Will Wright, Maxis

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University May 2, 2003

Will Wright, Maxis’ Chief Designer, co-founded Maxis with Jeff Braun in 1987. Wright began working on what would become SimCity—The City Simulator in 1985. Using a complex technique, he found a way to bring realistic simulations to desktop PCs. Previously simulations of this sort were only available to the military, scientists and academicians. But now, using an easy to use graphic interface, the world of simulations opened up to consumers.

Wright has had a lifelong fascination with simulations. His interest in plastic models of ships and airplanes during his childhood in Georgia eventually led to his designing computer models of cities, ecosystems and ant colonies.

SimCity was released in 1989, and within a few months became a hit. The game has since won 24 domestic and international awards. With Fred Haslem, Wright co-designed SimEarth—The Living Planet in 1990, a simulation of a planet based on the Gaia theory of James Lovelock. In 1991, Wright and Justin McCormick designed SimAnt—The Electronic Ant Colony, a scientifically-accurate simulation of an ant colony. SimCity 2000, and SimCopter, a helicopter flight game, are also part of Wright’s recent repertoire. The latest incarnation of SimCity, SimCity 3000 Unlimited, the definitive version of 1999’s best-selling game SimCity 3000, has continued in the tradition.

Taking computer entertainment to its most personal level yet, Wright’s newest game The Sims, puts players in charge of the lives of a neighborhood of simulated people. Released in February of 2000, this wildly popular title has become a cultural phenomenon, sold over 4 million copies worldwide and has received numerous "Game of The Years" accolades. It inspired an expansion pack, Livin’ Large, which allows players to put their simulated families from The Sims into new extreme situations and settings. Yet another expansion pack, The Sims House Party was just released this April. With new characters, activities, architecture styles, objects, music and much more, this newest add-on give players the chance to host outrageous parties for their Sims.

Wright’s most recent project The Sims Online™, released 2002, will enable you to take your Sims to an online world where you get to be yourself or whoever you want to be. In this world you have your own piece of land to do with as you please. In this open-ended, online world, you choose your role, your attitude and your destiny.

Wright has become one of the most successful designers of interactive entertainment in the world. In 1999 he was included in Entertainment Weekly’s "It List" of "the 100 most creative people in entertainment" as well as Time Digital’s "Digital 50", a listing of "the most important people shaping technology today." However, his interests are not limited to computer games. Each year Wright (along with his daughter) takes part in the annual Battlebot competition which is broadcast nationally on Comedy Central. His past robots, which do battle with robots designed by other contestants, have taken top honors. Interestingly, it was Wright’s interest in robots that eventually led him into computer programming.

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