If any of you have the time to read a 6,000 word article, then you may want to head over to the New Yorker, which just published a bafflingly long profile of Cliff Blenszinski—the former CliffyB—and Epic Games. It’s one of the rare times you’ll see something as “low” as video games appear in the magazine.
However, for those of you who don’t have the time to sift through so many words, here’s the condensed version, filled the highlights and key pull quotes.
• Blenszinski was always a gamer. “Indeed, the first issue of Nintendo Power, published in 1988, listed the high scores of a handful of Super Mario devotees, the thirteen-year-old Bleszinski’s among them.”
• Growing up, Blenszinski says, “I was never geeky enough for the geeks and I was never cool enough for the cool people. I’ve always been in that weird purgatory,”
• This malaise helped to contribute to Gears of War: “‘When you start to peel back the layers of the Gears world’, Bleszinski told me, “‘there’s a lot of sadness there.’”
Then the profile turns to covering more of the industry in general and Epic Games specifically.
• “Epic’s original name, Sweeney told me, was ‘a big scam’ to make it look legitimate. ‘When you’re this one single person in your parents’ garage trying to start a company, you want to look like you’re really big,’ he said.”
• “Bleszinski’s office resembles a toy-store yard sale. These are boyish affectations, certainly, but boyishness is the realm in which these men seek inspiration, not a code by which they live.”
• “The game industry is more or less leakproof, and possesses a strange kind of innocence: it guards its secrets as guilelessly as a boy might hide from his mother—but not from his brother and sister—the extraterrestrial living in his bedroom.”
There’s also discussion of gameplay mechanics.
• “Anyone who plays modern games such as Gears does not so much learn the rules as develop a kind of intuition for how the game operates. Often, there is no single way to accomplish a given task; improvisation is rewarded. Older games, like Super Mario, punish improvisation: you live or die according to their algebra alone.”
• “Our final game was called Wingman, which is played in pairs. Bleszinski and I buddied up, and I shouted across the room to him for some general guidance. ‘Basically,’ he said, ‘kill anyone who doesn’t look like you. Our foreign policy.’”
That’s the gist of it, but I will say that, big surprise, it’s a pretty good read. I’ll be giving the original Gears a second chance tonight as a result of the profile. Job done, then.
Photo from Flickr