Oh, Bother – RPS Interviews Molyneux

John Walker of RockPaperShotgun fame/infamy, depending on who you ask interviewed Peter Molyneux of game industry fame/infamy, depending on who you ask. Likely you’ve heard about the interview by this point. It is a write up of a 75 minute phone conversation that has a whole lot of emotion, but not much useful information for the reader.

Allow me to distill for you the things to be learned from this very large column of text:

  • The reports about the team size of Godus being decreased in favor of other games is inaccurate, the people working on other projects have a skill set that is more suited to early and pre-development.
  • Actually that is about it.

I’m mildly thankful for that information, I’ve not followed Godus much. I did read the Eurogamer piece on the guy who won the God of Gods contest, as it seemed an interesting side story to the meta aspect of games, their developers, and how they interact with the world. But this wasn’t a particularly informative interview. It didn’t illuminate anything, other than perhaps providing yet another data set on how emotional inquiries can make people react emotionally, even if they are desiring to be calm.

When an interviewee is calm, they present collected, organized thoughts. Information they want to share, is freely and coherently shared. If they are not calm, organization is lost, but you gain the chance of a slip of a tongue revealing something. This is great for people with secrets. Scandals. Politics. Heady stuff. Not a game with poor contingency planning (like most games, frankly). So what sort of question do you ask to keep a dialog of collected exchange, to set the tone?

Do you think that you’re a pathological liar?

And we’re off to the races! Only we’re not, instead of the beginning of an exchange, we have an interviewee who is immediately defending rather than communicating.

I would like to clarify that I am not “siding” with Molyneux. I’m not a fan of him (nor do I hold an opposition to him). Rather that this was a textbook case of how to not start an interview. Walker might have felt this was a worthwhile direction to pursue, and I get that, but he put Molyneux into a retreat from the get-go. (It being a worthwhile subject is another thing entirely, as someone who has studied business for more than half an hour, and has worked in the game industry, none of the information was a shock, or even not expected).

What is more interesting to me is to see how people immediately make this about GamerGate somehow. I don’t know where they would get that idea from.

Must have pulled it out of their own head. But where GamerGate proponents say it is about ethics in journalism, they’re not talking about the quality or style of journalism, they’re talking about disclosure of conflicts of interest on the articles where it would be a factor. Opening with such a poor question is a concern of quality and style, not of ethics.

Some defend the exchange as being one of passion, both Walker and Molyneux are just really into the subject! Well I’m sure they are, but the bulk of the interview is finances. A guy who writes about games and doesn’t get why you wouldn’t ask for a full budget on Kickstarter is asking a guy who has made a career of ideas, programming, and inspiring others, about their finances. That isn’t particularly interesting, and if you honestly want more information on it, you don’t put the interviewee on the defensive. You want them to share. Not defend or justify.

Honestly, it seems like Walker should have interviewed Peter Murphy, the finance director. But maybe after reading a book or two on business, and then looking at the history of game studios, and what happens when passionate game designers find themselves as managers of a staff, rather than the maker of a game.