Despite 30 years and 662 episodes on television, The Simpsons creators are always looking to expand the iconic, animated world of Springfield.
And with 27 games under their belt, it’s no surprise that video games have become a favored way to accomplish that.
“We can really go nuts in a video game and do stuff that doesn’t make sense in the show,” said writer Jeff Westbrook.
Westbrook, along with Matt Selman, Carolyn Omine, Rob Lazebnik and Stewart Burns, sat down with TV producer Aaron Bleyaert at the E3 Coliseum to discuss how the longest-running scripted series has translated into fan-favorite video games.
For starters, each game utilizes the show’s original writers, an advantage that allows them to incorporate scenarios that aren’t suited for TV. The panel used the series’ titular game from 2007 as an example, where the Simpsons family discovers they are forced to play another The Simpsons video game.
They also discussed their hit mobile game, Tapped Out, which allowed them to playfully insult users as they spent money in the game. It was all in good fun, the panel says, an interactive element that can’t be worked into a series.
“The essence of Tapped Out has always been, ‘How can we insult Tapped Out and the people who play as much as possible?” Selman said.
They’re also genuinely passionate about the games they’ve helped developed, a trait that is vital to a successful product, LaZebnik says, admitting that they’ve spent their own money—$100, for one producer—on their own games.
But aside from personal interest, it’s the fun and chemistry within the writers group that resulted in the creation of almost three dozen games. Most of their real-life experiences, like waiting for lunch when they’re “trapped” in a writing room, become incorporated into a games’ final script.
And Burns says the producers are always thinking about how they could make more Simpsons titles, including a Mario Party-style game that never exceeded development.
“My favorite game to work on was the Simpsons party game that never came out that we just got paid for,” Selman joked. “At the time, there was a trendy kind of, Mario Party, lots of mini-games ... we briefly discussed getting on that bandwagon.”
But due to the amount of time each mini game would take to develop, they quickly realized that the project was too ambitious.
“It looked like it was going to be a 20-year project or longer” he said. “That was not my favorite thing to work on. It was great when we heard it was not going forward.”
Despite the end of that project, the creators’ love for collaborating on the iconic characters, jokes and storylines that has led to the successful translation to gaming. And although the panel didn’t announce any new games, there’s definitely more to come, they said.
“These games weren’t supposed to last this long, but it continues to thrive and inspire craziness. So thanks to EA for sticking with us and giving us so much support over the years,” Selman said.