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Will Wright MasterClass Review: Game Design and Theory

Are you ready to learn from the visionary game designer who created The Sims? Read our honest review of Will Wright’s MasterClass and find out if the course meets your needs.

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Will Wright Teaches Game Design and Theory: Our Verdict (2024)


4.7 / 5

Will Wright’s MasterClass teaches how to build a video game from start to finish. A famous game designer and the creator of The Sims breaks down his process and talks about prototyping, playtesting, collaboration, and the future of game design. It’s an ideal course for aspiring game designers and video game lovers.


  • Great teacher
  • Detailed lessons
  • Versatile content
  • Top-notch production quality


  • The structure could be better

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I remember playing The Sims for the first time. I was completely mesmerized, and I couldn’t stop playing, which was unusual since I had never really been into video games.

Will Wright had obviously created something else entirely with The Sims and SimCity. He wasn’t interested in creating yet another zero-sum game. He wanted to create an experience, a simulation.

That said, of course, I wanted to take Will’s course the moment I saw it on MasterClass. I did have my doubts, though; I was afraid it might be too technical and demanding for me… It lasts more than 4 hours, after all.

So, how did everything turn out, and is the course really worth taking?

I’ll tell you everything about my learning experience and key takeaways in this honest review.

Table of Contents

What is the Will Wright MasterClass?

Will Wright Teaches Game Design and Theory” is an online course offered by MasterClass, a popular online learning platform known for its team of renowned instructors.

As an award-winning game designer and the creator of The Sims, Will Wright is a perfect instructor for this course. He also designed SimCity and Spore, both of which still have a large gaming community.

In the course, Wright introduces his learners to different levels of game design. He talks about prototyping, player psychology, game mechanics, and other essential elements that allow designers to build a game from scratch.

The course is also packed with engaging demo lessons and case studies, providing a fascinating look into the world of game design.

The course contains 21 video lessons with a duration of 4 hours and 16 minutes. 

Will Wright speaking in his MasterClass

Who is Will Wright?

Will Wright is an American game designer best known for the development of The Sims series. He is also the co-founder of Maxis, the game development company which later became part of Electronic Arts.

After rising to prominence with SimCity, Wright developed similar simulation games like SimEarth and SimAnt. He first launched The Sims in 2000 and later worked on multiple sequels and game expansions.

He also designed Spore, a life simulation real-time strategy game based on the model of evolution and scientific advancement.

Due to his unique game design approach and vision, Wright became the first game designer to receive the BAFTA Fellowship and is widely regarded as one of the most prominent game designers of all time.

Who is Will Wright’s MasterClass for?

Obviously, Will’s class is best suited for aspiring game designers and beginners who want to learn from the genius behind The Sims and Spore. 

However, the course is also suitable for nostalgic Sims fans (like me) and curious creatives who want to broaden their horizons.

The course is fundamental enough for beginners, but it also provides a glimpse of more advanced content and ideas.

In any case, for anyone interested in game design and visual storytelling, it provides a great foundation (and inspiration) on which to build.

The Sims
The Sims (image credit: EA)

What does Will Wright's MasterClass cover?

Will’s class is based on the multidisciplinary approach to game design, so it covers a variety of elements and factors.

It breaks down the core tenets of Will’s game design process and moves forward to more advanced levels of game design, such as designing a sound aesthetic and iteration.

Here is what you can expect from each lesson in terms of content:

  • Lesson 1 is an introductory lesson where Will briefly introduces himself and explains the fundamentals of game design.
  • Lessons 2-4 cover the first stages of design, including game concepts, early prototyping, and creating a sense of agency and responsibility in players.
  • Lesson 5 is focused on exploring players’ psychology and learning how to create immersive, engaging games.
  • Lesson 6 is dedicated to implementing fun elements in games.
  • Lessons 7-8 cover the development of game language (a system of signs and symbols to communicate meaning) and a visual aesthetic design.
  • Lesson 9 breaks down the game mechanics that govern the interactions within your game system.
  • Lessons 10-11 include Will’s strategies for iterating and scoping. Will is also joined by an aspiring game designer to discuss their latest prototype.
  • Lesson 12 is a prototyping case study where Will and his programmer reveal and iterate on prototypes for their new game, Proxi.
  • Lesson 13 is focused on playtesting and using your player feedback to improve your game.
  • Lesson 14 covers the process of designing a sound aesthetic.
  • Lesson 15 is about pitching ideas. Will shares tips for structuring your initial pitch and modifying your message to reach a wider audience.
  • Lesson 16 is a demo lesson where Will examines the game that is in the late stages of the design process and provides feedback and advice to its designer.
  • Lesson 17 is focused on choosing your audience and deciding what platform your game will use.
  • Lesson 18 offers a more in-depth look at system design and effective strategies for building interaction in your game.
  • Lesson 19 contains leadership techniques.
  • Lesson 20 includes Will’s thoughts on the future of game design.
  • Lesson 21 is the final lesson, where Will shares his final advice and conclusions.

