The Cliff Bleszinski Interview

We published our long-awaited, months in the making feature on Epic Games at The Escapist this week, and included in the onslaught was my exclusive interview with Cliff Bleszinski.

I’m quite proud of it. he had a lot of interesting things to say about life, his current gaming habits and what goes into designing a game like Gears of War. He also answered a question that was on my mind, about how responsible he felt for the current culture of jackassery in online games.

The Escapist: Speaking of Unreal, how responsible do you feel for the kind of over-adrenalized, hyper-testosterone online playing environment that’s sort of sprung up around Gears and Xbox LIVE?

Cliff Bleszinski: I’m astonished at the level of success that Xbox LIVE has had. I’m also a little bit dismayed about the attitude of a lot of young people out there online. I wish that they wouldn’t be such dicks. I don’t get it. You get that anonymity and that brings out the worst.

I know that a lot of these kids aren’t really like that. If you met them day to day and talked to them, they wouldn’t be bigots or racists like that, but they just get that attitude, man. I don’t know what it is. I’m hoping that as the gamers grow up, they’ll grow out of it a little bit, ’cause I’m tired of hearing people slinging insults online.

TE: Do you think that granting them this environment where they can exercise their fantasies and be the tough guy marine – curb-stomping people and whatnot – combined with the anonymity is partly to blame?

CB: I think it’s all of it. I think we deliver the kind of entertainment experienced … it’s the classic Poltergeist. You remember the scene when the kid was being essentially stalked by his little clown doll? Everybody gets that clown doll when you’re a kid and nobody wants it, and your parents put that creepy clown doll in your room and they’re like, “Hey, this is fun,” and you’re like, “No, that thing is freaking me out.” And eventually the kid gets hold of it and beats the crap out of the clown.

That’s the same cycle that we do in a game like Gears, where you know the big monster stalks and stalks and stalks you, and eventually you get the big gun, and you get that sense of empowerment, and you defeat the monster and you feel better. And, of course, a monster that’s four times bigger comes along and the cycle continues. It’s the same thing with an RPG as far as leveling up and getting a handle on the enemies, and then bigger enemies come in and you do the grind and continue right? But I think that sense of empowerment is very powerful, and then when you add in the anonymous aspect and the ability for people to project their voice, there’s a certain amount of attitude that I think comes through.

You can read the whole interview here.