Will Wright: Never overestimate players’ narcissism 
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Zoe Hawkins
May 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Whether you know him or not, Will Wright probably designed a game you played – and loved!  

A founding developer at Maxis (now owned by EA), a company he has subsequently left, Wright is the designer behind Instant classics such as Sim City, Spore and The Sims.  He has since been working on projects through his small startup Stupid Fan Club.  

He recently gave a lecture at the University of California in Santa Cruz entitled ‘Gaming as a lens on the world’.  In it, he stated that the technological barriers are falling, leaving the more interesting problems to solve – the psychological ones.

“No game designer ever went wrong by overestimating the narcissism of their players,”

Wright is referring to the importance players place on being able to share or brag about their progress and achievements in a game.  Players need to feel that they have overcome great hurdles; in essence, game designers are selling sets of interesting problems.  I wonder what problems he will design through his new company, Syntertainment.

In an interview after the lecture, Wright agreed with Warren Spector that there is great progress to be made in the gaming industry.  He goes on to say that

“I think we have an extremely powerful medium here at our disposal, and I think we’ve only realized a small fraction of its potential,”

Relative to what we have as a medium, with what we could be doing with it, we’re falling way short.”

However, Wright also sees bright things in the future of gaming.  He seems particularly interested in smaller, independent studios – he describes it as a “much, much more healthy” situation than it was a decade ago with just a few large publishers.  New apps come out every day – while Wright is familiar with the next-gen consoles coming out this year, he believes the mobile market is the next frontier.  With that attitude, it’s no wonder that the jobs posted for Syntertainment include mobile apps developer.

When asked about EA, and specifically Sim City, Wright said that he felt bad for the team and understood the outrage of players.  He said it’s hard to look at the struggles at EA (layoffs, restructuring, etc) in a unified way; the different studios under EA are “more like a loose federation” making it difficult to discuss EA as a single entity.

Finally, Wright predicts that the game industry will continue with “non-linear” growth – some areas of the game industry are growing while others are shrinking.  Games, Wright believes, are increasing in importance to the younger generation.

“It’s just as important to them as movies, and probably more so than books.”

I’m very curious to see what Will Wright does.  He has designed such innovative games in the past – he actually created the genre of games where “winning” was not the point.  How does he envision the future of mobile gaming?  I suppose only time will tell, but I’m pretty sure he will surprise us all – even if we don’t like what he makes next, it will be different from what we are seeing at the moment.

 

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!

  • Admiral Chief Achievement

    SPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE

  • Admiral Chief Achievement

    Crazy sleeveless jacket thingy O_O

  • http://twitter.com/DanielKeevy Daniel Keevy

    He speaks true. Just ask YouTube.

  • OVG OfflineVideoGamer

    He is wright, the entire game industry is built around bragging wrights.

  • OVG OfflineVideoGamer

    He is wright, the entire game industry is built around bragging wrights.

  • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    You know what I like about this guy? He says it like it is and he understands the importance of the gamer in the market.

  • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    You know what I like about this guy? He says it like it is and he understands the importance of the gamer in the market.

  • Deon Steyn

    I feel kinda bad for him. People took his SimCity child and mutated it into a monster. Mobile gaming is coming along nicely but try and find a game where add notifications doesn’t pop up even when the game is closed. Or one that does not have some form of micro-transactions.

  • Eric Viljoen

    “created the genre of games where “winning” was not the point”
    Build a pool
    Let Sims get in
    Take away the ladder

    I win

  • Anon A Mouse

    Can’t we get queer eye to do something about his wardrobe?

  • matthurstrsa

    So is he saying you need to plonk as many achievements as possible into a game? I disagree, but maybe I’m not the normal gamer.

  • matthurstrsa

    So is he saying you need to plonk as many achievements as possible into a game? I disagree, but maybe I’m not the normal gamer.