Wright said that people often make the mistake of viewing games in the context of storytelling media such as books, movies and television, which he says have a different "evolutionary heritage" than games. "We first had books, then we had live theater, we went to radio, movies, then television, and people have been interpreting games through this lens, as though they're the natural evolution to this," he said.
"Games are rooted as far back, if not further, than the printed word, and sports as well, than the idea of toys and general play. Now if you actually look at play, obviously it evolved for a reason. Animals play in the wild, it's a form of education - they play out little scenarios which help them survive into the future."
"Storytelling is a little bit different, it's based upon these functions that we have as humans - language, imagination and empathy, and these are all prerequisites for story, and in some senses it's learned behavior," he added.
Wright also suggested that game design is still in an "apprenticeship" stage, comparing it to older professions such as architecture, which he said were developed by apprenticeships with various trade masters. He referred to it as "failure-based learning," and suggested that the educational system in the 20th century reversed that process, putting theory before practice. "The idea was that the theory would protect you from failure because you were working on the rules that other people had learned," he said. "On the other hand you were not directly experiencing failure, or being allowed to innovate inside your craft as much as the apprentices were, so it's a very different model."
"Game design still doesn't really have any quality theory, so we're still very much on the apprenticeship mode," he said.
More excerpts from Wright's BAFTA Video Games lecture are available at GamesIndustry.biz.