The New Yorker has taken a sophisticated look at videogames in a fascinating 10,000-word profile of industry luminary and Sims creator, Will Wright.
The culturally-aware New Yorker normally covers entertainment considered more “high brow” than the typical lowly videogame. Poetry, creative writing and art are all normal contents of the publication.
In the article “Game Master,” by John Seabrook, references to moderist writing, theology, philosophy and astrobiology were at home in the profile of Wright, who himself is fascinated with the ways of art and science.
In the full article, Seabrook covers Wright’s past and present, from his upbringing to his current status of “god of the God games,” according to the New Yorker. "Game Master" also touches on major points in the history of videogames and that of Electronic Arts, which is publishing Wright’s ambitious god game, Spore.
Here are some of the excerpts from the article:
On Will Wright and James Joyce
“[Spore] is anticipated with something like the interest with which writers in Paris in the early twenties awaited Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
On Wright’s sanity
“Will has a reality-distortion field around him,” his former business partner, Jeff Braun, told [Seabrook]. “He comes up with the craziest idea you’ve ever heard, and when he’s finished explaining it to you the world looks crazy—he’s the only sane person in it.”
On Wright’s appearance and personality
Wright’s office is in a corner of a six-story building a few blocks from San Francisco Bay, in Emeryville, California. It has a balcony where he can smoke. The walls are covered with drawings in colored markers, which bear cryptic messages like “Star Map Issues.” Wright, who is forty-six, is tall and skinny, with a long, narrow face and slender fingers. He dresses in more or less the same clothes every day—black New Balance sneakers, faded black jeans, a button-down shirt, a leather jacket, and thick aviator-style glasses. His skin is shiny and reddish-brown, in that way that a smoker’s skin can look—half tanned and half cured. He sometimes has a wispy mustache and goatee. You don’t really have a conversation with him; you mention an idea, and that triggers five or ten associations in Wright’s mind, which he delivers in quick bursts of data that are strung together with “um”s.
When I walked into his office, Wright jumped up and, after shaking my hand, said, “Here, try this, um, it’s this really cool toy I found recently,” and handed me a wireless controller for a small robotic tank that was sitting on the floor. It was facing another tank, which Wright was controlling. He started moving his tank around and shooting mine, watching me curiously, waiting to see how long it would take me to understand what was going on. I felt an odd tingling sensation in my hands, but I didn’t pay any attention to it at first. Eventually, I realized that I was getting shocked: every time Wright’s tank shot mine, an electric charge passed from the controller into my hands.
On the Wright men
Wright’s father, Will, Sr., and grandfather were graduates of Georgia Tech’s engineering school, and Wright keeps their graduation pictures hanging on a wall in his house, alongside a picture of himself. His forebears are crewcut men in sober suits, about to embark on successful careers in making useful things. Then, there’s Will, Jr., who never graduated from college, and who didn’t fit into the family tradition—a gangly man-boy with a sweet, slightly stoned-looking grin. “Something went wrong with this one,” Wright said, peering at the picture.