We actually have a lot of stories of people playing with their 3-year-olds in their laps. It was a really interesting partnership, because you have the adult with the hand-eye coordination, and you have the kid with the imagination. And the kid doesn't have the hand-eye coordination, and the adult doesn't have the imagination, but together, they had a lot of fun playing with it.
PC games seem like artifacts from the past, now that so many games are console-based and work with Nintendo's Wii and Sony's Xbox. Yet, Spore is a game for the PC. Why?
We're also rolling [over] to lots of other platforms, as well. This week, we're releasing a version for the iPhone and the Nintendo DS, and we'll be looking at other platforms, as well.
The PC was a good starting point because we were inventing a lot of new technology, but also because of the online connectivity aspect. Most PCs are on the Internet and that was a fundamental aspect of the game. Consoles are getting on the Internet, as well, but not quite as connected as PCs are.
The gaming industry is booming, but often gets knocked for glamorizing violence and sexism. What's the state of the industry, in your opinion?
I think it's getting better. I think games like the Sims allow [players] a lot more creative self-expression than a game like Halo. I love playing Halo and first-person shooters [video games distinguished by a first-person perspective], but pretty much everyone's going around blowing up the same stuff.
A game like the Sims is actually more focused on the player driving the experience. You get to create the characters, and then the environment, and then, eventually, you unfold the story that's the player's story. It's not a story that the game designers are trying to tell you.
Is the industry moving in this direction?
I think that's where games should be pointed -- in encouraging players to tell stories and extracting these worlds from the imagination of the players, rather than necessarily imposing the story, or imposing the environment, on the player. I think this, in general, is a more powerful use of the medium.
Within the industry, I think we're actually seeing a diversification of games and platforms, driven by things like the Nintendo Wii, that are opening up games to people who wouldn't touch them normally. ... We're finding that people in retirement homes are playing these games, and little kids.
The gaming industry is in much better shape than it was five or 10 years ago. We were in danger of closing off the door to a lot of new players.
Spore has received a mix of positive and negative reviews from the media and users. What do you make of the criticism that the game isn't as engaging as it was expected to be?
Spore was definitely leaning on the side of creativity ... and so, in some sense, the game play isn't really punishing on the early levels. And for a hardcore gamer, it is going to seem very simple, until you get to space level, where it does actually get quite complicated and interesting for people who want that.
When we looked at the Sims community, we found that the players who were really into it were probably spending less than half their time actually playing the Sims, and around half the time involved in the community aspects of the game -- you know, going to Web sites, building collections [and] downloading stuff.
This is the part of Spore that we're just starting to see kick-started.