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 


  • MrGeppetto - February 18, 2011 8:34 p.m.

    Mass Effect series. 'Nuff said. Suck it, Wright.
  • oryandymackie - February 18, 2011 8:34 p.m.

    See Braid for answers.
  • chrisat928 - February 18, 2011 8:37 p.m.

    He meant that his games are not right for storytelling.
  • FlikNightshade - February 18, 2011 8:37 p.m.

    Spore was crap so now all games are crap as well. Okay, thanks.
  • Romination - February 18, 2011 8:38 p.m.

    See a lot of other games. Wright's a smart guy. But he comes from an era when games weren't expected to tell stories. But even John Carmack has changed his ideas and understands that they're necessary in games, and can be pretty good. So why not him?
  • JohnnyMaverik - February 18, 2011 8:38 p.m.

    Planescape Torment would like a word with Mr. Wright
  • Lacerate - February 18, 2011 8:42 p.m.

    "Games are not the right medium to tell stories," "more about story possibilities." At the moment I can't tell if he's defending games or not. Is he trying to say games are more than simple storytelling, or less? Either way it seems a bit fallacious just to say that games aren't a storytelling medium; from what we've seen from Bioware works, or just the existence of an RPG genre, games are definitely capable of telling stories.
  • MadJack - February 18, 2011 8:47 p.m.

    Coming from a man which games have everything EXCEPT stories? Bah. Wright might have made some successful games, but to me, they're all crap. I want and need stories to be involved in a game. The Sims? No story. Spore? No story at all either there. So. Blah. Get a clue Wright. Maybe you'll get something right after that. Will Wright can't tell stories. Period. That's all it boils down to. @Romination Untrue. Look at even older games like King's Quest, Police Quest, Space Quest, etc made by Sierra way back then. They all had stories, they all were successful. The era into which you decide to design games is irrelevant.
  • NotBraze - February 18, 2011 8:48 p.m.

    @MrGeppetto, I couldn't have said it better myself.
  • egregious - February 18, 2011 8:55 p.m.

    Wright subscribes to the notion that the player should be the storyteller, which is why his games have an open-ended structure to them. I can see why he wouldn't see that in a linear game, because he might think if a player is controlling a character, then technically the character can perform an action that goes against the narrative the game is trying to tell, even if a player, more often than not, wants to progress and find out what happens. I'll have to disagree with him regardless, as games have managed to combine the best of both worlds thanks to companies like BioWare. Still, I might agree that games aren't the BEST medium to tell a story, but they're still a valid medium.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - February 18, 2011 8:56 p.m.

    Games are not the IDEAL medium for storytelling, but so what? It doesn't mean that stories can't enhance one's enjoyment of a game.
  • Bloodstorm - February 18, 2011 9:04 p.m.

    No, The Sims isn't about storytelling, but there are games with plots that rival major movies and TV series.
  • dcbernman - February 18, 2011 9:23 p.m.

    The only real reason I play video games is BECAUSE of the story telling element. If I don't find the story interesting or engaging, then I probably wont play it. Maybe what he meant was that games weren't a good story telling medium for himself, in which case he'd take advantage of other mediums instead. I think we can all respect that. But anyone who implies that greats like Grandia, Final Fantasy, and the Longest Journey, among a substantial library of worthy titles, don't tell amazing stories with euphoric zest, needs to sit their ass in front of a screen for a few months and do some good honest "research."
  • 8bitBaby - February 18, 2011 9:43 p.m.

    will wright is off his rocker! what is he talking about? his games are simulations of life, THEY aren't built to tell direct stories, with plot and a beginning middle and end. games are a great way to tell stories. they're just still young, and haven't figured out the best way to tell really good stories all the time. it's a tough thing to integrate story and interactivity into an entertainment medium. with a tv show you tell the story in a straight ahead movement with a video game it can take many turns before reaching the conclusion. it's guided by the viewer and this makes it a million times more powerful a tool for story telling than he seems to give it credit for. is he jaded? i know spore didn't go as planned. in 30 years people won't even be able to think stuff like that, games will have got there proverbial legs and figured out how to run perfectly when it comes to good story. just give it time. besides, if video games weren't a good medium for telling stiories, why does his new show emulate the same concept of the "user" determining the pacing and such of the story? will wright lost the faith. too bad.
  • kingsmikefan - February 18, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    This guy doesn't tell stories with his games, so I'm not taking his input on this very seriously. Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption, Jak II. Shut up, Wright.
  • Ampatent - February 18, 2011 10 p.m.

    "Hurr Durr, I didn't read the article... let me tell you why Will Wright is a moron by listing off a bunch of games with stories". Seriously...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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)

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