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Molyneux Boss, Same as The Old Boss

February 16, 2015

Molyneux, of course, used to play for the Philadelphia hockey team, the Pathological Flyers

There’s nothing I can really add to the recent Peter Molyneux controversy. So, very quickly, here’s what I’m adding.

Despite all this, I'll admit to not playing Godus. I'm more of a pathological Far Cryer

In the days before that RPS interview was published, forum and comment threads on the the topic of Godus’ false promises were chuckling amongst themselves at this Memento reference. Molyneux lied about Godus – of course he did! It’s Peter Molyneux! Decades of over-promising and under-delivering conditioned gamers to consider him, in the bluntest of terms, a liar.

So there’s an unpleasant tone of cowardice to those questioning RPS for asking the man outright if he thinks of himself as such. Do we believe him somehow oblivious to his online reputation? Are we okay with the idea of saying it “behind his back”, but not to his face, like cliquey schoolkids?

This is important: journalists asking unpleasant questions should not be considered impolite, unprofessional, or even out of the ordinary. Hounding the interviewee for a straight answer is not any of the above. Nor is calling the interviewee out on a discrepancy. It is, actually, their job. As Jeremy Paxman put it,

“I just ask the question that the average, reasonably intelligent viewer would like to see asked. And by and large, I think you should ask it straight and direct. And if you ask the question, you should get an answer.”

The problem in games journalism, in fact, has been the lack of this dogged questioning. Publishers and developers have held access and info at ransom from journalists, hiding behind fluff interviews, controlled preview events, and day-of-release review embargoes. That Molyneux respected John Walker enough to forego any PR handlers, and that Walker respected Molyneux enough to ask some tough questions – without feeling the need to actually apologise for it – should be seen as a step forward, not an ugliness.

Especially now, as we move into an era of Kickstarters and Early Access games, and publishers become less ubiquitous, it’s often the case that the games media are the only ones who can hold these developers accountable. (Not that major devs should be exempt – cases like SimCity, DriveClub, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and Skyrim’s console calamities should absolutely be investigated.) That the tone might get uncomfortable is a good thing – people’s money, reputations, and careers are at play. It’s not the time to pull punches.

Yes, Molyneux is passionate about his work, and that’s admirable, but let’s not pretend there aren’t dozens upon dozens of equally passionate developers not spouting off whatever interesting, imaginary feature pops into their head to keep journalists interested, and instead being open about their games’ development and delivering high-quality games at the end of it. Molyneux’s passion doesn’t earn him a free pass, nor does his history – and if more people had unapologetically called him on his nonsense years ago, this furore probably wouldn’t have happened at all.

Shutting out an honest, no-holds-barred interview accomplishes nothing except condemning everyone to the same conveyor-belt campaign trail interviews we’ve bemoaned for years. Instead? Let’s relish this.

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