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Published February 18, 2010

Earlier this week, legendary game designer Will Wright delivered his keynote speech at the Engage! Expo in New York City. In addition to talking about the potential of games as “toys,” he apparently blew up a Barbie doll and kept the lid (mostly) sealed on his Stupid Fun Club. While this event made a few headlines, he also made a less-publicized visit to NYU last night. Wright’s speech, sponsored by the Games for Learning Institute, undoubtedly covered similar material, but here are a few tidbits that I found interesting…

  •  There were a few technical hiccups prior to the speech, so Wright offered to answer a few audience questions. When asked about why educational and serious games are typically lame, he replied that this is primarily tied to craftsmanship. Serious game developers are going for the most obvious depictions of real-world crises, but those are rarely the most fun. For example, he suggested that rather than controlling a Peace Corps member trying to prevent the spread of a deadly disease, it might be more fun to put the player in the “shoes” of the virus.
  • Wright talked a bit about allowing more opportunities for failure. While classrooms emphasize testing and theoretical understanding, games allow for more practical applications. He suggested that this requires trusting the minds of young people, but that games haven’t been around long enough for this to take hold in classrooms.
  • Another interesting comparison: Robert Louis Stevenson plotted out “Treasure Island” by looking at a map and playing everything out in his mind before ever setting a pen to paper. Wright followed this up by talking about his crazier experiences in Grand Theft Auto IV. Even looking at box art, the player creates rough adventures in his mind before making a purchase.
  • As for where Stupid Fun Club is heading, he was again tight-lipped, but he does believe that emphasis on immersion will be superseded, at least for now, by games like Wii Sports and Rock Band. Here, it’s as much fun to watch someone play as it is to play yourself. Also, more of the usual talk of turning players into creators. (Spore)

Unfortunately, Wright was then rushed off stage because he had exceeded his time limit. The guy speaks pretty damn quickly, but a lot of slides still had to be cut off. Oh well. If you’ve read any interviews with the guy, much of this is stuff he’s said before, but it was still exciting to hear this nerd hero.

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