P: The possibility of Spore as an educational tool and the release of experimental software on the fringes of Spore. Do you see this as the beginning of a thrust towards outreach in education? More so than in other games.
WW: Well actually we’ve done that a lot over the years. Back before Electronic Arts bought Maxis, we published teacher guides for all of our things. We had a set of teachers that would come in twice a year and talk about how they’re using their games in their classrooms and stuff. There’s been a major change in the way education is approaching computers and the way kids think about and use computers. I think that nowadays, especially with something like Spore, that wants to be primarily entertainment, that I see the value of these things much more in the realm of motivation than education. I’m much more interested in this point in getting kids motivated to be interested in all these different fields whether they’re science fields, cultural, engineering or whatever. They have plenty of opportunities and resources to go out there and do further study and learn about these things. If you can get them fundamentally interested in them to begin with. And so that’s, I think, more of my agenda, than overtly trying to pour facts into their head.
P: To create something that encourages further exploration.
WW: And I’ve already heard from a lot of people that will come to me and say, “Oh, I became a civil engineer because I played SimCity when I was twelve.” So I’ve been making games long enough now that I’ve actually seen a lot of people growing up being inspired by games and it fundamentally influenced the career path they take. And if you talk to any scientist, actually, they’ll have some story about the one little thing that got them into science—they’ll have a very personal story about this one thing. And it wasn’t flash cards or necessarily even a book, but it was usually some entertaining interaction they had with the real world that got them fundamentally thinking, “Oh, this is way cool. I want to go down this path.” And that’s how most scientists wind up where they are.
One day I’d like to greet Will and let him know I’ve become a mayor. Of course, that isn’t going to happen. I was a horrible mayor in the game, always causing problems and disaster. Not to mention the constant cheating…yeah…I don’t think I’ll be telling Will anything anytime soon.