The Best Thing Cliff Bleszinski Ever Did...

... was be visible. "So what," you might say. "Isn't that part of his job?" Actually, it isn't.

In his role as Design Director at Epic Games, all the man sometimes known as Dude Huge really had to do was work on the developer's games. He could have brainstormed, play-tested and guided the Unreal, Gears of War and Bulletstorm games in relative obscurity. Instead, he became the face of the development studio he just left, helping articulate the philosophy and ideas of Epic's game-making for a long, long time. And yes, Epic execs Mike Capps, Mark Rein or Tim Sweeney also do that all the time. But, Bleszinski linked his job to his personal passions in a way that remains rare in the video game business.

He's talked about the plot of the Gears of War games as being partially inspired by his own so-called daddy issues. He's described shooting — one of the most taken-for-granted actions you can do in a game — as a way of feeling your way through a virtual world. He didn't laugh off the growth of casual and mobile games. He's discussed how games trump, in his opinion, movies or TV as a creative medium that connects people. He's done all of that while knowing full well he could come off like a jerk.

The thing I've always appreciated about Bleszinski is that he knows that the video games industry needs faces that don't get controlled by a gamepad. Faces that invest a human personality into releases that sometimes seem like just so much product. Some naysayers say that it was ego and a thirst for the spotlight driving Bleszinski's visibility. "Guy just wants attention," they'd grouse. But, when people who don't read game websites everyday want to know when some game is coming out, the question is never framed in a way that inquires about the people that made that game. And it's people that make games and that pour their sensibilities into them. It's a truism that's commonly understood with regard to movies, books or TV shows. But the mainstream perception is still that EA, Activision or other companies pull new video games off of some assembly line in the ether.

That's not true, of course. And if you've ever gritted your teeth when some sensationalistic news report about video games airs on TV or the radio, then consider the fact that the brush of generalization is easier to wield when a medium looks like it's only a bunch of characters or corporations. Without names or faces to call on to speak to both triumphs and controversies, video games — and the people who play them and make them — get easily reduced to trite bullet points.

We don't know how long Bleszinski's break will be or what he'll be doing when he comes back. (There's no way he's not coming back.) But if you want your uncle, significant other or college professor to understand that that games can have as much depth or ambition as any other kind of entertainment, they need to hear some other voice in addition to yours telling them that. So, let's hope that when Bleszinski comes back, he keeps on talking. Whether you like what he says or not, the fact that he chooses to do is a very good thing for video games


Comments

    Love the guy, gonna miss him outta the spotlight

    Absolutely, Evan. The industry has but a handful of shining stars, but they're so important. Capcom's former fighting game community manager, whose name I sadly do not recall, was similarly visible, and it was such a strong, positive influence in Capcom's favour. Peter Molyneux did excellent things for Lionhead, even when the studio couldn't deliver on his wild exultations. Whenever Gabe Newell speaks, the gamers stop and listen. Randy Pitchford IS Gearbox. I need say no more than "Miyamoto." I could go on, but I hope I'm making my point clear.

      Seth Killian.

        Take a person who's very passionate about his games and video games in general and mix that with a confident and charismatic personality in front of the camera = Dude Huge.

        Thankyou, Seth Killian is indeed his name.

        There was an article a while back, I think by Jason Schreier*, asking gaming development and publishing staff to be more vocal. His piece was attacked relentlessly because many interpreted it as a journalist saying "come give me stuff to write about," "make my job easier," etc. However, I think he was really asking for more like Bleszinski, more like Pitchford, more communication from the industry to the supporters.

        *Edit - Found it: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/08/gamings-biggest-problem-is-that-nobody-wants-to-talk/

        Edit II - Oh, huh, Schreier even mentioned Bleszinski in his piece. Good! It's worth bringing it up again, because it's a change worth making! Pity noone who could implement that change will ever read internet comments on an Australian website...

        Last edited 04/10/12 4:46 pm

      Yu Suzuki... poor bastard left out in the Yokosuka rain.

    The best thing he ever did was Jazz Jackrabbit.

    Cliffy may soon become the voice of gaming because he no longer carries the weight of Epic Games on his back. It sort of stained his repetition as a game designer because he mainly worked on games with big guns and muscles for all those years. I think he's gonna try to aim for a Tim Schafer designer schemer where he's gonna be as unique as possible, possibly seeking out what made games shine back in his day. In a sense he's liberated now because he can do what ever he wants, any company will hire him on the spot - he's a man that needs no introduction.

    Now the question is, what path will he take? What kind of games does he want to create?

    Ahhh bugger! He will be missed. The dude was truly passionate and straight about anything he put his finger on and I love people like that. This article is spot on! Gaming NEEDS its Gabes. Miyamotos, Cliffs and Molyneuxs. These people are a lane way into those companies and those games that we wantto hear, we wantto know what they have to say! I hope Cliff comes back in some way!

    Watch the latest episode of Bonus Round:
    http://www.gametrailers.com/full-episodes/b6k4d4/bonus-round-generation-in-review--future-of-games
    Where Gearbox's Mikey Neumann (Borderlands 2) starts ragging on Cliff when he uses the word 'graphics'. Then, after the break, Mikey brings it up again and starts ragging on Cliff again.
    Cliff is talking from massive knowledge and experience and Mikey is a complete wanker.
    I would have slapped his stupid face.
    Cliff is a legend. A true pioneer of the industry and possibly one of the top five industry experts in driving gaming forward.

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