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How Will Wright and SimCity shaped the course of game dev history

In a new Digital Antiquarian blog video game history buff Jimmy Maher runs down how Will Wright's upbringing led him to create SimCity -- and how it went on to shape generations of game developers.

Alex Wawro, Contributor

June 10, 2016

2 Min Read

"You can see traces of SimCity in many if not most of the games we play today, from casual social games to hardcore CRPG and strategy titles. Sid Meier, when asked in 2008 to name the three most important innovations in the history of electronic gaming, listed the invention of the PC, the Nintendo Seal of Quality… and, yes, SimCity."

- Computer game history buff Jimmy Maher.

SimCity has influenced countless game developers since its inaugural 1989 release, and now the Digital Antiquarian has published a nice feature about the history of the game and its creator, Will Wright.

Efforts like these are worth celebrating because they preserve accounts of game development history that might otherwise be lost. Take this anecdoate, for example, about how the original Maxis Software was born out of a "pizza party for game developers" thrown in 1987 by future Maxis cofounder Jeff Braun -- and attended by a very dispirited Will Wright.

"Will is a very shy guy, and he was sitting by himself, and I felt sorry for him," Braun reportedly recalled, noting that he approached Wright and was immediately interested in the pitch for SimCity -- a pitch Wright had been trying (and failing) to pitch to various publishers for some time. "Will kept saying that this won’t work, that no one likes it."

Braun thought it would work, and he was right: the pair went on to cofound Maxis and release the game on everything from the Macintosh to the Amiga to MS-DOS, to huge success. By Maher's estimation, the game has sold well over a million copies and continued to sell even after a successful sequel, SimCity 2000, was released.  

"I never thought SimCity would have a broad appeal," Wright once told Replay author Tristen Donovan. "I thought it might appeal to a few architects and city planner types, but not average people."

Decades later, fellow game industry luminary Sid Meier would go on publicly recognize SimCity at a a press event as one of the most important achievements in the history of video games, because its success showed game designers they could create open-ended games that were about creating things, rather than destroying them.

All of this and more is detailed in depth over on the Digital Antiquarian blog, which is well worth reading.

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