Writing Machines is the course website for English 170L at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
I've been getting a bit back-logged on my magazine reading in the past couple weeks, so the Thanksgiving-break flight-time was an awesome opportunity to catch up.
I was reading in The New Yorker about video games, rather surprisingly. Actually the article is about game designers--more specifically Sim City (and more) designer Will Wright.
It was funny to read, especially in the context of our discussions last week about the role of the gamer vs. the role of the game designer. The article definitely manages to present Wright as an author, or at least, perhaps, as an artist.
They talked a lot about where Wright got his inspiration. Among other things, Wright read a book on urban design -- "Urban Dynamics", by Jay Forrester--which argued that "urban planning could be carried out more rationally by a computer simulation than by humans, because a computer wouldn't be blinded by intuitive biases." It was this book (plus an old, 1970s game about cells) that inspired Wright to design "Sim City."
"The Sims," on the other hand, was born more directly out of Wright's personal life--he and his wife had a girl, and shortly thereafter they lost their house in firestorm. Out of these two influence (small female + no possessions) he created what he called "an object oriented operating system" that was supposed to be "a parody of consumerism." I got a bit offended when they harped upon how this game caused a huge influx of girl gamers (girls are only attracted by consumerism?), but it was interesting. Both of Wright's games found their audiences: Sim City attracted all the "megalomaniacs who want to rule the world" and The Sims managed to appeal to the other half of the population.
Indeed, it's funny to think how games are born. They are like stories or paintings--events in some one's life, interests, experiences, they all get combined to form this complex end-product. Now, of course, there's a lot of wizadry that goes on in between, but it was the first time I'd seen game-making and game-maker presented as art and artist, respectively.
Maybe this idea is breaking out of gamer culture and hitting mainstream?