Peter Molyneux, Hubris, and Emotions

Peter Molyneux

Love his dog as much as he loves his dog, or your pixels will be sad. Or something…

Perhaps Peter Molyneux could be seen as the M. Night Shyamalan of the video game industry:

  • Both had some rather excellent starts in their respective industries
  • Both created some very unique classices (P. M. and Black and White, M. N. S. and The Sixth Sense, etc.)
  • Both are strangely consumed by narcissism, “passion” and hubris
  • Both have fallen from their good graces and repeatedly created lackluster entertainment in the latter halves of their careers
  • Both have become a joke (more or less) in their respective industries

The only real difference is that one makes movies and the other makes video games.

Well, there is another difference; Peter Molyneux still has a voice and some input in his industry, for better or worse.

Lately there has been some talk about his (Peter Molyneux’s) reaction as to the direction the Fable series is taking now that he has left Lionhead Studios. As usual, Molyneux concerns himself more with “emotiona drivers” and “emotional engines” rather than the actual game.Perhaps this helps provide insight into why many of his later titles have floundered so spectacularly:

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“I share that there might also not be a dog in Legends, as it was not shown in the initial demo and Lionhead chose not to comment on IGN’s inquiry about it when we spoke with them at Gamescom last week. Molyneux’s face turns noticeably disappointed. ‘Well, I hope there’s a chicken,’ he says with a laugh. ‘At least there’s got to be a chicken, surely.’

He elaborates: ‘It’s a shame. They’re this emotional driver, this emotional engine. I mean, there was so much more that you could do with the dog, to focus on it being this thing that loved you, loved the player, and would sacrifice itself for you. I think we explored that in Fable II more than it was explored in Fable III, and you could go back to that. It’s a shame it’s not there. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s a huge amount of work, putting the dog in there.

I concluded by asking Molyneux what he would do if he were making a Fable game today. His answer, if you know Molyneux and his work, is not surprising: ‘Well, I’d double down on emotion. I’d triple down on emotion, actually.’”

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Well, that pretty much explains everything, doesn’t it?

Do not misunderstand what is being said here. Focusing on the actual experience provided and getting the player emotionally invested are very noble pursuits. Then again, every good and creative idea is in a way noble in and of itself. None of that matters if it isn’t properly executed however.

If anything, this is a classic case of content versus presentation. The greatest content in the world is meaningless if it is poorly executed, or presented in an incoherent or indiscernible manner. How you say it is just as important, if not more important, than what you are actually saying.


How to win any argument.

There’s a sort of false and disingenuous pride that comes from considering only the content and nothing else.

It is fine to enter an argument with nothing but facts (or at least what you perceive to be facts, which may not necessarily be truth), but to focus solely on that and that alone results in the user coming across as arrogant. It gives off the impression that they are speaking in a vacuum, where it is just them, their facts, and nothing else, and your own feelings, experiences, facts, etc. are not involved or allowed. It is in itself an obnoxious and often disingenuous method of argumentation.

That is what’s wrong with Peter Molyneux’s approach. He concerns himself with what he considers substantial (i.e. a dog, emotions, etc.) and leaves little room or thought to everything else. You should like his dog and his rigid gameplay and be grateful that he has created a masterpiece in which you can fart and burp your way to the top of the social hierarchy because it is his emotional engine. Any notions of producing an actual, deep, and substantial game is marginal at best.

Also, using a dog as an emotional ploy is one of the easiest,and most base and default ways to get a player invested. There’s the real way to do it, with good writing, interesting characters and immersing gameplay, but all of that is boring and requires real creativity and work. Just throw in some puppies and people will go nuts.


Dogs are pretty cute, however. Revel in the happy chemicals flooding your brain as you gaze longingly into the puppy’s eyes.

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