For some reason, I’ve been posting a lot about video games lately. I’m not sure why, since with all the commotion at home, it has been literally months since I’ve been able to play anything.
After all, I’ve already sold my Gamecube & PS2 in anticipation of getting the next-generation machines in 2007.
Still, it would not be right to talk about video games, and not tip my hat to Will Wright, creative genius behind a large number of games including The Sims.
For those of you uninitiated into the magic of his upcoming game, Spore, you can get some basic info here. Spore attempts to marry all the elements of various simulation games that have drawn me in the past. Everything from creature creation, evolution, village building, technology maps, global domination, and galactic conquest.
As a wonderful sign of the times, you can find extensive demos of Spore right now on YouTube! Some feature Will Wright himself!
It may sound juvenile to some, but I have always had the utmost respect for creators of great games. Of course, growing up in the video game era, I’ve logged literally thousands of hours in my life, from the Atari 2600 & Apple ][ all the way to today’s consoles and PCs. But that isn’t the reason.
Writing this blog has led me to some epiphanies about why I find so much interest in certain things, and I now realize that video games fit the definition of this blog in a way I hadn’t initially considered. Building a great video game requires a marriage of understanding of people and technology.
Most great video games push technology to the limits, but that’s not always required. Tetris & SimCity are examples of great games that didn’t push technical limits.
More than anything, great video games are first and foremost great games. Building a great game requires an understanding of narrative and competition, interaction and presentation. Video games must contain enough complexity to generate dozens of hours of continuous engagement, and yet enough simplicity to seduce a new player quickly and easily.
At the same time, like an artist leveraging the voice of their medium, great gamemakers make the most of their medium – technology. Just as a sculptor works with stone differently than brass, so too a great gamemaker will work differently depending on the platform.
When I began the graduate program in Computer Science at Stanford in Human Computer Interaction, I remember evaluating in detail the genius behind the original Mario 64 video game. Nintendo, the company that effectively saved video games in the late 1980s, had managed to take the standard 2D platform game, and elegantly translate it to 3D. More importantly, they had expanded the definition of fluid 3D control with their new controller, which allowed for incredible freedom of expression. They created a world for Mario that was 3D, and yet felt contiguous with the previous Mario properties in a way that didn’t seem bizarre like Disney’s attempts at a 3D Mickey.
Spore looks like one of those singular events in gaming, like World of Warcraft, that will take a genre to a new level. I have every confidence that Will Wright is going to launch another masterpiece.
The only question is… can I really wait for Maxis/EA to release a Mac version?