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Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by A.I Impaired » Sat Feb 14, 2015 2:50 pm

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2015/02/13/peter-molyneux-interview-godus-reputation-kickstarter/

For Context:
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-02-11-the-god-who-peter-molyneux-forgot


So I casually started browsing this interview with Peter Molyneux.... and then I felt conflicted. Was this article justified in subjecting this vocal visionary to an inquisition that basically attempts to out him as a fraud and a cheat? Its an uncommonly hard hitting interview, which I actually applaud Molyneux for sticking with. Im just curious how the squad reacts.

While I see the need for Journalists protecting consumers, I do appreciate Molyneux's passion... however unpredictable and dangerous that is.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Angry Jedi » Sat Feb 14, 2015 5:07 pm

Opinions seem to be very much divided on this, so I'm not going to say my opinion is the "right" one or anything, it's just what I think.

Molyneux needed to be held accountable for the way he's behaved over Godus which is, by all accounts, a complete shambles of a game. In fact, he's needed to be held accountable for his broken promises -- I hesitate to call them "lies" because I do believe he actually wants to do the things he says -- for many years now, and the games press has simply played into his "eccentric developer" narrative ever since he started saying ridiculous things.

In other words, I applaud the intent behind the interview. Where I become somewhat more uncomfortable, however, is the overall tone, which is something of a side-effect of the person who was actually doing said interview.

John Walker is an unpleasant person. He's always been a loudmouth, but like many other loudmouths (I count Jim Sterling in this category somewhat, too) he's undergone something of a change over the years, from someone who speaks up about consumer issues in gaming (DLC, pre-order bullshit, shady behaviour from developers and publishers) to someone who jumps on every little controversy out there and does his damnedest to make it as big as possible, and preferably about him. To me, it comes across as his sense of rationality as having faded in favour of deliberately courting controversy and kicking up a fuss to get a reaction. And it works -- look how much this interview has been shared recently.

Where I object to Walker specifically in this piece is in the tone of his questioning. He opens with a pretty insulting question and proceeds to let his apparent rage direct the rest of the interview. It's particularly noteworthy that Molyneux actually calls Walker out for becoming overly emotional throughout the course of the interview -- when your interviewee does that, regardless of whatever they might have done, you have lost control of the situation, and you lose a lot, if not all, of your credibility. It comes across as petty, spiteful, even bullying -- and it's ultimately led to Molyneux deciding that he's simply not going to speak to the press any more. I don't blame him, but that's sad; as full of empty promises as the man is, he was always a delight to listen to, and even if his designs never came to fruition, the sheer ambition made for wonderfully enjoyable mental imagery. One day it might have actually been possible to realise one of his ambitions fully -- we're probably still not there yet, but one day.

A few props from this situation, though: to RPS for publishing the interview in unedited form, to Molyneux for sticking with it, and to everyone who has been discussing it rationally.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Elanzer » Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:24 am

I stopped reading RPS a while back, but it's always nice to see the press actually giving an individual a hard time for specific failures that affect actual people (as opposed to, say, the ol' ambushing Blizzard about those darn offensive MOBA rollerskate outfits). I'm not really willing to give RPS too much credit though, they'll still only apply this kind of scrutiny to easy targets, people they aren't chummy with and who can't really do much to retaliate. It's similar to when they do their ineffectual waving of the "down with this sort of thing" placard at the big publishers in an effort to foster a sense of solidarity with their readers, but never actually follow it up with anything meaningful and behind the scenes seemingly can't stand their readership anyway. Needless to say, kicking off an interview with an industry great with "are you a pathological liar" is also totally unprofessional, ineffectual, and disrespectful. I'm definitely no fan of Walker as a person, but he's better than that and he knows it, so the whole approach felt a little bit disingenuous in the wake of the Eurogamer article. Another poor execution of a necessary conversation from RPS in recent months.

Molyneux on the other hand may well act as a borderline con artist nowadays, and how and why people keep funding him is absolutely beyond my comprehension, but his past accomplishments still stand and he deserves more respect than what he was given. I've briefly met the guy on a couple of occasions a long time ago (post-Bullfrog/early-Lionhead, I was even part of a crazy little idea for Black & White that of course never came to fruition), and honestly, even back then he struck me as being surprisingly detached from the reality of his games and having little to do with them besides studio management and lending his name. It was as if the entire thing were routine and the only thing that really put that spark in his eye were these far-fetched possibilities that he would later come to use as actual goals and promises even when there were no basis for their implementation. I want to say I feel sorry for him, but we're past the "don't believe his lies" "trees growing in real-time!" memes now and on to actual people getting swindled, and I can't really have much sympathy for that. Head as far in the clouds as it is, he's not stupid and surely knew sooner or later that when the last drop of goodwill was depleted that people would turn on him for real, and what easy pickings Godus would be. It's an unfortunate lesson that I hope he learns from for his own good and either bows out or takes a permanent step back. Please, please do not attempt the redemption angle.

