While most game designers were focussed on using games to escape reality, Will Wright was far more interested in studying and replicating reality.
The father of simulation games, Wright’s games have imitated everything from the life of an ant to the management of a major city. His titles are often considered ‘software toys’, games with no apparent goals, and Wright has mentioned his aim is to empower players by giving them what he dubs ‘possibility spaces’.
At university, Wright excelled in a range of subjects including architecture, economics, mechanical engineering, military history, and computers and robotics. Realising he was spending a lot of his time playing videogames, he decided game development was a good career choice and started work on his first game, Raid on Bungeling Bay (1984). He found that he enjoyed building the levels even more than playing the game, and reasoning that players may also enjoy the building process, he reworked and improved the simulation side of the game, eventually producing what would be his standout title: SimCity (1989).
Together with investor and producer Jeff Braun, Wright founded game developer Maxis in 1987, and released a number of successful simulation games including SimEarth (1990), SimAnt (1991), SimCity 2000 (1993) and SimCity 3000 (1999). The next genre-shaking release from Wright was The Sims (2000), a game that saw players taking control of one or more virtual persons (or Sims) in a suburban household. It had an appeal that extended beyond the traditional videogames audience and rose quickly to become the best selling PC game of all time.
Wright’s most recent game, Spore (2008), takes simulation games to yet another level of complexity. Players control a single-celled organism, evolving the creature to form tribes, then whole civilisations, and eventually colonise outer space. The standalone Spore Creature Creator (2008), released three months prior to the game itself, allows players to create their in-game species and upload them to the online ‘Sporepedia.’ At the time of Spore’s release, players had uploaded over three million unique species. Spore was met with highly positive reviews and garnered a devoted online community. Critics have admired the game’s ability to lead players to think on broad themes such as society and human development, changing the way they see the world around them.
Wright has since left Maxis to establish the entertainment think-tank Stupid Fun Club, where he is working on a number of cross media gaming projects.