A week of arrogance: David Cage and Peter Molyneux
If you didn’t know and/or watched my liveblog on it (and I don’t think anyone did), BAFTA (British Film and Television Association) held their annual video games awards show this week. Undoubtedly the winner of the night was Heavy Rain. While the game did not win best game (that award went to a well deserving Mass Effect 2), it did win awards for Technical Innovation, Original Music and perhaps most controversially, Best Story.
Now I haven’t played Heavy Rain. I couldn’t if I wanted to, I don’t own a Playstation 3. However, I have heard a lot of polarizing opinions about the game’s storytelling, which is highlighted by its developers as the most important factor of the game. Some see it is as an innovation in a stagnating industry whereas others see it as a QTE game that has a story on the level of a low budget TV movie. Regardless of whether or not Heavy Rain is a good game is not what has annoyed me. Not even the fact it won best story over Alan Wake, (although in my opinion the latter was robbed). It’s the attitude expressed by David Cage, writer of Heavy Rain.
Playstation.Blog talked to Cage after he recieved his award at the BAFTAs and the last question they gave him was whether the recognition given to Heavy Rain is a culmination of his work on The Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit. Part of what he said was this;
For our next project we’re going to build on what we have discovered with Heavy Rain. We own this genre of Interactive Drama and we want to show that Heavy Rain was not a coincidence; it is something that makes sense and we can build on it.
To me, Cage couldn’t be being more arrogant if he tried. Now maybe he just got caught up in the excitement of his metaphorical baby winning three awards but to claim that they “own” interactive drama grinds my gears to no end. It’s not just arrogant, it’s ignorant too. This industry may be still in its infancy, but to completely ignore the past 30-40 years of storytelling in video games is just insulting. Even if you think Heavy Rain does a brilliant job at storytelling, you can understand that many great video game stories have came before it.
Silent Hill 2 for example. That came out 9 years before Heavy Rain and yet it is often quite rightly regarded as one of the best games ever made, mostly because of its story. Silent Hill 2 had characters that were just oozing with personality and perhaps most importantly, the flaws of humanity. Even the protagonist, James Sunderland has his own demons which you soon find out about. But you might as well ignore the game completely, because it can’t be an interactive drama, it can only be a video game. David Cage has every right to be happy about his work winning awards. As a creative person, to recieve acclaim for your work is immensely satisfying. He shouldn’t have been so arrogant about it though. If he truly believes that Heavy Rain has done new things for story telling in video games then it being recognised by a prestigious organisation like BAFTA is proof of how far this medium has come. Just because you made one successful game that happens to be all about its story does not mean that you own interactive drama.
Now given that I put his name in the title, you might think I’m going to be negative about Peter Molyneux, but I’m not. I truly think his deserved his induction into the BAFTA fellowship. He’s not perfect by any means. To his own admission, he often exaggerates about his works but then any creative eccentric does. But where as Cage just seems to be exaggerating out of his own ego, Molyneux exaggerates because he doesn’t even realise it But while watching his acceptance speech, you could see he was genuinely honoured about the recognition he was being given. He wasn’t cocky like Cage was, he was a man on the verge of tears.
For all the slagging off and jokes we may make about Molyneux, he is still one of the great people of the gaming industry. There’s a reason that he’s so well known. Populous, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper and of course, the Fable series, just to name his most famous woks. And despite your personal experience with his games, you can tell that he has put his love and care into them. To be more cynical, he’s the last of a dying breed in video games. Molyneux doesn’t make his games because he wants to make a shitload of money. He makes them because he has an idea in his head and he wants to do his best to see it fully realised. It doesn’t always work, but it shows a level of dedication, love and care which is simply hard to find nowadays.
So in other words, that’s my opinion on what happened at the BAFTAs.