It's not super relevant to the topic at hand, but Walker's approach reminded of an issue brought to the surface by GamerGate - Do you want to be a games journalist, or games blogger? Objectivity, or subjectivity? Treat this interview as an investigative piece on what exactly went wrong and how it will be prevented it in the future, or as an opportunity to drag a celebrity through the mud yelling "I told you so!" and stir up some juicy entertainment? Both have their merits, but trying to flip flop across the border on a whim is apparently going to upset some people.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Angry Jedi » Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:40 pm

That last point's an interesting one, and I think it's where the RPS interview failed: it straddled that border too much, and consequently didn't really put across what it was trying to be. RPS has always been more of a "blog" than a journalism site, anyway, so a full-on, personal-style conversation between two people isn't necessarily something I'd be averse to the idea of seeing. Just don't try and pretend that it's hard-hitting journalism.

If you do want to take the hard-hitting journalism angle, meanwhile, it is possible to ask difficult questions and call someone to account without being a colossal bellend towards them. Here's the UK's Jeremy Paxman, legendary interviewer, asking politician Michael Howard some difficult questions -- and including emotive language and quotes reflecting popular opinion -- without himself becoming emotional.

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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Grant Heaslip » Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:50 pm

Like the rest of you, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, the interview was unnecessarily hostile in a way that I think undermined Walker’s position. On the other hand, Molyneux is slippery enough that I can see why Walker applied an unusual amount of pressure. At every turn, Molyneux is trying to wriggle his way out of responsibility and repeat his now-tired crocodile tears pantomime. I’m always frustrated when I see an interviewer let a lie stand after a single skeptical push-back – to his credit, Walker doesn't let up.

To me, the real story here is how shocked everyone was to see a self-identified game journalist doing his job. I’m conflicted about Walker’s tone, but I do believe he was doing actual journalism. Even more unusually, he was doing actual journalism that actually served his audience. A lot of games writers (and consumers) seem to think that nicely-laid-out “longform” puff pieces about industry darlings – or nakedly-partisan one-sided attacks on one’s audience – are serious journalism. They’re not.

I’m generally of the belief that game journalism doesn’t exist and hasn’t ever existed – at least not at the scale and consistency to be considered a field. The fact that glorified pundits like Patrick Klepek and Leigh Alexander are regularly held up as elite game journalists is evidence enough that “game journalism” is a joke.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Angry Jedi » Wed Feb 18, 2015 8:19 am

It's that old question again, isn't it: are you a games journalist, or a games blogger? Even when I was covering the "news" for various sites, I always felt like I was in the latter category, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of sites -- 1up was one of the first -- made their name through "personalities" rather than hard-hitting journalism; they were the magazines to other sites' newspapers. I always much preferred writing interesting, longer articles about things I found interesting (and that I hoped my audience would find interesting) than snippets of news, the vast majority of which other sites were covering in the same way at the same time because PR has such tight control over how that stuff is released.

I agree that Walker was doing some genuine journalism here, but, to me, he undermines his credibility, making the piece mostly worthless. You know what people on the Internet are like; as soon as it's perceived that someone is being mean to someone else that a significant number of people like for one reason or another, that significant number of people will rally around the "victim" and attempt to protect them from all criticism, regardless of how justified said criticism is. (I'm sure you can all think if some prominent examples in recent months; I shall refrain from naming names!)

I don't think I could have done better in Walker's place, but then I've never been particularly great at interviews. However, I do believe that this situation could have been handled very differently and still got the same points across. As I say, Molyneux needs to be held to account for all his broken promises over the years -- particularly the trainwreck that is Godus -- but effectively driving him into hiding, a situation that this interview has contributed to, is not the way to go about that.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Alex Connolly » Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:27 pm

I don't know.

