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"Games are becoming more interstitial in our lives"

by John Gaudiosi

December 5 2011

Wright's latest venture is HiveMind, a life simulator that uses real-life data to craft a unique and personal experience
Wright's latest venture is HiveMind, a life simulator that uses real-life data to craft a unique and personal experience

One of the most famous video game designers of all time finds himself increasingly turning his attention to tablets

With over 100 million copies sold of his creations—SimCity and The Sims to name a few—Will Wright, who now heads up The Stupid Fun Club, is working on his newest title, HiveMind, which may better described as a gaming platform that is capable of harvesting real-world data about players such as interest, location, and activity, and then using this data to create a game-like experience.

Wright is playing games almost exclusively on his iPad these days, including titles like Civilization Revolution, Osmos and Blueprint. He talked about the opportunities tablets are opening up to game developers in this exclusive TabTimes interview.

What are your thoughts on the opportunities tablets are opening up to game makers today?
It took me a little while to get used to the idea of touch interface because I was always a PC gamer with a mouse, but when you have something that’s properly designed for the touch screen it’s a totally different experience than a computer.

It’s almost somewhere between the really short-term, pull it out of your pocket for 30 seconds mobile device and the kind of more session-based, sit down PC gaming experience like Counter-Strike. I think it’s an interesting gaming platform.

What does it say that the games you find yourself playing are all on tablets today?
One of the things the technology on this platform now offers in terms of presentation is that it doesn’t feel like a major step down. The screen is smaller and the imprint is more direct, but it’s not limited. The presentation of these devices feels like it is up to what I call a dedicated platform level. The music, the graphics, etc., on all these games, it’s not like you’re going back to a retro era–it’s a contemporary audiovisual experience.

What are your thoughts on the rapid iteration we’re seeing in the capabilities of these tablets?
When I think about the evolution of gaming, it seems like it’s becoming platform independent. You used to think what’s a cool Xbox 360 game this year, or what’s new on the PC or the Nintendo DS. Games tended to be much more platform-targeted.

Now it’s feeling to me like games on the iPhone or iPad or any device, you can do pretty much anything you want to for the most part. It’s also pretty much a given that these platforms are all connected now, whether it’s an Xbox or an iPad. They’re connected to the cloud, you can share stuff, etc. We will see more platform-independent IP games created. They might have very specific features, and even games where you specialize on the platform for a specific portion of the game; but it still interacts with other portions.

There might be certain things I do in a game on my iPhone that are different than things I would do in the exact same game on my PC, but I’m still playing my same game. These platforms are just all windows into the same game world.

How do you feel that this evolution in tablets is influencing you as a game creator?
For me the really interesting part is the accessibility and the awareness that these platforms potentially have. What’s intriguing is that these devices and these games are now part of your life experience, as opposed to sitting in a dark room and playing a game for an hour.

It used to be that you’d go to a dedicated piece of hardware with a dedicated block of time and go play World of Warcraft. Now it feels like games are becoming more interstitial in our lives and part of an anytime experience. If I’m standing in line I’m on my phone playing Angry Birds or something that maybe is even more relevant to where I am and what I’m doing.

In some sense, games are breaking out of the box and becoming more ubiquitous. Games are surrounding us, whether it’s on Facebook or in my pocket or back at home on my Xbox.

John Gaudiosi has been covering the videogame industry for 20 years for outlets like Reuters, The Washington Post, Forbes and The Hollywood Reporter

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