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Will Wright’s bibliography

The recent New Yorker piece on Will Wright is a thorough profile of the game designer, but also functions as a bibliography of sorts for the games he’s created over the past 20 years. Bibliographies are something normally reserved for books, but Wright draws much of the inspiration for his games from articles, books, papers, and other games that a list of further reading/playing in the instruction booklet for SimCity wouldn’t feel out of place. Because I like utilizing bibliographies โ€” they allow you to get into the head of an author and see how they sampled & remixed the original ideas to create something new โ€” I’ve created one for Will Wright. Sources are grouped by game; general influences are listed seperately.

The Game of Life, John Conway.

Montessori school. “It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori โ€” if you give people this model for building cities, they will abstract from it principles of urban design.”

Urban Dynamics - Jay Wright Forrester. “This study of urban dynamics was undertaken principally because of discoveries made in modeling the growth process of corporations. It has become clear that complex systems are counterintuitive. That is, they give indications that suggest corrective action which will often be ineffective or even adverse in its results. Very often one finds that the policies that have been adopted for correcting a difficulty are actually intensifying it rather than producing a solution.”

World Dynamics - Jay Wright Forrester.

The Sims
A Pattern Language - Christopher Alexander. “By understanding recurrent design problems in our environment, readers can identify extant patterns in their own design projects and use these patterns to create a language of their own. Extraordinarily thorough, coherent, and accessible, this book has become a bible for homebuilders, contractors, and developers who care about creating healthy, high-level design.”

A Theory of Human Motivation - Abraham Maslow. Paper on human behavior and motivation.

Maps of the Mind - Charles Hampden-Turner.

Other Sim Games
Gaia hypothesis - James Lovelock. “The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological theory that proposes that the living matter of planet Earth functions like a single organism.”

The Ants - E.O. Wilson. “This is the definitive scientific study of one of the most diverse animal groups on earth; pretty well everything that is known about ants is in this massive work.”

Powers of Ten - Charles and Ray Eames. “The film starts on a picnic blanket in Chicago and zooms out 10x every 10 seconds until the entire universe (more or less) is visible. And then they zoom all the way back down into the nucleus of an atom. A timeless classic.”

Drake Equation - Frank Drake. “Dr. Frank Drake conceived a means to mathematically estimate the number of worlds that might harbor beings with technology sufficient to communicate across the vast gulfs of interstellar space.”

SETI. “The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.”

2001: A Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick.

Panspermia - Freeman Dyson. “This approach was directly inspired by Freeman Dyson’s notion of Panspermia - the idea that life on earth may have been seeded via meteors carrying microscopic “spores” of life from other planets. (Dyson’s concept is also the origin of the game’s title.)”

The Life of the Cosmos - Lee Smolin. “[Smolin’s] theory of cosmic evolution by the natural selection of black-hole universes makes what we can experience into an infinitesimal, yet crucial, part of an ever-larger whole.”

The Anthropic Cosmological Principle - John Barrow, Frank Tipler, and John Wheeler. “Is there any connection between the vastness of the universes of stars and galaxies and the existence of life on a small planet out in the suburbs of the Milky Way?”

The demoscene. “The demoscene was originally limited by the hardware and storage capabilities of their target machines (16/32 bit micros such as the Atari and the Amiga ran on floppy disks), they developed intricate algorithms to produce large amounts of content from very little initial data.”

General influences
PanzerBlitz - Avalon Hill. “PanzerBlitz is a tactical-scale board wargame of tank, artillery, and infantry combat set in the Eastern Front of the Second World War.”

Super Mario Bros. - Shigeru Miyamoto. “[SMB] encouraged exploration for its own sake; in this regard, it was less like a competitive game than a ‘software toy’ โ€” a concept that influenced Will Wright’s notion of possibility space. ‘The breadth and the scope of the game really blew me away,’ Wright told me. ‘It was made out of these simple elements, and it worked according to simple rules, but it added up to this very complex design.”

Go. “[Go] is a strategic, zero-sum, deterministic board game of perfect information.”


Sources: Game Master, The Long Zoom, Master of the Universe, Interview: Suzuki and Wright, Spore entry at Wikipedia, Will Wright entry at SporeWiki, Will Wright Interview.

Update: This interview with Wright at Game Studies contains a list of references from the conversation, many of which have influenced Wright’s body of work. (thx, phil)