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Interview | 09.14.00
RE: Will Wright
Steven Johnson talks with The Sims' creator about spontaneous game behavior and the joys of serendipity, and enjoys a sneak peek at his next creation -- The Sims Online.

One unavoidable thought confronts you after spending time with Will Wright at his offices in Walnut Creek, California: this man has the greatest job in the world. Cocooned in a small interior room in the Maxis headquarters fifteen minutes east of Oakland, Wright works at a desk covered with tinkertoy-like objects, which he absent-mindedly assembles and disassembles while talking. As the creator of some of the most original and commercially successful media properties of our time -- starting with 1990's SimCity, and culminating in last year's blockbuster, The Sims -- Wright has plenty to talk about, roaming effortlessly from the architectural musings of Chris Alexander to adaptive software to the surprisingly thorny problem of keeping the Sims from running into each other.

For the hour or so that I spent with him at Maxis, the only thing that he seemed to enjoy more than talking about his creations was actually playing with them. Halfway through our conversation, he logged onto an early internal test of the online version of the Sims and was immediately pulled into the game, engaged in a kind of Survivor-like popularity contest with other members of the Maxis team. From the sneak preview that Wright offered, the game looks to be even more addictive than his previous titles -- a merger of The Sims and SimCity with a networked component that has always been strangely missing in the Maxis simulators. Wright's switching between broad theorizing and furious game-playing speaks to exactly what makes his work so extraordinary: his best titles manage to be both intellectually rich and fiendishly entertaining at the same time. When I left his office, he was still hunched over the monitor, building alliances and creating worlds.

-- Steven Johnson

 

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