Since the start of the year we’ve been fortunate enough to be nominated for four awards and we’ re extremely humbled by the support. The most recent is the Real Neat Blog Award from Luna over at GamersUnitedGG and it means a lot; this is a highly-entertaining site and she always has something interesting to say, along with a kind word!
Luna posed her nominees several questions including the following: if you could meet one person (real or imaginary, alive or deceased), who would it be and why? It’ s an interesting query and one that could be answered in several different ways. I pondered over this for a few days, trying to decide between various video game characters and other gaming figures of note, but kept thinking about a post I wrote for a different blog some years ago.
The site no longer exists but what follows is influenced by that post. A huge thank you to Luna for both the nomination and for inspiring me to write this.
As some readers may already be aware, my love affair with Monkey Island started when I received an Amiga 500 as my Christmas present aged nine. After spending most of the morning hooking it up to the television, my dad asked me what I wanted to try first so I carefully looked through the software that came with the machine. One game in particular caught my eye: a box with a mysterious skull in the centre, surrounded by a ghostly ship, fierce-looking pirates and a young swashbuckling hero.
I fell in love with adventures that day and afterwards played anything in the genre I could get my hands on. I went sailing around the Caribbean with Guybrush (and envied Elaine) through the rest of the Monkey Island series; learnt how to become a wizard with a horny-and-sarcastic teenager in Simon the Sorcerer; and searched for Princess Cassima with Prince Alexander in King’s Quest. My love of books and vivid imagination had been combined in a format that I could not only read, but experience for myself.
Unfortunately though, as you get older you start to realise that others may not view you and your hobby in the same way and you attempt to change in order to fit in. It was hard enough being the shy, quiet kid at secondary school; but add to that the fact that I liked to play video games and hang around with the boys in my class, and it ended up being quite a difficult period. Eventually I stopped spending my weekends with the likes of Guybrush and Simon and instead forced myself to ‘enjoy’ hanging out at the local shopping centre and going to sleepovers.
Although this change seemed to make me more understandable to my classmates, I can’t say it made me completely happy. After leaving college I grew apart from my female friends because I really had nothing in common with them: I preferred being a tomboy, I didn’t want to go out shopping every weekend, and I wasn’t particularly interested in doing ‘girly’ things with them. As a result, I started to make more male friends and over time it became the norm to hang out with one in particular. I used to watch him playing on his PlayStation 2 whenever we got bored with the television, and one day in 2004 he turned up at my apartment with an Xbox and a copy of Fable under his arm.
After half an hour of playing I was hooked. I spent the next week ploughing through the title, trying to find every side-quest, figuring out how to get through all the demon doors and meeting as many residents of Albion as possible. You know how everyone has those gaming moments they’ll never forget? Well, playing Fable back then is one of mine.
The thing that fascinated me most about the game was the sense of character development, as it was the first time I’d seen anything with an alignment mechanic. Good deeds such as saving villagers caused my character to become a light-featured champion with a halo above his head and butterflies fluttering all around; while evil acts made his eyes glow and a malevolent haze appear around his legs. Drinking excessive amounts of beer made my hero ill (a fact I know only too well) and what I clothed him in changed how the townspeople reacted to his presence.
Fable took around four years to create by a team of seventy at Big Blue Box, a satellite studio of Lionhead. The company was originally formed as a breakaway from Bullfrog Productions and was founded by Peter Molyneux in 1996. I’ m sure you’re aware of him and have probably played one of his titles before; there aren’t many gamers who haven’t heard of Populous or Dungeon Keeper for example. But despite the critical and financial success of his past releases, Molyneux is now more known for his over-ambitious reputation – a trait that has caused many to lose faith.
In the past he has issued enthusiastic descriptions of games under development, only to cause uproar with the gaming public when his promises weren’t delivered in the final version. When Fable was released in 2004 without many of the features he’d spoken about during interviews, he posted an apology on the Lionhead forums in which he regretted his over-hyping and missed promises:
I have come to realise that I should not talk about features too early so I am considering not talking about games as early as I do… I will not mention them to the outside world until we’ve implemented and tested them, and they are a reality.
After Fable, there was pretty dark time where people looked at the game and compared it with what I said in the press, and they felt cheated. I realised that we just couldn’t keep on doing that. But that was very much a reflection of how we worked, because what I was talking about in the press was what we were experimenting with at that moment, and a lot of those experiments would sort of come out as you were making the game… So I made a rule: I will not talk about any concrete mechanics unless I can actually show you them in game.
Molyneux then founded 22cans in 2012 and began working on what he touted as ‘the ultimate god game’. A successful Kickstarter campaign for Godus saw £526,563 raised from 17,184 people but it went downhill from there: numerous articles reported that its development was disorganised and many of the features pitched to backers and Steam Early Access buyers were non-existent. In an emotional interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun in February 2015, Molyneux was asked whether he thought he was a pathological liar and claimed he was going to withdraw from the press completely.
As you can see, there tends to be a bit of a shaky relationship between the developer, press and gamers – something I can completely understand. But it’s different for me.
Yes, he may be over-ambitious; but I admire him for reaching for the stars and challenging the status-quo. Yes, he makes grand promises that don’t always work out; but I respect him for dreaming, and having enthusiasm and big ideas. I know many people won’t agree with me and that’s absolutely fine, but I’m far more intrigued by a developer who takes risks instead of churning out carbon-copy titles with little vision. Give me someone who’s going to push the boundaries, be inventive time after time, and create stories that remain in the minds of those who experience them for years afterwards.
There’s a possibility I may not be a gamer today if it hadn’t been for Fable. I wouldn’t have started blogging or been fortunate enough to meet some of the amazing writers who have now become friends. That game gave me the opportunity to join with people who have similar loves, and be introduced to newer titles that now reside alongside the classics in my heart.
Fable’s creator taught me that it’s good to dream big and, even if your ideas don’t always come to fruition, you shouldn’t let that stop you from aspiring to greater things and pushing forward. So in response to Luna’s question: the person I’d most like to meet is Peter Molyneux. I’d love to shake his hand and explain how much his ambition has done for me.