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Rich Stanton on: Requiem for a dreamer


The story of how Peter Molyneux got his big break in the games industry is revealing. After his first game The Entrepreneur failed to sell, Molyneux gave up on games and started exporting baked beans to the Middle East. Soon afterwards Commodore, confusing Molyneux's company Taurus with a networking company called Torus, flew him to the States and mistakenly offered him ten brand-new Amigas.

"I remember it vividly going through my head," says Molyneux . "There was like an angel and a devil on my shoulder. One saying 'Go on you've got to tell the truth, you can't lie like this.' Then this other voice saying 'Just lie. Just lie, get the machines, and sort it out afterwards.' Of course, I ended up lying."

What would you have done? I like to think I'd have been a big enough man to come clean, but without being in that situation it's impossible to say.

But we know what Molyneux did. Thus was his career founded on a deception and, for decades since, his games have been synonymous with ambition, exaggeration, and under-delivery. It is only comparatively recently that things have come full circle, and into the widespread perception that Peter Molyneux is a liar.

For a designer obsessed with making games about morality, it's one hell of a place to end up.

What is currently happening to Molyneux's reputation is a feeding frenzy; parts of it may be deserved, but the whole is no less tragic. There is yet the time for a somewhat dignified exit, but that will never happen. Of course he will speak to the press again and, spread-eagled in the stalls, plead for another chance. The next time, he says with tears in his eyes, will be different.

It is hard to look coldly at Molyneux, to completely hive-off all the joy I've had from games he's been involved with and forget that part of me that wants to believe. Hard but not impossible. What I've seen in the course of this week is an old emperor, naked and exposed, cringing as his former subjects jeer and laugh. I could never join in. But I can't quite bring myself to weep, either