By Dennis Scimeca
Cliff Bleszinski wasn’t happy with the official title of his keynote lecture, “Industry Lessons Learned and Applying Them to the Road Ahead,” so he called an audible and named the panel, “The rise of the power of the creative in gaming.” His GDC lecture could be viewed as a call to arms for game developers to start thinking in much larger pictures, and to own their projects in a way that’s not typical for the industry. In the eyes of Bleszinski, this sort of paradigm shift is necessary for young developers to be successful.
What is a “power creative” anyway? According to Bleszinski, he or she calls the shots, is visible, unique, and valuable. They can be a coder, or a director, or a designer, or even something else, and Bleszinski wanted to give the audience of game developers some pointers on how to become one. Tips like knowing your weaknesses and being able to delegate, and finding other developers with complimentary talents as partners. Read on for more nuggets from Cliff.
Bleszinski believes that products have to be personal. “If you look at Gears, you can tell that I’m a child of the 80’s,” he said. “I was raised on Transformers and G.I. Joe. Predator melted my face but inspired me.” Bleszinski lost his father at 15 years of age, and in the Gears of War series, Marcus Fenix has father issues. “This is why it’s in the game,” he said.
Bleszinski argued that power creatives have to be able to soft sell, to convince people that their ideas are good. ““If I can’t get my peers in a meeting excited about my idea, how am I going to get the publishers excited?” he said. “If I can’t maintain that level of excitement, I’m not going to be able to get the fans excited.”
A power creative also understands the value of PR and marketing. “You need to be able to figure out how to put yourself out there,” Bleszinski said. In high school he was working on his games, never cool enough for the cool kids, but didn’t want to go into the basement to play D&D either. Bleszinski argued that this has become a very valuable asset for him. “You need to become a chameleon as you become a power creative,” he said, citing his ability to speak with programmers and art designers and everyone among the spectrum of people who ultimately are responsible for getting a game delivered.
While Bleszinski has taken multiple shots at the video game press for some of the ways they’ve mishandled his quotes, in the panel he spoke about the negative comments from fans that the press gives voice to as a positive asset. “Those comments can become fuel for the fire,” he said. “Kotaku comments flaming back and forth can actually be useful. This is your insurance policy.” Should Bleszinski ever find himself no longer employed by Epic Games, chances are he wouldn’t have much trouble finding another gig. “People know who the hell I am because I put myself out there.”
Bleszinski didn’t think that developers should shy away from press attention on account of being nerds. Addressing the idea that nerddom is something shameful, Bleszinski showed a rapid series of iconic nerds on the presentation screen, men like Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, punctuating each image with “Really?” “Nerd culture has been jacked and it’s okay to put yourself out there,” Bleszinski said. “There’s no bigger evidence than all the hipsters out there. It’s a race to the bottom to see who can look like the biggest, dweebiest nerd.”
Bleszinski stressed the need for a power creative to recognize that video games are produced by teams, not individuals. He argued that power creatives need to be intimately involved in the marketing and PR of their titles like box designs, television ads, and viral campaigns. And he stressed the need for future developers who want success to understand the multitasking iGeneration who live with their mobile devices as constant companions. “The one track mind is dead,” he said. “Rest in peace.”
I’m only hitting on the key points, but there was a lot more to this keynote address. This is another panel whose video you want to make time for when it hits the GDC website.