Spooky! Will Wright joins the LL Board

(A semi-lighthearted look at the arrival of the newest member of Linden Lab’s Board)

Last week’s Phoenix Hour had something of a cryptic start, allowing for the fact this is the season of Halloween. As the show opened, Phaylen drew attention to the fact she was wearing a green gem over her head.

The “Simified” Phaylen Fairchild

“D’you seen the little green thing above my head? It’s time, ladies and gentlemen, for Halloween; so this year I thought I’d do something extra special and spectacular and arrive on stage as something we’ve all come to love  – a Sim!”

The mystery apparently deepened when Jessica cryptically commented:

“It’s actually interesting that you have The Sims theme. I have this feeling that we might be seeing more of The Sims theme in the future…”

Now, I admit I’ve never played The Sims; I’m genuinely not into computer games per se. However, I am aware (Google is still sometimes my friend) that a green gem is very much associated with that game.

What’s more, I’d venture to say that The Sims isn’t somthing people would size upon as a theme for a Halloween costume. Well, not in my household and neighbourhood at least; around here it’s more sheet-over-the head, Dracula, witches and zombies – but then, this is  rural England…!

The Sims Logo (TM & C EA Games)

Of course, the comments were more than likely made in complete innocence and sans any deeper meaning than referencing the season itself (by Phaylen) and perhaps concern over the yet-to-be-released new UI (from Jessica).

Howeverm the comments did prove to be remarkably prescient, because it now appears that at some point (possibly during the last week*), and entirely on the Q.T., none other than Will Wright joined the Board of Linden Lab.

Will Wright is, of course, the man originally behind the massively-successful The Sims – hence the precient nature of Phaylen’s and Jessica’s comments.

The Sims, as we all know, is also a game that is very dear to the heart of one Rod Humble, who worked on both The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, as well as serving as EA Games’ Executive Vice President and Head of The Sims Label.

Will Wright speaking at the Games Developer’s Conference in 2010

Just how involved Wright will be in Linden Lab’s development and direction is far from clear, as Tateru Nino notes in commenting on his arrival.

The Board as a whole has been very quiet since mid-2010, in marked contrast to the past, where they appeared to be far more vocal in matters relating to Second Life, with Bill Gurley making statements as regards the platform in 2009, and most famously, Mitch Kapor for his 2008 SL8B address, which could best be summed as an attempt at a, “So long and thanks for all the fish,” kind-of farewell to the user community as efforts were made to push SL aggressively towards becoming a “business application”.

Of course, a quiet Board doesn’t mean an uninvolved Board, so it will be interesting to read precisely what Tateru can ease out of LL by way of comments on Wright’s arrival and possible contribution / involvement in the company’s development.

Certainly, Wright and Humble have much in common. Humble, as we know, is very focused on “creative spaces”, and Wright has always been fascinated by what he dubbed “possibility spaces”; and Hamlet Au notes that Wright himself sees MMOs very much as environments that should encourage user creativity – which could be taken as a very positive sign for Second Life.

Quite when he joined the Board is unclear – there was no Press Release or other form of announcement, possibly by mutual agreement that this should be the case; something that is not actually as unusual as one might expect in these matters.

Was there a hint at all anywhere that this was happening / about to happen? Did it in fact occur after The Phoenix Hour was broadcast on the 18th? If either is the case (and to return to a more lighthearted frame again) then given the season, there is only one way to respond to Phaylen’s and Jessica’s opening comments in the show in light of what has happened…

Spooky!

In the meantime, and more seriously, welcome to the wacky world of Second Life and Linden Lab, Mr. Wright!

*Thanks to Ciaran for his observation that Will Wright may have joined LL in August and we all missed it!

11 thoughts on “Spooky! Will Wright joins the LL Board

  1. Back in the day, I was part of a very vibrant TheSims2 user community that created content for the game. Playing TheSims2 could be fun but creating for it was fantastic. I always thought it was brilliant that Maxis/EA had developed an environment where the users could also be content providers.

    Unfortunately with TheSims3 the EA attitude seemed to change and it became all about furthering “the story” rather than making the actual objects themselves. This was how I and many of my fellow TheSims2 creators ended up in SecondLife, a place where you can create and even sell your merchandise if you are so inclined.

    It’s interesting to see first Rod Humble and now Will Wright “follow” us here to SecondLife. I just hope that they can see that this is much more than a place to “roleplay your story” and act accordingly.

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  2. Now I’m completely baffled!!

    Back in 2003, Robin Harper left EA after her fantastic work promoting The Sims because she thought that Maxis somehow needed to do a lot more with The Sims, and when she saw Philip and Cody presenting Second Life, she immediately saw that “this was it — everything that Maxis/EA needed to have in The Sims but had no clue how to do it”. Of course, EA is massively mainstream, and Second Life in 2003 was definitely not ready for the mainstream, thus the conservative stance at EA…

    Eight years later, Robin is gone but Linden Lab is headed by Humble, and Will Wright is at the Board of LL. Now this is not spooky, it’s scary! Second Life is still not ready for the mainstream (and I argue it will never be), but now we know that LL is developing a “new” thing…

    And they’re toying with AIs to control NPCs… something that Will Wright is excellent at doing…

    Will’s “Spore” had been launched as a “SL killer” in 2008, with huge hype over the years preceding the launch, but failed to gain traction. It wasn’t a financial failure (rather the contrary, it sold well enough to pay all development costs and make a small profit), but it definitely didn’t redefine the gaming industry (like most of Will Wright’s previous games have done).

    What in Earth’s name is happening?? Is Linden Lab planning to become the Maxis of the 2010s, and join forces with EA as a distributor?

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    1. I’m not going to delive into deeper meaning; it gets too much like a headache. I did find reading-up on Spore while preparing the above to be interesting – and Will Wright’s background overall.

      Will he be a driving force within the Board? Unclear. Does this signifiy something deeper for LL? Quite possibly – it seems pretty clear their new products (whatever they turn out to be, beyond Rod’s comments that they will involve shared creative spaces), are being aimed at the mainstream market (tablets, mobile technology, etc) – so is Will Wright coming to the table to provide mainstream experience to help guide the company through the development and launch of said products?

      Rod is obviously no slouch in the gaming world, and he and Wright would potentially make a formable combination were LL to look to some kind of distribution deal for the the new products. This is something I wouldn’t put beyond the bounds of possibility – I very much doubt LL themselves have the wherewithal to aggresively drive a new product into the mainstream gaming consciousness and market it to a global audience.

      EA distributing SL itself, tho? Can’t see that – at least, not the SL we know and use; although there is the question mark hovering over the so-called “SL Lite” (if that comes to pass)….

      It’s a fair little conundrum.

      I’ve read comments elsewhere about LL being “prepared” for an EA take-over / buy-out ever since Rod Humble came on-board; can’t see it myself, but this news is probably going to set of another round of such speculation.

      I bet Rod is having a right giggle (and no doubt jabbing Mr. Wright gently in the ribs) as he reads the emerging thoughts and theories (and possible conspiracy theoiries!). But it is going to be interesting to see where this goes…

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  3. I used to tell Robin to get Will Wright onboard.

    He has been listed as being a board member since at least the end of August. I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned more widely since then.

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    1. Really?

      I’m sure I looked at the Board list last month and can’t say I noticed his name as a stand-out. Then again, I probably wouldn’t…!

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        1. You should!

          See? Both of them. Together. They’ve just put other people between themselves to give an appearance that it’s “just” a BAFTA do! 🙂

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