It took Will Wright seven years to complete Spore, which sold more than a million copies in the three weeks after its release. This was entirely predictable. In 1989, he released SimCity, in which play-ers assume the role of architect, urban planner, real estate developer, unelected mayor, and Jane Jacobs, and it was an immediate success, positioning Wright at the top of the video game food chain. Maxis, the company he started with his partner Jeff Braun, has gone on to create more than two dozen Sim games, including the highly addictive SimTower and the bad-dream-giving SimAnt, as well as SimFarm, SimSafari, and Sim-Health — all in addition to the blockbuster Sims series, launched in 2000 and now in its third and most ambitious iteration. In Wright’s new game, Sims 3, released this month, your avatar is free to leave the compound that limited its movement in Sims and Sims 2, so an entire neighbourhood is now yours to survey, manipulate, and obsess over.

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