Was Fable the 'Best RPG of All Time'? Who Cares.

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Fable 3

Peter Molyneux should stop worrying about what he's said and focus more on what he's saying. Claiming a game would be "the best RPG of all time" may have been a gaffe years ago, but so what. He's human. He's honed and loves his craft more than most. He's easily excited. We've all said things in the heat of the moment we regret. I doubt that statement's really, as he seems to have claimed in a recent Gameindustry interview, the "worst thing [he's] ever said in [his] life."

Molyneux's made a bunch of imperfectly amazing (as well, a few amazingly imperfect) games in his time. Today's fresh-faced gamers know him mostly, if not exclusively, for the Fable games, satirical zero-to-hero fantasy romps tinged with bathroom humor (also: brilliantly executed), and the third game in that series ships October 26. Those of us who've been around awhile probably know him better for stuff like Populous, Powermonger, and Syndicate. I remember him mostly for Magic Carpet, which whatever Molyneux thinks of the game now (as I understand it, not much), I played

I'm not sure how gifted a programmer or even a designer he actually is--it's the teams making these games that deserve the real accolades, not a single person, after all. But one thing Molyneux does, unique among the so-called game design luminaries, is bring a kind of public enthusiasm to the fore about what games can and might someday become.

We could use more of that, not less. Forget Lester Bangs--where's our Carl Sagan? The games industry's already beset by paranoid zealots and academic ideologues trying to foist dubious science on a dyspeptic culture on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

No wonder we rarely coax revealing statements from folks in interviews anymore, or end up with answers whitewashed by public relations flak. Just because those with blogs and a few groupies can't seem to scribble without mocking or snarking-off shouldn't stop designers like Molyneux from celebrating what they're up to. I've met and interviewed the guy repeatedly. He's never struck me as shallow, starstruck, or spouting off for the sake of hyping sales. He loves what he does. He wants to tell you why. Is that so galling?

Most of us learn pretty early on that when someone peppers claims with words like "ever" or "of all time," they're just overexcited. In the end, we judge (or should) games based on things like design consistency, play flexibility, and conceptual cleverness. Not vague, sweeping preliminary claims intended more in the original telling, I suspect, to critique the flavorlessness of the roleplaying genre in general.

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