Muschamp Rd

Will Wright: KrazyTalk!

June 5th, 2008

I got to the Great Northern Way Campus not too early, but not too late. There were several wireless networks but they all seemed to need passwords so I typed this out in Word. There was quite a large crowd with two rows of reserved seating. I recognized Malcolm of Radical Entertainment on the way over, he walked, I cabbed. The crowd is pretty young, but I’m not sure everyone was in the industry. I turned off my cell phone but I’m sure one will go off.

I first saw Simcity running in Hillside Mall in Victoria on Amigas. I bought it when it came out for the PC. As part of the intro it was announced that the Sims is the best selling game in PC history. Spore is much anticipated, the MC likens it to James Joyce writing Ulysses. Earlier in the day Will Wright gave a talk to Masters of Digital Media students. Spore will ship in September.

Will Wright

• Co-curator of Krazy!
• Doing a lot of press lately about games as art
• When comics look down on you, you’re the bottom of the barrel as far as artforms.
• Likens video game designers to drug dealers ie an undesirable professional
• Notes that earliest writing was developed for keeping accounts
• Prominence of a monastery was judged by how many books they had
• Evolution of other media and technology shows how videogames are still evolving
• The Internet was created to share secrets
• Media becomes entertainment but then aspires to be an art form
• Elements of imagination: classification, causality, empathy, and agency
• We are amazingly good at finding patterns
• Stories have: archetypes, environment, abilities lead to actions
• Gilligan’s island characters were representations of the seven deadly sins
• Stories are deeply based on causal changes
• The game industry has had a bad case of film envy
• Directors understand the future and where the story is going
• Groundhog day one of the most game-like movies Will has seen
• Play is the other side of the coin from story
We learn story, play is instinctive
• A lot of early games were based on branching possibility space, like choose your own adventure books
• Trend in games is towards open simulations: The Sims, Grand Theft Auto
• Measuring success in the Sims was a difficult problem
• Playing games is the scientific method in action
• Will’s aspiration for games is to increase the verb variety
• Traditional media is one way, games are two way
• Sims had a story telling feature which players used extensively
• Shows cool grand theft auto video of a Canadian tourist to Liberty City
• Will plays GTA4
• Will has to resist his GTA urges in real life
• Sims explored death, not as the end but as an event that would be reflected on by other Sims
• Stories invite playfulness, whereas games give us some of these magic abilities.
• The best stories lead to the widest variety of play.
• Game Design is a difficult field, difficult decisions have to made which are often mutually exclusive
• Sims community:

  • Performers – Players
  • Collectors
  • Storytellers
  • Webmasters
  • Creators

• Types of gamers is like an ecological pyramid
• Gamers aspire to gain social currency in the community


  • convergence
  • New generation growing up with digital media realize it is a two way street.
  • Motivation is the issue, not access to information
  • The computer extends our imagination

Question and Answer

Within context of the show, what would you have added?
o Pinball construction set personal favourite
o Flight simulator person favourite
o Tetris or Pong felt a bit ashamed to not include them
o Final Fantasy series could have warranted a slot
What kind of problems do generative systems present in debugging?
o Emergent systems are more difficult, The Sims and GTA are emergent system. Huge amount of time prototyping for SPORE
o More like cooking than engineering
Take on games as Art?
o Two aspects to this discussion. He does believe games can be a form of art. Thinks it is a collaboration between designer and game player.
o Games need to be art to receive first amendment protection
Advice on getting into the industry?
o Game designers should make games. Java APPs or Flash APPs He’s hired people based on Flash games, that looks better on your resume than almost anything else.
How do you manage a game to create a compelling experience?
o Engineering possibility space, don’t want to create a space they never encounter. Don’t want it to become the Disneyland Haunted House exhibit.
o Players can get an idea of the possibility space of a game quickly. Make players aware of the possibility space
Role of educational theory in theme design?
o Games evolved as a form of education in animal kingdom.
o A computer game is a problem in a box that you are selling, hopefully the problem is interesting and worth solving.
o Constructivist approach to education = games
When pitching a game, what is the most important thing?
o How do I teach people to pitch game design.
o Must be obsessed with the subject.
o Passion!
o Pitch is sometimes down rather than up, to your team rather than the execs.

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