Peter Molyneux took the time to speak to MCV about being featured in Game Masters, and how game design has changed in recent years.
So you’ve seen pictured from the exhibition by now. How does it feel to be amongst those honoured in this way?
You look at these pictures and it just makes your heart stop with huge regret [for being unable to attend in person]. It’s just amazing to me that my work can even be justified to be in a museum. It certainly would never have crossed my mind when I first started that flashing forward a couple of decades it’d end up like this – it’s like a fairy tale.
I’d have thought you’d be getting used to lifetime achievement accolades by now?
Haha. Well, I always feel two things.
One is that I never deserve them – I just don’t feel it should be me getting these things because I feel they should be purely and utterly for the team which has had the guts to implement an idea of mine. They’re the ones who should be getting these awards. I’m more of a spokesperson than anybody else though.
The second thing is that I feel like I should do better stuff to really earn this achievement.
Game Masters is, however, an exhibition specifically aimed at celebrating the legacy of the most impactful individuals throughout gaming history. Do you feel that perhaps your recent push back into the indie space has been a way to retain more of creative control amidst a smaller team?
Well, it’s tough in any form of creativity, whether it’s an architect building a building, a director directing a film or even an author writing a book, there are always people involved. In an architect’s case, it’s everything from the builders who build the structure to the engineers to the myriad of others who come together to make that one project. It’s the same with films. Directors will often take quite a lot of the credit, and often it’s true that without that director being there, there wouldn’t be that sense of direction (which is of course what they bring to the project). And with an author, there’s a publisher, editor and those who layout the book, all coming together.
It’s the same with computer games. It’s very very very rare that anything is done on your own, and if we had to celebrate people doing things on their own we’d probably only be able to pick out a handful of games.
That being said, it’s not fair to do these awards, but there has to be some way for all of us realise that there are individuals who possibly (if you think of them as captains of a ship or leaders of an expedition) who do make a difference. I’m not sure I’m the best example of one of those, but it is incredibly important for the rest of the world and for people who want to be able to get into the industry to be able to look at people’s work and understand what they do and how they interact.
So maybe museums and places like that give a little piece of that side of things.
Do you think the nature of that dynamic is changing over time?
It’s very interesting what has happened to designers (or auteurs or whatever you want to call them). A lot of us started out as implementers – as programmers or artists or sound people - and then over the course of the industry, designers’ roles have evolved. Just as little as 15 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago, there was no such thing as designers. I’d be having interviews with magazines and the term ‘designer’ never even came up.
Then slowly, over time, as teams evolved, there needed to be someone who held every single component of a game in their head, who brought all those things together, all that programming and art being married up to what happens at that first moment when you put the disk in the drive, and that’s really what design is.
My job as a designer is, in a way, the easiest job in the world. Because I just think of an idea, which is easy to do (you and I could think of an idea in a couple of minutes), but it’s the way that idea communicated and implemented by the team that’s so essential.
And along those same lines, producers’ roles how now become a reality in games, where previously their relatively small scale would’ve precluded the necessity for such project management.
Yeah, you’re absolutely right, and that’s what’s fascinating about producers. The funny thing about them is that teams used to hate producers. In fact, you were proud when you didn’t have a producer. You’d say it in the press.
Now, of course, producers are incredibly important people, and you simply can't have a videogame without them!
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