Ivan Allen College Honors Video Games Pioneer

2005 Ivan Allen Prize for Progress and Service to Creator of The Sims and SimCity

Each year the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech presents the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service to an individual demonstrating exemplary contributions to a discipline related to the College's academic mission. On March 15 at 1 p.m., the College will honor Will Wright, designer of some of the most popular video games, including The Sims, SimCity, SimEarth and SimAnt.

After the award presentation, Wright will give a keynote address. Wright joins past distinguished recipients of the Prize: Senator Zell Miller in 2001, President Jimmy Carter in 2002, syndicated columnist Molly Ivins in 2003, and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn in 2004. The program takes place at The Biltmore in the Georgian Ballroom on West Peachtree near Technology Square. Doors will open at 12:50 p.m.; the public is invited to attend.

Wright's selection to receive the 2005 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service reflects the robust digital media program in the College's School of Literature, Communication and Culture (LCC). The school offers several undergraduate and graduate degrees in digital media, including the nation's first doctoral program. The LCC faculty collaborates extensively with faculty in the College of Computing and the interdisciplinary Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center (GVU).

"Will Wright was selected because his life and his work reflect the values of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service," says Janet Murray, professor and director of graduate studies in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture. "Will is a child of Atlanta who grew up to make a landmark game in which the player's role is to serve as a mayor-engineer.

"His games use sophisticated computing techniques to advance our understanding of the world. He exemplifies creativity in digital media, using the powerful affordances of computation to make complex games that help us to better understand a complex world.

"He has said that he would rather create communities than games, by which he means that he is constantly trying to give players more powerful tools for making their own places, their own characters, their own story worlds, and then sharing them with one another."

The celebration continues on Wednesday, March 16 with an all day symposium - Living Games World - honoring Will Wright and the tenth anniversary of digital media degree programs at Georgia Tech. Wright will participate in several sessions, and panels will feature experts from industry and academia discussing issues such as the future of entertainment, creativity and narrative and game worlds. Representatives from industry include Electronic Arts (EA), Turner Broadcasting, Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences, Klaus Entertainment, Schematic and more. The day closes with demos and exhibits. The detailed agenda is available online at http://gameworlds.gatech.edu.

Will Wright, Chief Designer and Founder, Maxis
Will Wright co-founded Maxis in 1987. Wright began working on what would become SimCity-The City Simulator in 1985. SimCity was released in 1989, and has since won 24 domestic and international awards. Wright co-designed SimEarth-The Living Planet in 1990. In 1991, Wright co-designed SimAnt-The Electronic Ant Colony. SimCity 2000 and SimCopter are also part of Wright's recent repertoire. SimCity 3000 Unlimited, the definitive version of 1999's best-selling game SimCity 3000, continued in the tradition. The long-awaited 4th generation, SimCity 4, was released in January 2003. SimCity 4's first expansion pack, SimCity 4 Rush Hour, and SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition were shipped in September 2003.

Wright's groundbreaking game, The Sims, puts players in charge of the lives of a neighborhood of simulated people. Released in February of 2000, this wildly popular title has become a cultural phenomenon. The Sims has inspired six expansion packs. Livin' Large, House Party, Vacation, Unleashed and Superstar allow players to put their simulated families into new extreme situations and settings. The final expansion pack, Makin' Magic, was released in October 2003. Taking its bow in December 2002 was Wright's much anticipated The Sims Online, which was featured in a cover story in Newsweek Magazine. The next generation of The Sims PC products debuted in September 2004 with The Sims 2, which became the fastest selling PC game ever selling more than a million copies in the first ten days worldwide.

In 1999, Wright was included in Entertainment Weekly's "It List" of "the 100 most creative people in entertainment" as well as Time Digital's "Digital 50," a listing of "the most important people shaping technology today." In 2002, he was #35 on Entertainment Weekly's Power List and was also inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame. In 2003, Wright was featured in Game Informer's 'Top 10 Developer List of 2003.' Each year Wright, along with his daughter Cassidy, takes part in the annual Battlebot competition, which was broadcast nationally on Comedy Central. His interest in plastic models of ships and airplanes during his childhood in Georgia eventually led to his designing computer models of cities, ecosystems and ant colonies. In fact, Wright lived in Atlanta until he was 9, when his father - William R. Wright, a chemical engineer and 1954 graduate of Georgia Tech - died at an untimely young age.

Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
The Ivan Allen College is named for the late Ivan Allen Jr., who represented the essence of "the new South" and, among other achievements, is credited with helping ease racial tension in Atlanta during his two terms as mayor. Each year in March - coinciding with Mayor Allen's birthday - the College honors its namesake by presenting the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service to a distinguished public figure.