Will Wright's Top 8

Several monitors played looped gameplay footage from Grand Theft Auto III right next to the display for Super Mario World. Talk about an odd couple. We watched closely for scenes of gratuitous cop killing, but the clips were limited to brief scenes of Claude doing pretty mundane things like running and driving around the city.

In a way, it was nice to get a level headed description of why GTA’s design works so well from Wright without any mention of the hysteria over the ability to kill prostitutes and police officers. “It is an amazingly consistent world with a surprisingly simple interface, and as a player, I can do a very large percentage of things that occur to me: I can go into the cars, I can interact with people or things that I just find on the ground, like a gun or a bike… I want the world in my head to feel plausible, but I don’t want to have to think about the underlying numbers or rules. GTA does a really good job of keeping that plausibility going,” explains Wright.

Above: The mature content in the Grand Theft Auto series was not addressed at KRAZY!

Still it was a bit disappointing that the display didn’t address the issue of the public’s reaction to violence and sex in mature rated games like GTA when they are accepted as the norm in other mediums such as film and literature. After all, we can’t think of a more appropriate place to discuss these topics than the KRAZY! art exhibit.

Wright likens playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker to “being dropped into a very elaborate book.” While other game makers were striving to make their games look more realistic at the time, Wind Waker avoided the Uncanny Valley trap by being one of the first games to employ cel-shading, giving the title its unique look.

“Wind Waker has a very artistic look to it, and at first some players were turned off; Nintendo wasn’t following the same path as everybody else – they were falling back to what people saw as a cartoonish sort of look… Visually it was one of the first games to steer away from realism towards a more expressive style, and I think we are going to see more of that in the future,” says Wright.

Although the playable Wind Waker display took the backseat to the Pac-Man and Super Mario World stations, the game’s cartoonish aesthetic fits perfectly when viewed in the context of the rest of the show with giant sitting rooms projecting scenes from classic anime on the walls, manga reading rooms, and reprints of classic cartoon strips from the 1920s.

Spore will be an ‘every game,’ with elements borrowed from various genres and a design that encourages players to create a universe of their own. While speaking about Spore at past press conferences, Wright isn’t shy to credit other games for inspiration. In fact, it’s telling that many of the games and elements of design he’s associated with each of Spore’s various phases are present in his section of the exhibit at KRAZY!. And this makes it seem like a fitting way to wrap things up.

Pac-Man, Diablo, Populous, Civilization, SimCity, Destroy All Humans!, and others have all been credited as influences on various aspects of Spore’s design. “In a sense Spore is establishing a trend line for the future, in which the player is directly involved in building the game at a deeper and deeper level. We want to provide the player with very simple tools that he or she can use to build anything; we want to make every aspect of the world malleable so that the player creates everything, from microscopic cells to entire planets,” explains Wright.

Above: Although Wright was reluctant to include The Sims and Spore in the games section at KRAZY!, both titles were on display

After leaving the Spore display, we can’t help but feel that Wright wants players to connect with the creatures they’ve created in the same way that they did with Pac-Man, that he hopes players take his game and create their own works of art like they did with QUAKE machinima, and that these works will later evolve into flourishing social communities like they did with The Sims.

By limiting each of the curators to only seven or eight works, it’s inevitable that some important titles would be left out in the computer and video games section. Although Wright managed to pick a nice mix of landmark titles to represent important advances in the past, present and future of gaming, there are some glaring omissions like the absence of entire genres like role-playing games, real-time strategies and MMOs, for example. But the titles that were present and their reasons for being there all fit together nicely and the displays on exhibit were a pleasure to view.

We highly recommend KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art to anyone with any interest in gaming. But in the meantime, you can read more about Will Wright and other handsome game designers by checking out ourTop 10 sexy sexy game gurus.

May 20, 2008