Thursday, April 09, 2009

Stupid Fun Club

[Chris Kohler let me know that Will Wright actually started SFC in 2001, and it's doing cutting-edge research in robotics, among other things]

It was reported yesterday that Will Wright is leaving EA:
The designer behind The Sims and Spore has left Electronic Arts, the publisher announced today, starting a new "think tank" known as Stupid Fun Club, a venture that has EA's backing.

...Stupid Fun Club will be "an entertainment think tank developing new Intellectual Properties to be deployed across multiple fronts including video games, movies, television, the internet, and toys," according to the official press release on the matter. It will allow Wright to "explore new projects" and EA retains the right to develop games based on Stupid Fun Club projects.

I've thought it was increasingly curious that Will Wright never defended Spore after it was released (or, if he did, I didn't see it). This game was presented as "the big one" early on, and the presentations he gave about the game made people's heads explode (in a good way). The final game, though, didn't seem to have very much of that head-exploding goodness. Instead, it seemed to mostly be an electronic coat rack from which expansion packs could be conveniently hung.

There was some quite blistering criticism of the game, but it went unanswered. Yes, it's speculation, but it seems fair to say that based on his reaction, Will Wright was well-distanced emotionally from the game he seemed so excited to create by the time it shipped.

I'm not criticizing Will Wright. I really, really like and admire Will Wright. But I think there's a point where the machinery around someone can prevent them from being themselves. In other words, Will Wright may have created Spore, but he couldn't control the development process, and the massive expectations and hype turned him, to some degree, into someone else.

At that point, very few people are smart enough to step away, to turn away from the hype. Yet it appears that Will Wright is one of those few people, and I hope that a smaller company and smaller projects (which is certainly what Stupid Fun Club sounds like) will enable more of his unique qualities to be embedded in his games.

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