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Peter Molyneux: Everything's Changing
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Peter Molyneux: Everything's Changing

September 28, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

You alluded to using analytics not for just for monetization, but to actually improve the gameplay experience. Do you think there's a lot of work to be done there?

PM: A huge amount of work, yeah. Here's my thought, and it's quite a radical thought. This is my thought: at the moment I can see what analytics does for an awful lot of the games. It tries to get as much money from you as possible in the shortest amount of time. Fair enough. It will balance that level 19 just right so that you have to spend money to get to level 20. Fair enough. But what the developer is doing there is trying to think, "Right, we just know you're only going to play for a few hours, we just want to squeeze you for everything you've got."

Let's think in a different way. Imagine you had an experience; just imagine this insane idea. There will be a single day when I can give you examples of games in the past that are clues to this, but you will play for the same length of time that you watch [long-running British soap opera] EastEnders for.

EastEnders, people watched it for the whole of their life. They grew up with it, they got married with EastEnders, they had children with EastEnders, they'll probably die with EastEnders. We have nothing in the gaming experience which feels like it's more than just a 10, 15, 20 hour experience.

Imagine if we -- now, I'm just not giving you a clue that I'm going to create this -- we had something that was refined and curated just the right amount, to just the right number of people, to keep you engaged in the same way that you're engaged with a hobby? Why can't we have that?

Now maybe World of Warcraft, for some people, is what I'm talking about, but that's just for a small number of people. World of Warcraft wore me out. It just drained every piece of gaming life out of me. I didn't have anything left to give. So that was overcooked. But I think there's something in the middle. We have to surprise people. We have to shock people. Not by going into our ivory tower and thinking of another new game idea.

Tomorrow, for example, in the cube, I'm going to do this. We'll do this. On one of the surfaces of the cube, we'll have a really simple game with those little cubelets. We'll have, say, there's this mathematical thing called Life. One the surfaces will be Life. You tap on the right thing, and it will just all spread out. That will be a surprise. And that's done for the reason that we want to keep you engaged. Even if you just tap 20 times a day, if I can keep you engaged over a long period of time, that will be exciting.

Did I answer your question?

Yeah, you did. I get the sense that you see this massive potential, and other people have alluded to it, but it seems like, for one reason or another, people end up not realizing it. And maybe it's just a natural evolutionary process that games, as a new art form, have to get through.

PM: It's just a different way of thinking. I would love to have been in the kickoff meeting for [long-running British soap opera] Coronation Street, because it could have gone something like this:

The writers of Coronation Street come to the TV execs and say, "We thought of this television program. It will be number one or number two in the ratings every single day of the week for 40 years."

"Brilliant," say the TV executives, "that must be an amazing story. What, I can't imagine. What is it? It must be something like the works of Shakespeare?"

"No, no, no. There's no story."

"No story? How can anything last for 40 years without a story?"

"No, there's no story, It's just characters. It's just the same as the life outside people's windows."

I can imagine the TV executives were like, "No way it will work," because it was so new. It was so different to have a TV series about characters that lived -- were born, lived, and died in the street. It sounds the most boring thing in the world, but some people love and are entertained by that.

And if you think in that way -- if you think in a way that maybe there's one experience, in a way like Facebook, that I don't mind interacting with for years, and years, and years, that would be an amazing experience. It's just a different way of thinking. Don't think that I'm doing a cross between Coronation Street and Facebook.

That brings me to the question, actually -- is there a line between what's a game and what's not a game? There's a tremendous amount of debate, particularly on Gamasutra, about what constitutes a game, what that word means.

PM: The problem is, nowadays, saying "what's a game?" is like saying "what's a film?" or "what's a book?" I mean, if you were to look at the film industry and you only watched Saw movies -- Saw I, Saw II, Saw III -- and then I asked you to write an essay on what's a film, it'd probably be the most damning essay of human depravity.

On one end of the spectrum, you've got all the horrific nature of Saw, and on the other end of the spectrum you've got some of the wonderfully delightful sorts of movies like Star Wars that affected a whole generation. There's a whole huge range, and that's what this word "game" tries to encapsulate.

The trouble is, with "game", it's also what game people define games as, by a series of these cornerstones -- like a game has to have challenge, a game has to have story... And we have these colors, which we think we mix together to make a game. But now those colors are completely changing.

Because does a game, does a story, have to have an end? No it doesn't, if you're doing Coronation Street. It has a series of little stories. Does a story have to have a predefined beginning? Yes it does, but that leads to a boring film. And so I think a lot of those rules are changing.

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