The Rise and Fall of Gaming Gods: Will Wright

There are people in the video game industry that we know very well. They are the people who have designed franchises of our beloved childhoods. They are the people who invented a specific genre. They are the people that paved the way for future success for their companies. They are the people that are considered influential in their golden days. They are what us raving fanboys might call gaming gods; they spoketh the word of awesome and down cameth the games full of win. However, their congregation eventually turned on them when their faith in their gaming gods failed when they cursed them with the dark age of fail. On this entry I take a look at co-founder of Maxis and creator of SimCity, William Wright.

Before his current career as a game designer, William Wright had different ambitions. He wanted to be an astronaut and form colonies in space (with the noble idea of countering overpopulation on earth). When Wright became involved with computers, however, things started to change. Video games were on the rise and, much like many of us, Wright enjoyed to play them. He enjoyed playing them so much that he designed his first game, Raid on Bungeling Bay. The only trouble was that Wright enjoyed playing with the editor to the game more than he enjoyed playing with the game itself, and out of that element alone SimCity was born in 1989.

Much followed the era of Maxis. SimEarth, SimAnt, SimTower, SimCopter…when would the madness end! Never, the answer thundered back. SimCity2000 came out and everyone nearly bought the farm. Even I remember the sleepless nights of sneaking out of my bed to fire up the ol’ Hewlett Packard on Windows 95 just to build a city. Even the MIDI soundtrack theme sound remains clear in my head. Those were the good days. And in the years to come, people were still wondering if Wright could reinvent the wheel. That answer came in 2000 when Maxis released The Sims.

If SimCity2000 was the cherry popper of my childhood, then The Sims was the lady cougar of my adolescence. It’s hard to look back now with how far things have come in the series and realize how such little content had me laughing and entertained for days on end. I mean, what was not to love about your Sim screaming “meetaboola!” while a fire raged on in the kitchen. And Bob and Bettie Newbie? Come on. And, like a sucker at the time, I bought the expansions. My smile on my face changed as expansion after expansion after expansion churned out. Seven expansions out and I was nodding my head, saying that this had to be it, hoping that I had made a worth-while long term investment. Then Maxis announced The Sims 2.

Essentially when EA started to become more thorough with their rectal exams with Maxis is when the company started to go downhill. And not downhill in profits mind you, but rather downhill in self-respect. My interest faded in Maxis, and the same went for a lot of loyal fans. SimCity 4 hit the shelves and ever since then the series has been dead to me. But then there was a beacon of hope. There was Spore. The last runner for a bout of redemption. Wright was enthusiastic about production. Everything was shaping up to be great.

Of course, we know that when Spore launched it was anything but stellar. Yes, the idea behind it was astounding, but the execution and content found within was staggering, almost like as if they wanted people to be angry. EA further rectified the issue when customers suffered the issues of DRM. The troubling bit of this all is that Wright is nowhere to be found apologizing for the critical failure of Spore. Instead, the questions people were asking were answered with the announcement of four Spore games coming out in 2009 (one of which is an expansion to Spore–the first of many more to come no doubt).

Truly Wright has lost touch of what is important. There no longer seems to be any noble aspirations on the horizon for the man who reinvented the wheel in simulator video games as an outlet to creativity. The only bouts of creativity that seem to be on the agenda these days is how to make more money while trying to cheat the common gamer. I really don’t care if his next game is a cross between The Sims, Spore, and SimCity; the time came and gone to regain respect and it would seem Wright is no longer interested. Sure, maybe the games are selling very well (just as well as they are being pirated), but success certainly doesn’t equal quality, and that is certainly the case here.

Originally written: February 2009

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About Agamemnon
Started blogging back in 2007 amidst that whole Hellgate: London fiasco on a blog known as flagshipped.com. Eventually moved on to do my own thing in December 2008 at gameriot.com and started Caveat Emptor there. Wrote there for six months, gained some notoriety, and then left. Now I'm back.

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