William Ralph "Will" Wright (born January 20, 1960 in Atlanta, Georgia) is an American video game designer and co-founder of the game development company Maxis, now part of Electronic Arts. In April 2009 he left Electronic Arts to run "Stupid Fun Club", an entertainment think tank in which Wright and EA are principal shareholders.[1][2][3]

The first computer game Wright designed was Raid on Bungeling Bay in 1984 but it was SimCity that brought him to prominence. The game was released by Maxis, a company Wright formed with Jeff Braun, and he built upon the game's theme of computer simulation with numerous other titles including SimEarth and SimAnt.

Wright's greatest success to date came as the original designer for The Sims games series which, as of 2009, is the best-selling PC game in history. The game spawned multiple sequels and expansions and Wright earned many awards for his work. His latest work, Spore, was released in September 2008 and features gameplay based upon the model of evolution and scientific advancement [4]. The game sold 406,000 copies within three weeks of its release.[5]


He was born as William Ralph Wright on January 20, 1960 in Atlanta. He is of French, English, Italian, and Native American descent.


After graduating at 16 from Episcopal High School, he enrolled in Louisiana State University, transferring two years later to Louisiana Tech. Beginning with a start at an architecture degree, followed by mechanical engineering, he fell into computers and robotics. He excelled in subjects he was interested in—architecture, economics, mechanical engineering, and military history—but was held back by his impractical goals such as language arts. His earlier dream of space colonization remained, and was joined by a love for robotics. After another two years at Louisiana Tech, in the fall of 1980, Wright moved on to The New School in Manhattan. He lived in an apartment over Balducci’s, in Greenwich Village, and spent his spare time searching for spare parts in local electronics surplus stores. After one year at the New School, Wright returned to Baton Rouge without his degree,[6] concluding five years of collegiate study.[7]

During a summer break from college, he met his first wife Joell Jones, an artist currently living in California, on vacation to her hometown of Baton Rouge. In an interview published in February 2003, Will claims that games were absorbing so much of his time, he decided that perhaps making games was the way to go. Wright's first game was the helicopter action game Raid on Bungeling Bay (1984) for the Commodore 64.

Wright found that he had more fun creating levels with his level editor for Raid on Bungeling Bay than he had while actually playing the game. He created a new game that would later evolve into SimCity, but he had trouble finding a publisher. The structuralist dynamics of the game were in part inspired by the work of two architectural and urban theorists, Christopher Alexander and Jay Forrester.

I'm interested in the process and strategies for design. The architect Christopher Alexander, in his book A Pattern Language formalized a lot of spatial relationships into a grammar for design. I'd really like to work toward a grammar for complex systems and present someone with tools for designing complex things.[8]

Wright, in an interview with The Times, expressed belief that computers extend the imagination, and posits the emergence of the "metabrain", stating:

"Any human institutional system that draws on the intelligence of all its members is a metabrain. Up to now, we have had high friction between the neurons of the metabrain; technology is lowering that friction tremendously. Computers are allowing us to aggregate our intelligence in ways that were never possible before. If you look at Spore, people are making this stuff, and computers collect it, then decide who to send it to. The computer is the broker. What they are really exploring is the collective creativity of millions of people. They are aggregating human intelligence into a system that is more powerful than we thought artificial intelligence was going to be."[9]

Game designer

In 1986, he met Jeff Braun, an investor interested in entering the computer game industry, at what Wright calls "the world's most important pizza party." Together they formed Maxis the next year in Orinda, California. SimCity (1989) was a hit and has been credited as one of the most influential computer games ever made. Wright himself has been widely featured in several computer magazines—particularly PC Gamer, which has listed Wright in its annual 'Game Gods' feature, alongside such notables as Roberta Williams and Peter Molyneux.

Following the success of SimCity, Wright designed SimEarth (1990) and SimAnt (1991). He co-designed SimCity 2000 (1993) with Fred Haslam and in the meantime Maxis produced other "Sim" games. Wright's next game was SimCopter (1996). Although none of these games were as successful as SimCity, they further cemented Wright's reputation as a designer of "software toys"—games that cannot be won or lost. In 1992, Wright and his family moved to Orinda, California.

Maxis went public in 1995 with revenue of USD$38 million. The stock reached $50 a share and then dropped as Maxis posted a loss. Electronic Arts bought Maxis in June 1997. Wright had been thinking about making a virtual doll house ever since the early 90s, similar to SimCity but focused on individual people. Originally conceived of as an architectural design game called Home Tactics, Wright's idea changed when someone suggested the player should be rated on the quality of life experience by the homeowners. It was a difficult idea to sell to EA, because already 40% of Maxis's employees had been laid off.

