@ TED: Digital Tools Enable New Kinds of Storytelling, Will Wright Reinvents the Universe

There’s always some decompression after you leave TED. While you’re there, surrounded by some of the smartest, richest, and best-looking people in the world, with few day-to-day responsibilities, it’s easy to believe that this is the way the world ought to be. It’s a place where you can see world-class figures as humans, not celebrities: naturalist E.O. Wilson may be a genius, but he still uses electrical tape to hold together his eyeglasses.
The third and final full day of TED ran the gamut from the earnest to the silly. Again, the plethora of digital media executives didn’t translate into a plethora of digital media discussion, but there was one set of late-morning talks, organized as “Screenovation,” that was spot on. Director J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost) briefly noted how digital technology lets him tell stories far richer — and far less inexpensively — than ever before. Jeff Skoll (ex-eBay) spoke about the move from Silicon Valley entrepreneur to Hollywood entrepreneur and filmmaker Deborah Scranton talked of how she would not have been able to even make her Iraq-war documentary The War Tapes without digital media tools. And Will Wright, creator of “The Sims,” gave a demo of his upcoming (due in September) game Spore. I’ve seen several demonstrations of the long-in-development game over the past two years, and each time it seems richer and, potentially — because you can’t really tell from a demo — more immersive. Spore is perhaps the most ambitious videogame ever. It aims to do nothing less than simulate the development of a species from a cellular level all the way to interstellar travel. It also looks like a great toy, which makes it an apt metaphor for TED as a whole: wildly ambitious but fun.
Now, back to the real world.