Essentially, I’d forced Grace into the seductive stage of the whole relationship, sweeping her into a whirlwind engagement period that lasted for maybe three hours, having finally settled on a goggled but always-friendly chemistry shop owner, engaging in unprotected sex on her wedding night, and subsequently having a beautiful baby girl show up -- as far as we could tell -- the very next day.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Grace, my wife of nearly three years, agreed to humor a plea from Lionhead Studios’ lion king himself, Peter Molyneux. As reported in Variety
, a letter from Molyneux was enclosed with review copies of Fable II. The letter read: “I have a favor to ask you -- We built this game not only to appeal to gamers like yourself, but to appeal to anybody. So please, please, please, please, please find somebody who doesn’t play games, watch them play it and see how their world turns out, because I think it’s only when you see those differences that the unique experiences come through.”
Not that I’m a sucker for just anybody that says the word “please” five times in a row, but I’ve always, always, always, always, always been struck by the incredible heart that Molyneux pours into each of his creations. It’s not a perfect metaphor, but even if you latch onto the staid argument that Molyneux over-promises and under-delivers, it’d be difficult to say that the first Fable had no heart. Or that Black & White had no heart. Or, for that matter, Populous. Amidst so many games that seem to lack “soul” (which is admittedly a nebulous thing to grasp at in a videogame), Molyneux’s work has never lacked that certain something.
Even as venomous commentary poured into the Variety forums and in many other places that posted the same story, I felt conflicted but certainly not cynical regarding Molyneux’s request. Grace has been diligently editing my videogame reviews for years -- she’s as hardnosed as they come, trust me -- but she’s uninterested in playing videogames herself for any of their mental, physical, or emotional benefits. I subscribe to the camp that videogames can tap into each and every one of those pieces of the Human Experience pie chart, but that doesn’t invalidate her opinion in the least. She read through Irving Stone’s biographical novel of Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy, in the amount of time it took me to secure the mining ship Ishimura from its plague of Necromorphs in Dead Space. She’s now halfway through Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, and any counterargument from me would go something like, “Yeah, well, I just prevented a rival gun dealer’s convoy from completing its circuitous route past the petrol station in Far Cry 2!”
As you can see, I don’t always set myself up for success.
Regardless, I told Grace that her playing Fable II, coupled with copious note-taking from me, would synergize our efforts into a worthy editorial for posterity’s sake. She doesn’t play videogames, but from editing my oft-times lazy and/or verbose missives, she’s developed a vocabulary that allows her to hold intelligent conversations on a medium that she doesn’t personally engage in. And Fable II -- don’t let Molyneux fool you -- is a rather complex role-playing game, single-button combat or not. Arguably, Halo is single-button combat, so it’s obvious that Fable II’s social, economic, and narrative complexities immediately skyrocket past anything that could be misconstrued as simplistic. Nevertheless, Grace agreed to the project, and I insistently shoved the controller into her hands before she could change her mind.
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