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Will Wright: 'Games are not the right medium to tell stories'

Will Wright is best known for revolutionary games like The Sims, but the famed game designer has been up to more than just making games. And, unlike his games, which are all about open-ended story creation, Wright's new show on Current TV tells a concrete story.

"Games are not the right medium to tell stories," said Wright in a CNN interview, adding that they're "more about story possibilities."

Wright and Albie Hecht's new drama, Bar Karma, however, doesn't draw its characters, plots, and dialog solely from the usual team of writers (would you expect Wright to do anything the 'normal' way?). Not even Wright is directly in charge of the show's direction - it's crowd-sourced, a 'community-developed' TV series. The (preemptive) fans created the show by offering input on its website.

The resulting premise involves a mystical barroom in which the fates of lost souls are guided by the staff. The show premiered on Current last Friday, and you can watch episodes, as well as join in with the production of future episodes on the official site.

"This is storytelling," said Wright. "Television is a very different thing from video games. It's kind of hard for me to compare."

What do you think about games as a medium - or not a medium - for storytelling? You can read more of Wright's comments in his interview with CNN, in which he discusses his preference for creating his own stories in games, as opposed to experiencing stories told via other media.

Feb 18, 2011 

36 comments

  • Yeager1122 - February 20, 2011 11:57 p.m.

    How would these guy know sims has no story to it maybe if he made a game with a satory he could have a say.
  • orSKAsm - February 20, 2011 12:56 a.m.

    First post, I'll try and be as non confrontational as possible. Will Wright is correct. When I'm TELLING a story I don't allow the listeners to make choices that change the story, that'd be crazy. Video games aren't intended to tell a story, they're intended to make the player feel like they are experiencing and changing the events or story. Video games end up making the player feel more immersed and involved in a story than they would be if they were simply told it. Is a choose your own adventure book better at telling a story than Catcher in the Rye? Actually...bad example. Moral of this story : Don't make broad statements, even if you can rationalize them in your head.
  • CandiedJester - February 19, 2011 7:37 p.m.

    He has obviously never played Planescape: Torment. If P:T doesn't prove that games can tell a compelling story effectively, I don't know what can.
  • Spacegrass - February 19, 2011 4:46 p.m.

    I don't know if Will Wright has ever played a game with a story, but he's certainly never made one. I'd much rather play something with a story than play a boring game about watching people go to their jobs and speak in gibberish. Hell, MGS 2 and Bioshock had stories that could only be told in game form.
  • rabidpotatochip - February 19, 2011 4:26 p.m.

    Games are absolutely the right medium to tell a story, right up there with anything else we currently use. The difference between playing a game and watching a TV show is that in the game _I_ have to solve the mystery for the character, it's not a passive medium. I like that kind of interaction though, looking over the character's shoulder, whispering their next idea into their ear instead of just waiting to see what they do next. All I ever did in the Sims was trap everyone in the pool.
  • OptimashSlime - February 19, 2011 11:58 a.m.

    Games can do anything they want, and go anywhere they want. Tell stories, educate us, give it time and they'll be fighting wars for us.
  • Crimmy - February 19, 2011 6:08 a.m.

    Que Still Alive and Portal reference to GLaDOS and that's all folks. The only reason I did that last testchamber is because I wanted to see how angry GLaDOS would get. Plus the fact that I almost went mad (crazy, not angry) over the atmosphere, so I figured I might as well finish what I'd started. What's that? I'm ranting over my experience with Portal? Oops. Well, the point is many games would be horrible with no story. /comment over P.S. ReCaptcha: "EXPERIMENT drequ" Geez, no need to get excited captcha!
  • FreshOutofWarpCores - February 19, 2011 4:52 a.m.

    Just finished Red Dead Redemption, I would have been more on Will's side before beating it.
  • d0x - February 19, 2011 12:50 a.m.

    Will Wright is a smart man but he is quite simply wrong in this regard. For me a good story drives me to keep playing. If a game doesnt have a story that I find interesting in some way I probably wont beat it. I want a story that makes me want to know what happens next. For example the following games had stories that for one reason or another made me want to keep playing, whether it was for complex story telling or the hunt for snippets of info or backstory. Legacy of Kain (entire series omg amazing story) Splinter Cell Halo Chronicles of Riddick Dead Space Resident Evil Silent Hill There are many more but if those games didnt compel me in some way with story I probably wouldnt have finished them regardless of how much fun I had with actual gameplay
  • ThatGuyFromTV - February 18, 2011 11:46 p.m.

    Games are the ideal storytellers when they tell the stories in their own way instead of trying to do it like a movie or a book. Biggest examples of this are probably Mass Effect or Bioshock. I think, ironically, games like Phoenix Wright show this point well too.
  • RicePuddingUK - February 18, 2011 10:56 p.m.

    This guy has played too much CoD. AHem Halo? Mass Effect? Alan Wake?!
  • BertTheTurtle - February 18, 2011 10:54 p.m.

    I find video games to be my personal favorite medium. They have the visual advantage, they're immersive, and they're interactive. Games like BioShock, Mass Effect, and Alan Wake wouldn't have had the same impact in any other medium, I think.
  • rags18 - February 18, 2011 10:41 p.m.

    Am i the only one who finds it ironic that one of my personal favorite game storys stars a man with the same name (Phoenix Wright)
  • Genocide4Jawas - February 18, 2011 10:31 p.m.

    This dude is always saying shit thats cryptic and kinda vague
  • FreedomPhantom - February 18, 2011 10:31 p.m.

    Well I'm not a fan of your games Mr. Wright soooooo shush.
  • FirLocke - February 18, 2011 10:26 p.m.

    He was too vague. "The right medium". The guy still has lots to learn. Shame I don't like his games in the first place. Oh, and don't bother putting up examples. There are simply toooooo many. :D
  • worldclasscooper - February 18, 2011 10:16 p.m.

    Well, look at movie video games. Most are pretty bad, especially when they stick DIRECTLY to the storyline, but games like heavy rain with deep, intricate, hand-made storylines built specifically for telling a drama that grips the player and makes them care for the characters. Wright is half-wright (PUNNY)
  • karner - February 18, 2011 10:12 p.m.

    I don't think he means that games don't or can't have good stories. He just means that for example, if your a writer you probably wouldn't go straight into the video game business.
  • CoryRX8 - February 18, 2011 10:08 p.m.

    He probably just finished playing Metal Gear Solid 4. I'm not saying that Mr. Wright is right (har har) but I can see someone coming to his conclusion after sitting through a 90-minute cutscene. A lot of games get story-telling right, but so many of the story-driven games with high sales numbers definitely don't.
  • festafreak - February 18, 2011 10:01 p.m.

    The games I remember best had great stories: FF3(FF6), Chrono Trigger, Half Life (all of them) and even portal's glaDOS character. These stick out and I remember them. I do not remember what I did when my city was at 4 598 people in sim city on the SNES. Spore and now this story viewpoint, I'm beginning to think Will is out of sync with gaming.

Showing 1-20 of 36 comments

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