EA published The Sims in February 2000 and it became Wright's biggest success yet. It eventually surpassed Myst as the best-selling computer game of all time and spawned numerous expansion packs and other games. He designed a massively multiplayer version of the game called The Sims Online, which was not as popular as the original.

In a presentation at the Game Developers Conference on March 11, 2005, he announced his latest game Spore.[10] He used the current work on this game to demonstrate methods that can be used to reduce the amount of content that needs to be created by the game developers. Wright hopes to inspire others to take risks in game creation.

Wright will appear as a character in the video game the Mr. T, where he will team up with Mr. T to fight Nazis.[11]


Wright was given a "Lifetime Achievement Award" at the Game Developers Choice Awards in 2001. In 2002, he became the fifth person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame. Until 2006, he was the only person to have been honored this way by both of these industry organizations. In 2007 the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awarded him a fellowship, the first given to a game designer.[12]

He has been called one of the most important people in gaming, technology, and entertainment by publications such as Entertainment Weekly, Time, PC Gamer, Discover and GameSpy. Wright was also awarded the PC Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2005.

Also he received the first "GAMER GOD" award in 2009.[citation needed]

Personal interests

In 1980, along with co-driver and race organizer Rick Doherty, Wright participated in the U.S. Express, a cross-country race that was the successor to The Cannonball Run. Wright and Doherty drove a specially outfitted Mazda RX-7 from Brooklyn, New York to Santa Monica, California in 33:39, winning the illegal race. Wright only competed once in the race, which continued until 1983.[13]

Since 2003, in his spare time, Wright has collected leftovers from the Soviet space program, "including a 100-pound hatch from a space shuttle, a seat from a Soyuz… control panels from the Mir",[14] and the control console of the Soyuz 23,[6] as well as dolls, dice, and fossils.[14] During E3 2004 he passed off an old lapel pin commemorating the Soviet space program to a reporter.

I'm uncollecting. I buy collections on ebay, and I disperse them out to people again. I have to be like an entropic force to collectors, otherwise all of this stuff will get sorted.[14]

He once built competitive robots for BattleBots with his daughter,[15] but no longer does so. As of November 2006, Wright still had remnant bits of machined metal left over from his BattleBots days strewn about the garage of his Oakland home.[6] Wright was a former Robot Wars champion in the Berkeley-based robotics workshop, the Stupid Fun Club.[14] One of Wright's bots, designed with the help of Wright's daughter Cassidy, "Kitty Puff Puff", fought against its opponents by sticking a roll of gauze onto its armature and circling around them, encapsulating them and denying them movement. The technique, "cocooning", was eventually banned.[6]

Following his work in BattleBots, he has taken steps into the field of human-robot interactions.

We build these robots and we take them down to Berkeley and study the interactions that people have with the robots," says Wright. "We built this newer one that has a rapid-fire pingpong cannon. It will fire about 10 per second. So we give people this plastic bat and we say, 'It's set up to play baseball. Do you want to play baseball? It's going to shoot a little ball and you try to hit it.' And all of a sudden it's like da-da-da-da, and it's pelting them with balls.[14]

Wright has donated to Republican candidates and committees and supported John McCain for President in the 2008 US Presidential Election. [16]

Games designed by Wright

See also


  1. ""Will Wright Leaves EA, Does Something Stupid"". Kotaku. 2009-04-08. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  2. "Stupid Fun News". 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  3. Stewart, Kemuel (2008-04-08). "Will Wright Leaves Electronic Arts". GamerCenterOnline. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  4. Margaret Robertson (9/8/08). "The Creation Simulation". Seed.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. Gibson, Ellie (2008-09-25). "September Sales 08". Eurogamer.  Text " " ignored (help);
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Seabrook, John (2006-11-06). "Game Master". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  7. Yi, Matthew. "PROFILE: Will Wright: Unsimulated success". San Francisco Chronicle. November 3, 2003.
  8. Kelly, Kevin. "Will Wright. The Mayor of Sim City". Wired, 1994
  9. Bryan Appleyard (2008-03-16). "Bryan Appleyard tries out Spore and creates his own species". The Times (London). 
  10. "Spore Gameplay Video". 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  11. Zootfly Announces Mr. T Games
  12. "Will Wright inducted into BAFTA Fellowship". Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  13. Sims Designer Had the Wright Stuff for Street Racing Way Back When from Wired
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Kent, Stephen L. (2001-05-22). "'Sims' creator is Livin' Large". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  15. Pearce, Celia (2001-11-05). "Sims, BattleBots, Cellular Automata God and Go". Game Studies. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  16. "Spore's Intelligent Designer" from

Further reading

External links


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