Wright talks 'entertainment designer' at Siggraph

NEW ORLEANS — In his Siggraph day-two keynote address, “Spore” creator Will Wright laid out the beginnings of a “unified theory of entertainment” and challenged the gathering to look toward a future where different forms of entertainment are created by a single “entertainment designer.”

“Imagine we had a group of people who designed houses and that’s all they did, and another group of people who design skyscrapers, and another group of people who design factories — but we did not have the concept of the architect. In entertainment, it kind of feels that way. We have filmmakers over here, game designers over there. Musicians down here.”

He said “mood management theory” gives a hint at how entertainment works at the deepest level.

Viewers choose what to watch or listen to alter their mood, often in ways they aren’t conscious of. “Basically enjoying this content is causing certain brain states to occur, releasing certain hormones, endorphins and neurotransmitters in their brain. So in some sense we are drug dealers,” said Wright, getting a big laugh from his audience.

Looking at it that way, Wright said, technology that promises “better” experiences, like high-def, Imax and 3-D, can be a distraction for entertainment creators — better to focus on the impact on the brain.

“There is some artistic pushback, where a lot of the people working in this fields say if you’re not seeing my movie on the bigscreen, you’re not seeing my movie. But I don’t think consumers really care about that.”

Wright said that there should be a smooth path for fans who choose to become content creators. As an example of how this works in practice, he cited “Lost,” whose fans have studied the show in minute detail, “like archaeologists,” and posted their findings online.

“Even casual viewers can go to the website and appreciate the depth of the show, even if they weren’t the ones doing the digging. So these people are important for adding value.”

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