Spore could ever be.

If anyone is saying “Ban this sick filth” when it comes to Pokémon or Spore, it should not be because they teach evolution, but because they don’t.


My recommended reading on the subject in increasing reading difficulty:

Darwin’s Watch: Science of Discworld IIITerry Pratchett, J. Cohen, and I. Stewart
ISBN-10: 0091898242 ISBN-13: 978-0091898243

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for EvolutionRichard Dawkins
ISBN-10: 055277524X, ISBN-13: 978-0552775243

The Origin of SpeciesCharles Darwin
ISBN-10: 1853267805, ISBN-13: 978-1853267802


4 Responses to “Will someone please think of the children!”

  1. August 22, 2010 at 01:58

    seriously? They are video games. If anyone is turning to these games to teach their kids anything like evolution they have a serious problem. I believe you are reading into it way to much. Just my opinion..I am not trying to be crabby.

  2. August 22, 2010 at 06:41

    I’m not saying that people are using the games to teach evolution, just that having more misinformation on the subject existing is not helpful. I also intended this post to be (at least in part) a parody of some of the nonsense you might have read on those two creationist sites I linked to.

  3. August 22, 2010 at 10:01

    Just checking, you do realise that antispore was a hoax right?

  4. August 22, 2010 at 18:09

    Poe’s Law states: “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”

    Fallen for that one have I? Well there are more than enough of those sites that are genuine nutters who do believe that.

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