OPINION: Peter Molyneux has made a big mistake, but demonising mistakes isn't the answer

Ben Parfitt
OPINION: Peter Molyneux has made a big mistake, but demonising mistakes isn't the answer

It’s probable that most of you have made your mind up about Peter Molyneux.

It’s probable that having read the headline “Molyneux says he’s ‘done’ talking to the press” you exclaimed something along the lines of “good!”, “finally!” or “he brings it on himself”.

And the latter, at least, is partially true. Most of us who fail to achieve our dreams and aspirations do so quietly and shamelessly in the privacy of our own domestic squalor. Peter Molyneux, however, as a world-famous developer and recipient of an OBE does so in the public gaze.

And in today’s day and age of assassination by social media, that’s a very dangerous thing.

I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I’m a Molyneux apologist. I like Peter, I respect what he’s achieved and I’m more than happy to forgive him for over-reaching and at times failing to deliver. In a day and age where speaking to publisher executives is akin to having a conversation with a PR-vetted flesh soundboard, Molyneux’s childish exuberance, inability to curb his completely genuine enthusiasm and obvious love for the medium that is games is, frankly, a god send.

Not that I forgive him everything, however. Waxing lyrical about a game that fails to deliver on every promise is one thing (and a thing that virtually every publisher and developer falls victim to at some point, sadly), but promising a young lad a “life changing reward” and then effectively forgetting about him – as exposed in this fantastic report from Eurogamer – is very different.

That’s the point when you’re no longer just trying to sell a product and are instead playing with people’s lives. It’s the point when Peter’s unchecked enthusiasm for the first time became potentially damaging.

I’m sure Peter hugely regrets it, and so he should. And I hope he rights the wrong, as promised.

[Yes, I’m aware that there are a bunch of Godus Kickstarter backers in the corner with their hands raised, wishing to draw attention to their plight. And yes, asking people to pay for one product and then delivering another is unacceptable. But the crowdfunding model is arguably as much at fault for this as those who exploit it. It’s a risk every backer should know they’re taking. It’s another of Molyneux’s mistakes, certainly, but it’s one that has been made by many before and by many to come.]

Sadly this does feel like the week where Peter stopped being the industry’s lovable mad uncle and became something a little more sinister. And boy don’t we know it – many predictable, and some not so predictable, faces have lined up this week to heap scorn on him. Which is exactly what was always going to happen.

People have a right to be angry, but anger over a mistake – or even a litany of mistakes, if that’s how you see it – doesn’t always have to quickly escalate to absolutes. The industry does not need to be cleansed of Peter Molyneux. That would be very, very sad.

Despite this morning’s claims of a media blackout, I very much doubt we’ve seen the last of Peter (indeed, as The Guardian points out, Peter has already given three ‘final’ interviews!). And when he returns, hopefully with a couple of lessons learnt and perhaps even a more healthy respect for the consequences of his words, I’ll be happy to welcome him back.

Peter’s a human being who has made a mistake. Maybe a few mistakes. But a games industry rid of people who make mistakes is a lifeless husk. We shouldn’t be so ready to demonise him.

My god, there’s so much to be angry about with this industry at the moment. Social media hate campaigns, shameful DLC strategies, broken online services, shady commercial partnerships with video personalities and the gradual erosion of the specialist press. Direct your fury there, not at some guy who wants to deliver the world and sometimes falls short.

I think I’ll give Godus a miss, though.

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Tags: Opinion , peter molyneux

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