to join the CVG community. Not a member yet? Join now!

Will Wright: "Games can change the world!"

Legendary creator of The Sims and Spore talks about the future of game design...

"When looking at advancement of games, we're very focused on how much more powerful the graphics have become, but really the core of game design is more about the psychology of the player. That's where the real game is running; the computer in front of them is really just a tool to spark an imagination. These worlds, these characters, these events are really happening in the player's imagination, and the computer's really just a tool or a compiler for that mental world. We want to present these things on the screen that, in fact, in the computer's memory are just numbers and algorithms, but in the player's mind they live as characters and worlds.

"Now, linear storytelling has its own kind of relationship with time, and its own kind of structures that have evolved over the ages. The [movie] director is controlling the emotional intensity of a ride across the story; they control the POV - what you can see, when you can see it; the flow of information is very tightly controlled; the pacing is controlled. In a game, a lot of this stuff is out of my control as a designer - it's in the player's hands, so you have to think about it in a different way. It's more like we're dealing with a vehicle and a landscape. Every player has the opportunity to go off in different directions, have a different experience, basically control their own story. And this is what I call the possibility space of a game.

"When I played GTA, I didn't really play the missions that they had in the game. I had this guy, and I gave him a name, and he kind of walked around the neighbourhood, and I would explore, and he'd learn to ride a bike... I basically created my whole own story about this guy that I named Mo; to me that was the meaningful story in this game, and I enjoyed it even more than the existing missions and storyline structure of the game. And to me, this is what we call spiritual narrative - when the narrative's actually coming out of the player, the player becomes the storyteller in the game. The player stories are what we should be focusing on - because that's where the player has the most malleability in terms of what's going on.

"We have this format, this new medium that's initially seen as entertainment and educational, but now it's kind of being seen more and more as a form of communication and self-expression. So we can go even further, and I think we have the ability to change the worldview of players that interact with these experiences - we can have deep changes in the way they think. In some sense we could expose them to systemic thinking, where they can deconstruct the world into its component parts and understand the way that these components interact to give life to complex behaviour around them. And from that, start building more and more elaborate models of the world they're living in - and in some sense, learn to navigate the future the same way they're navigating paths down the game.

"Hopefully we will change the behaviour and keep games from being trivial entertainment (and turn them) into one of deeper artistic expression. And hopefully, we can change the world a bit."