Peter Molyneux is a misunderstood creative genius

3 mins read

Peter Molyneux is a true champion of games creativity, but in the world of gaming mixed messages, that means he is also quite possibly the least popular high profile developer.

As an observer of the industry for some 20 years, one of the persistent commentaries I’ve seen in recent years is the desire for a “return” of “original or creative” games. There’s a sizable portion of the gaming community that wants to see new ideas, and a move away from established franchises.

Molyneux does that. He’s an innovator that is willing to take big risks to try and push the envelope. It doesn’t always work and he’s also a guy that’s renowned for underlivering on his promises. But if you think about it, that’s how it should be. It’s difficult to break new ground creatively, and failed experiments are part of the creative process. People take those failed ideas, and refine them into better products. Or, in other words – if everyone played it safe, no one would know what does, and doesn’t work.

Molyneux’s newest idea is to charge a whopping £50,000 for a bit of DLC. I’ve already seen people call the idea “stupid.” It’s not really. It’s an experiment to test the boundaries of monetisation. Molyneux quite clearly doesn’t expect anyone to actually pay for that DLC, but if no people or a hundred people pay for it, that in itself provides him – and the broader industry a better understanding of DLC and monetisation.

A great philosopher, Michael Foucault, wrote about a concept he called the “limit.” The limit is an imaginary line that separates what people consider appropriate behaviour, and what is not. It’s a line that is difficult to understand without testing it. Molyneux is testing the limits here.

Ultimately by testing the limits we gain a better understanding of how to do things without upsetting the whole of society. It means the person testing the limit is ultimately ostracised from society – Foucault used the example of the Marquis De Sade – but that’s the life of the pioneer.

People should not assume that Molyneux is making products or decisions based on the here and now. He’s clearly thinking about the future of game development and trying to trailblaze a path for the rest to follow.

It means that some of his ideas don’t work. It means that he will at times fail. But we’ll all eventually benefit from what he’s doing. If nothing else, Molyneux is being creative, and even if we don’t personally buy into every one of his ideas, it’s worth looking for a method to the apparent madness, rather than simply dismissing him out of hand.

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  • No. He's definitely not a creative genius. He's more like an arrogant prick. Or a presumptuous douchebag. Or a pompous moron. Or a… well, you should get the idea by now. There's a reason no one cares about him and it's pretty close to the same reason no one cares about Sony. They are arrogant and push their ideas until people accept them whether the people like it or not. These types of people and companies have NO place but dead last in the we-don't-give-a-f*ck race.

  • …but don't take my disagreement the wrong way. Your writing and argument are very well done. I just don't think you understand how misunderstood you are about him.

  • Hey, no problem at all. I really welcome different ideas and points of view here – Digitally Downloaded is all about people being able to have different ideas to the editorial staff. 

    Thank you for your input! We'll have to agree to disagree, but I can certainly see why Molyneux annoys a lot of gamers out there.

    That said I am going to need to edit your first two posts, as we have a strict "no bad language" policy here. Thanks for understanding, I hope we see you back here again. 🙂

  • Well, I've made my argument about the man already, so no point doing so again.

    He does have a very nice, smug, "please-punch-me-in-the-face" type of mug, though. Don't you think?

  • I've taken up for Molyneux for a longtime now, as I've always had a lot of respect for the man. But, over the last year, he is starting to make less and less sense, and I think now that he is free of Microsoft, it has all went to his head. He's been spouting off things that I find, not creatively genius, but just nuts: getting "infants" to play videogames; the entirety of his new mobile game, etc.

    The very same Peter Molyneux was just publicly critical of Vita, making claims that it's a 'restrictive platform that doesn't allow for creative developing' (not exact wording) when he developed Fable: The Journey for Kinect — the most restrictive current-gen device on the market. He's entitled to his opinion, but any Vita owner knows that the system has a wide range of opportunities for creative development. One only needs to looks at Escape Plan and Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack to see this.

    I've long respected Mr. Molyneux, but his insane ranting on Twitter over the last few months has really changed my mind on him. 🙁

  • Howdy Mr. Slapshot!

    Good points there, I would just suggest that the Kinect is by no means restrictive. What Molyneux was talking about with regards to the Vita being restrictive is in terms of it being a platform to develop on. The Kinect is restrictive to players because it has no buttons etc, but for developers it's a real playground – Microsoft has given the SKU out to do whatever you like with it.

    I suspect Sony is a bit more restrictive with what people can do with the Vita.

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