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The God of God Games

Oscars, shmoscars. This Thursday in Las Vegas, the video game industry will be holding its equivalent of the Academy Awards, the Annual Interactive Achievement Awards. Okay it’s not as glamorous as Hollywood’s big night, and Joan Rivers would probably have…

Oscars, shmoscars.

This Thursday in Las Vegas, the video game industry will be holding its equivalent of the Academy Awards, the Annual Interactive Achievement Awards. Okay it’s not as glamorous as Hollywood’s big night, and Joan Rivers would probably have a field day with her worst dressed list, but it’s a notable event, put on by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, recognizing talent in a too often unrecognized field.

Most notable of all: the announcement today that Peter Molyneux, one of the most important game designers out there today, will receive the prestigious Hall of Fame award.

Molyneux, the managing director of Lionhead Studios in Guildford, England, has something of a God complex – and that’s a good thing, because in his games he’s democratic enough to let his players try their hands at being a deity too. Beginning with a game called Populous in 1989, he pioneered the so-called “God game” genre. One game made you the Oz of your own personal Theme Park. Another cast you as a Dungeon Keeper. Four years ago, his game Black and White used sophisticated artificial intelligence to let players be either a benevolent or a punishing ruler. “The game reflects your personality,” he once said, “it doesn’t judge it.”

This year, stay tuned for Molyneux’s two new titles: an epic role playing game called Fable, and a quirky game of filmmaking called the Movies. Like Will Wright, creator of the Sims, or Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario, two legends who preceded him in the Hall of Fame, Molyneux deserves all the recognition he can get – even if Joan Rivers doesn’t know his name.

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