I can't stand Walker, but he did ask pertinent questions. At the end of the day, though, what really IS there to report on in the gaming world that requires proper, hard-edged journalism? It's usually all scuttlebutt and events, with the investigative work per se appearing more in retrospective pieces (Rob Zacny's article on the fall of Kaos Studios springs to mind) or when company legalities come into play - Kingdoms of Amalur devs with government grants going under etc. Otherwise, I don't see this clamoring for 'real journalism' appearing so much in the fine arts. Video games do exist in a weird space, between consumer commodity and artistic medium, but I'm always left wondering what exactly people demanding an overhaul of games writing really want. What is there to actually report on with the same vigor as a political journalist does? There are few truly pressing matters.

The most recent is, what, Gamersgate? That hit the big-time, and rightly so...but other than that? Evolve DLC shenanigans? Not particularly serious. Buggy AssCreed? Not particularly serious. The Order being a short game? Not particularly serious.

Molyneux got Walker'd as he was slithering about, fine. It's a moment of refreshing clarity from one side of the gaming industry that offers the best blow-jobs in town. But other than that, it was a raw little blip and PR will continue to get serviced by the enthusiast press. Which is absolutely fine. We're talking about video games, not embedded combat journalism or reports from Geneva.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Alex Connolly » Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:46 pm

Here's something refreshing. Ol' Angry Joe might not be to everyone's taste, and interviews do hinge on the presence of PR handlers and who is actually in the chair...but he just did a sit down with Fred Wester and Shams of Paradox Interactive and immediately cuts through the bullshit in an amiable way. Talking about busted releases, DLC nickle and diming, third party production and financials etc.

This is the kind of 'enthusiast press' I much prefer to turgid suck-pieces.

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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Rampant Bicycle » Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:34 pm

I worked in a bookstore for a time, and was told very early in my tenure there that "there are no book emergencies" - I think much the same is true for video games. "Game journalism" is something of a misnomer, because approximately 95% of what there is to report on is (more or less) press releases - announcements of upcoming titles or hardware. In this context the notion of objectivity is somewhat ridiculous; when the facts are "It's an action-RPG set in an open world"...

...then the selling point that makes people read YOU saying "It's an action-RPG set in an open world" and not someone ELSE saying "It's an action-RPG set in an open world" is how you comment on those facts. The subjective elements of what you say, in other words.

There are game reviews, yes, but here again objectivity is of questionable value; people tend to read or watch reviews from a reviewer they like specifically because of the tastes and techniques of the reviewer in question - the audience says to themselves "this person thinks like I do, so I can trust his or her recommendation," or perhaps "I don't agree with this person, but they're really funny and erudite, so I like checking out their latest work."

Objectivity isn't what people are really looking for in writing about any artistic or media product, as a general rule. It's not mathematics. It's a conversation.

We do have a budding environment of game criticism - that is to say, the application of one or more specific philosophical frameworks to a specific game or games as a means of exploring what they have to say/reflect/imply about the world in which they exist, the people who make them, etc. This is pretty unpopular with some vocal segments of the gaming audience, but whether or not you agree with what those critics have to say there is merit in having them around: it's a reflection of the growing cultural acceptance of games as a Thing that we even start to have those dialogues. Artistic maturity as a medium requires a degree of ok-ness with people checking out your shit and sometimes saying things about it that you don't agree with.

None of these things are objective, and they're not intended to be. Because, as Alex says, it's video games, not muckraking in the bowels of a meatpacking plant or embedded field reporting in Darfur. There are no video game emergencies, unless we count the rather inhumane treatment of developers by certain big studios (though perhaps we should; if people are going to get worked up about something in game culture, how about better conditions for the people who make the things you love?).

Most game journalists are actually game bloggers. And that's just fine.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Angry Jedi » Wed Feb 18, 2015 6:17 pm

Yep. I've actually been thinking this for a while -- particularly while I was actively involved. Every time I wrote a news story I found myself thinking "does this really matter?" And the answer was usually "no, of course it doesn't".

That doesn't mean that there's no value there, but games "journalism" for the most part is largely entertainment rather than in-depth fact-finding. The games press is spoon-fed by PR most of the time and while I know quite a few people have concerns over that, it's all part of marketing -- and good games writers can take that PR fluff and make something interesting out of it, whether it's speculation, putting things in context, criticism or whatnot.

For me, though, the most interesting games writing (and other media) comes about simply through playing games. "Here's a game that's interesting," someone will say, "and here's why it's worth checking out." For my tastes, that sort of thing is infinitely more valuable than "industry exec says thing he shouldn't have" or "yep, games biz still wants to make money".
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