Oh Pete.. Pete, Pete, Pete...

My friend Allegra recently joined the world of console gaming by purchasing an Xbox 360. Excellent, more friends with controllers. However this morning she declared that she needed to burn it. The cause of this outburst? A quote from ‘some games developer’:

"Films, TV, even hallowed books, are just rubbish because they don't involve me- it's a sea of blandness."

My curiosity was piqued. Who in the industry would have such an outburst? My mind raced trying to decipher the quote. Had Gabe Newell declared himself lord and master? Had Cliff Blezinski finally gone in off the deep end? I turned to the BBC to find out.

Peter Molyneux? Really? Oh Peter… how could you succumb to this sort of thing? What could drive the man to such lunacy? Declaring everything a sea of blandness? Has he read a book recently? Did he see Star Trek? Did he watch Battlestar Galactica?

I used to really like Molyneux. He has a real passion for what he does, and I think he’s genuinely enthusiastic about pushing the boundaries of gaming for the sake of his art, not just for the money. He’s stated he’s enthusiastic about Kinect, and wants to incorporate it into Fable 3.

His games are always entertaining, Black and White remains one of my favourite games and while I think the Fable games are more like toys (to get the most out of them, you need to play with them rather than play them), I still enjoyed them and look forwards to Fable 3. Dungeon keeper is a game I still play when I can get it to work on Windows 7 and theme park devoured huge sections of my youth.

Is this man really that arrogant? He’s made some excellent games, but that in no way qualifies him to denigrate the other arts. It’s a lot like Roger Ebert’s recent faux pas, but in reverse. I can see Peter’s claim, an interactive medium like a videogame is an excellent platform for a story, but he’s missing one important fact- most videogame story writers are total, utter hacks. Very few videogames have genuinely involving and interesting stories, characters and settings. This is to be expected, it’s only in the last 15 years or so that we’ve had the technology to create something more than a few blips on a screen, something worth actually assigning a story to. By contrast, film makers have had about a centaury to build on their art, and writers? Pfft. So long as there’s been a language, there’s been someone peddling stories.

A videogame is very different from a book, and is also different from a movie. We’re still learning what does and doesn’t work in videogame story telling. Remember the utter failure that was the FMV game era? Hideo Kojima can’t seem to get his head around the fact that people actually want to play games, rather than watch hour long cut scenes. Games like FFXIII and Dragon Age try to get around the problem by giving you endless shit to read, moving the game closer to a book.

The issue is simple. If a person wants to read, they will read a book. If they want to watch something, they watch a film. A game is something you play. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Back on Peter Molyneux though, I hate to say it, but the story telling elements of his games are… average at best. The Fable games are short. Really, really short. And when you get down to it, there isn’t that much in the Fable stories when you compare it with other titles such as FFVII and the last act of Red Dead Redemption.

They’re good games, don’t get me wrong, but ‘Setting the standard to which all other RPG’s will be compared?’ Sorry Peter, but people still compare most RPG’s to either Morrowind or FFVII.

Molyneux has a habit of overhyping his games, he’s done it his entire career, but to accuse other media of banality is one step over the line. Peter, I can understand you love your work, and you have a passion for games that very few other developers posses- but you need to reign in your tongue from time to time or else the backlash is just going to make you look like an idiot. Right now, in my opinion what used to be an almost child like enthusiasm and fire has turned into simple, plain arrogance.

Having an opinion on the other media is fine (Hell I think 90% of TV is a pile of crap), but making blanket statements like that just makes you look foolish at best, and a narcissist at worst.

1 Response to "Oh Pete.. Pete, Pete, Pete..."

  1. Alan says:

    Shocking. Does Molyneux really think that highly of the Fables? I've got a lot of enjoyment from them, but they're barely RPGs at all. Certainly they're far from being the benchmark.

    In any case, I agree that most games either need story but don't have it, have story they don't need, or have story but can't tell it properly. I enjoyed the Metal Gear Solid story, and I'd recommend MGS4 as an experience (conditional on having played the previous installments) but not as a game.

    The Legacy of Kain series is probably the height of game storytelling for me. It's also arguably the pinnacle of game voice acting. Simon Templeman is superb.

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