Performing the Social Text; or, what I learned from playing Spore

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


This article continues from where the author's 2008 book The Meaning of Video Games concluded and concerns what he learned from playing the simulation game Spore by Sims-creator Will Wright, especially the extent to which a social-network model had become during the development process the infrastructural backbone of the game. Spore's approach to the problem of building an asynchronous content-creation and content-sharing system aligned the video game with the most important trends in text-based digital humanities scholarship today. Thus this article compares video games and digital texts, not in terms of their supposedly shared narrative content (not in terms of their content at all) but, rather, formally—in terms of how they model complex systems, how both video games and digital-text environments work by creating networked environments for the production, reproduction, transmission, and reception (indeed for the continual reediting) of their respective content-objects. Both texts and video games are systems, with their own special affordances and constraints, that provide both “spores” and “spurs,” seeds and provocations, prompts for new performances of meaning.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Common Knowledge, v. 17, no. 2, p. 283-291