My favorite parts of Will Wright's MasterClass

It’s hard to pick the best part of the course, so here are some of my personal favorites.

Generating game concepts

Will Wright speaking in his MasterClass
Will Wright talking about his sources of inspiration

When developing a game concept, Will usually finds inspiration in books, architecture, and various interdisciplinary fields.

In this interesting lesson, he also talked about his research for The Sims, which included examining how people spend their time and what their prized possessions are. 

Exploring player psychology

Will Wright speaking in his MasterClass
Will discussing the liberties designers take to construct the world

As an entertainment designer, Will allows his model to diverge from reality. For instance, there are some things in Sim City that don’t match the real world because they meet the player’s expectations.

Also, you can use the elements of different psychological theories to build an immersive and engaging game model. For example, Wright used Maslow’s pyramid to build the prototypes for Food, Hunger, Entertainment, and other needs in The Sims

Each player is different, so it’s hard to build a game that will appeal to a large group of people. But as long as you motivate your players and make them the center of the universe, you’ll be more likely to succeed.


Will Wright speaking in his MasterClass
It’s important to capture metrics on the large number of players

Playtesting is a crucial part of game design. This is where you can see how people interpret what you’ve done and make the necessary adjustments.

According to Will, to get honest reactions and feedback, it’s best to put two people who know each other in front of the same computer and listen to their conversation. 

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

The standard annual plan has been renamed "Plus" and is available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually), and now provides access to all MasterClass courses on two devices instead of one. The Premium plan, providing access for up to six devices costs $240 per year.

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 200+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that the "Standard" membership, priced at $72 per year, only gives you access to their short-form learning content – none of their full MasterClasses are included.

What I liked about Will Wright’s MasterClass

I’m not a gamer or an aspiring game designer – but I enjoyed this class nevertheless. So, I can only imagine how beneficial this class is for those who want to get into video design.

In other words, I would recommend this MasterClass to designers and non-designers alike. Will’s approach to design can get your creative juices flowing regardless of your skills and goals.

Now, here are some of the main reasons why I believe this class is worth taking, especially if you already have a MasterClass subscription.

Great teacher

In short, Will Wright is a great teacher. He is relaxed and friendly, he knows exactly what he wants to say, and he doesn’t underestimate his learners.

The thing is, some people are good at maths or programming, but they don’t know how to convey their knowledge and explain some things clearly. But that’s not the case with Will. He is engaging and easy to listen to, but he also takes his time to prove a certain point.

Detailed lessons

Will’s lessons are rather detailed. And with the duration of 4 hours and 16 minutes, it’s fair to say that this is a somewhat lengthy course.

But don’t get me wrong – the course is not overwhelming, nor does it get boring at any point. It’s just thorough and well-rounded, and it covers the entire process of creating a game.

Of course, it’s not possible to teach every single thing related to game design in a single online course, but this is still detailed in comparison to some other MasterClasses.

Versatile content

One of the reasons the course doesn’t get overwhelming or daunting (even if you take it in one sitting) is the versatility of the format.

One-to-one lessons are still the main way of delivering content, but there are also video game clips and examples (from The Sims, for example), case studies, and game demos.

The course also comes with a PDF class guide that includes more theory, assignments, and reading lists.

Top-notch production quality

This MasterClass was a pleasure to watch, not only because of its content but also because of the learning atmosphere that was created.   

The whole setting of one-on-one lessons and demo lessons was great, and the Sims-like music in the background and during the transitions was more than fitting.

All in all, MasterClass once again provided a top-notch production quality course. 

Drawbacks of Will Wright’s MasterClass

There is no size fits all, so even Will’s class isn’t for everyone. However, if you have the right expectations, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

There are, however, some minor things that would make my learning experience slightly better.

The structure could be better

The entire course flows really nicely, mostly due to Will’s teaching skills and well-chosen topics, but some lessons caught me by surprise. For instance, the lesson about system design comes after playtesting and pitching ideas, and it would perhaps make more sense if it was included somewhere between game mechanics and design.

This didn’t really make a lot of difference, though, and I managed to stay focused nevertheless.

Review conclusion: Is Will Wright's MasterClass worth it?

So, is Will Wright’s MasterClass worth taking?

Well, it’s a big yes from me. Despite my initial doubts, I found this course incredibly enjoyable and interesting.

Will is a great teacher, engaging and friendly, and he is responsible for some of the most iconic games of all time. His passion and expertise are visible throughout the entire course.

For aspiring designers and video game lovers, the course provides an abundance of knowledge and interesting facts. There are many other things to learn if you want to turn your ideas into a game, but this MasterClass provides a fantastic foundation to build on.