Will Wright was born on January 20, 1960 in Atlanta, Georgia. He's the son of William (Bill) Wright, a chemical engineer and
owner of Wright Plastics Company, and Beverly Edwards, a community theater actress.
When he was nine years old, his father died. Seeking the support of her family, Will's mother moved with her children to her hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Will lived until he was 18. He went through a Houdini phase where he made his own lock picks and thought about becoming a magician. Astronaut was also one profession he thought of becoming later.
As a boy he was a bookworm; "As a kid, I would get totally obsessed with something for six months or a year, and try to learn everything I could about it".
He played the Japanese board game called "Go" a lot. He still does; "It has an amazingly simple set of rules. But yet the strategies in it are so complex. And so from that, I've always been fascinated with the idea that complexity can come out of such simplicity".
He spent much of his childhood building models (tanks, ships, planes) and then using them for creative play (dioramas, blowing them up while filming, playing wargames, etc.). From this, his interests evolved into robotic projects. When a friend's uncle sold an office building, Mr. Wright was allowed to strip the place of electrical outlets, wires and other materials, which he used to cobble together home-made robots. "He was thrilled to pieces," his mother says. "I could never have bought him anything he would enjoy so much."
At 13, his first creation was a little robotic arm, built from hypodermic needles. A later machine hung from the ceiling, spider-like, and navigated around the room by reeling in and out lines attached to the ceiling's corners.
For controlling his robots, he bought his first computer (an Apple II) and he quickly discovered that it was the ultimate modeling system. He found that the most interesting challenges in robotics wasn't in the mechanics of the machines, it was in the programming. "I become fascinated with artificial intelligence," he said.
Will Wright also used to be into Rally, before he was into computers. "It's very small in the States. The American version of Rally was in fact a little more hardcore than the European. It wasn't as competitive but they didn't allow pace notes and so when you're going down the road you don't know what's around the corner. I still love following the WRC".
He plotted a route through the southern states that was hundreds of miles longer than the more popular path. It avoided the northern roads likely to attract more contestants and police. He and a partner, the race organizer, zoomed across the country in a Mazda RX-7 outfitted with a souped-up engine, a roll cage, an extra fuel tank, a night-vision scope, two police radar detectors and a prototype of a radar jammer. The team got one speeding ticket near Indianapolis and Mr. Wright talked his way out of two others, once by pretending to be a lost local resident and once he convinced an Indiana state trooper he was a writer for an automobile magazine test-driving a car when he was pulled over for doing 104 mph.He actually won that race with a time of 33 hours, 39 minutes.
After three years and one summer-school class, he graduated from high school at the age of 16. He enrolled in Louisiana State University, but later transferred to Louisiana Tech and then to the New School University in New York. He studied everything from architecture to mechanical engineering to aviation. He even earned his pilot's license in his spare time. But never lasting the course. "I went to college for five years but never got a degree," he said, smiling.
One summer when he was back home from school, Wright met Joell Jones, an older sister of one of his childhood friends. She was living in the Bay Area, but had decided to spend the summer with her family to recover from an accident involving a broken window that injured the nerves in her hand. "We'd fallen madly in love," she said. "I'm 12 years older ... so there was that age difference, but we couldn't drop it." Later that year, Wright dropped his college plans and followed Jones to California. They landed in Oakland. While she pursued her career as an artist, Wright decided to make video games.
Will Wrights wife
At the age of 20, Wright taught himself to program on his Apple II and then started playing some of the first computer games that were just hitting the market. He still remembers the day when he played the first Flight Simulator from Bruce Artwick Productions. Since he was an amateur pilot, he became fascinated by the computer's ability to create an alternate world inside a computer. "Soon I found that I was spending entirely too much time playing these games, I was hooked. So at that point I decided to try making one myself".
About that time he said: "Back when I started, about '81 or '82, almost every game was made by one person, and in only six to twelve months. It's not like that any more".
At 22, he started working on his first game for the Commodore 64: Raid on Bungeling Bay.