Famed Maxis founder and The Sims creator brings conference to a climax with closing keynote

GDC: Wright talk heralds ‘age of opportunity’

Will Wright took to the main stage of GDC this weekend for the conference’s final big lecture, bringing the conference to an exciting end.

The talk itself was a last minute addition to the schedule that GDC organisers has teased on Twitter as being akin to the return of a Roman philosophical icon.

Wright’s return to the GDC main stage – he has regularly talked at the event – did not fail to live up to the hype.

His wide-ranging lecture effectively dismantled not only the video game creation process – looking at why humans are obsessed with both creating realistic simulations of the world and imagining fantastical alternatives – but all of entertainment.

He touched on a variety of issues, including the vast amounts of data people are now generating in their lives, and came to the conclusion that many things are becoming more and more game-like in order to engross their users.

He also hailed the raft of new platforms opening up to game developers – and acknowledging the pitfalls around them as well.

Wright’s ultimate point was that the line between games and broader areas in which adults and children ‘play’ is blurring significantly.

"Play is starting to infuse reality – across all different areas," he said.

Wright’s best known for starting his career programming Raid on Bungeling Bay as an indie developer, before founding Maxis and creating Sim City, which was to be acquired by EA. At EA he created the hugely successful The Sims franchise and its follow-up, Spore. He has since formed a new company, Stupid Fun Club.

He said that through a career of over 20 years, he has seen an increasing number of non-games businesses look to game to keep people satisfied.

"People approach me and say ‘We want to take our thing and make it game-like’ If we make this more like a game people love doing it."

He pointed out that the rise of online platforms, social networking and any digital media, has given rise to experiences that have game-ish elements.

"Your perception of the world around you is being more and more moderated by these networked experiences," said Wright.

People are now generating huge amounts of data in their lives as a side effect, he said – more so than they were ever before. ISo old census reports from hundreds of years ago only account for 1KB of data, while a diary from the 1800s would be around 100KB, and in the 1900s people generated just 1MB or so in letters sent. Wright estimated that his parents generated around 100MB of family photos, while he has generated around 10GB of photos so far in his life. He reckons that "before I die that will number be in the terabyte range".)

This is all part of the increasingly permeation of digital living – momentum which also means that "games are taking their place in a larger entertainment landscape".

And "the interesting stuff is at the intersection between established fields".

But as far as Wright is concerned, this was always going to happen – and he linked the creation of video games and the essence of having fun back to the way children form their world view and contrast that with their imagination.

"People are starting to realise that games and play have a very symbiotic relationship. Play helps us build models of the world, from when we’re as small as a two year sold. Games let us test those models."

He said that the concurrent rise of multiple games platforms of varying scale present opportunities for games developers and consumers reach each other in interesting ways.

"We’ve got all these different platforms with tremendous opportunities," said Wright.

"There are a lot of golden eggs out there.

"Although it is a bit like having an easter egg hunt in a minefield," he said, making reference to multiple recent studio closures. "But that just comes with the territory."

Click here to see all our GDC coverage so far – more stories from the event will appear on Develop over the coming weeks

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