The People Versus Peter Molyneux: My Take

jazz1Anyone that’s taken even a modicum of interest in the UK games industry over the last 10 to 15 years will tell you that if hyperbole were a crime, Peter Molyneux would be public enemy number one.

Indeed, a disingenuous man might say that his long career in videogames has been defined by a failure to meet expectations. In truth, Peter’s creative output has been pretty strong, but his habit of setting himself up for a fall by promising the Earth, yet delivering something comparatively akin to a small town just outside Coventry, has done his reputation few favours.

Kickstarter funded deity-’em-up, Godus, is the latest of the veteran developer’s projects to quite publicly not pan out as intended. Rock Paper Shotgun’s John Walker spoke to him about it recently, and things seemingly got quite heated.  The interview itself, which you’ll find here, has since been the subject of much debate on Reddit et al; some are of the opinion that Molyneux’s public reckoning was well deserved and a long time coming, while others feel more inclined to berate John for his aggressive interviewing technique.

It’s pretty clear that John is spoiling for a fight right out of the gate. Starting with the question “do you think that you’re a pathological liar?” even when qualified with the word pathological, is nothing if not deliberately inflammatory. John’s points are valid in principle, but the transcript is overly long, and actually becomes quite an irritating read from around the mid-point onwards. That said, little of Peter’s reasoning holds water, and the episode paints a damning picture of a project chronically mismanaged by somebody who really should know better by this point in his career, and has a less than stellar track record for delivering the goods.

This isn’t the first time that Rock Paper Shotgun’s interviews have sparked wider debate. Last year, Nathan Grayson took it upon himself to turn an otherwise interesting conversation with Blizzard’s Dustin Browder on Heroes of The Storm into a one man crusade against female objectification. Sure, Browder’s “we’re not running for President” defence was laughable, and again, Grayson’s central point was valid (very, very valid, in fact), but the end of an already overrunning interview was hardly the time and place to raise such a grievance,

Here’s the thing; not allowing your personal hang-ups to bleeds into your interview questions is pretty much journalism 101. I’m inclined to sympathise with Molyneux here, because I feel that although John’s attack wasn’t personal in nature, the fact that it is was so sustained and protracted smacks of a, to use his own trite terminology, pathological need for validation. By the end of the transcript, I found myself actively disliking John – hardly the hallmark of a great writer.

I’ll certainly concede, though, that I’d probably feel very differently had I stumped up my own cold hard cash to fund Godus. Those that did should take heed in future; the road to Hell may not be paved with good intentions as the old saying goes, but rather unsold copies of Fable and Black & White.

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