Rock Star of Gamer Industry Plasters Face for Product

    People don’t give video games enough love — even with the growth of gaming’s cultural relevance since the early ’80s, it remains a stigmatized pastime, reserved for nerdy kids with too much spare time and those generally lacking in social grace. No one but the enthusiast press has ever taken the industry seriously.

    So you can imagine my surprise when I came across an article in the New Yorker profiling Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski — the design director of Epic Games — and his involvement in the highly anticipated title Gears of War 2. As a gamer, I should have been overjoyed that one of the counry’s most regal publications finally bestowed video games their overdue recognition. But honestly, I was more fascinated by the article’s subservient awe of CliffyB.

    I’ve always known Bleszinski to be an established personality within our industry — his arresting charm and quick wit in interviews and presentations has never failed to entertain — but I never quite realized just how significant of a figure he actually is. Reading the article made me realize something that I should’ve known long ago: CliffyB is a fucking rock star. Like any relevant rock frontman, his image frequently outshines his products, and gamers flock to him like any groupie would to a famous musician or tabloid celebrity. Taking this analogy one step further, can the same be said for the marketing of his products? Is CliffyB capable of conjuring anticipation for Epic titles by wielding his superstar image alone?

    To Bleszinski’s credit, the handful of titles to which he’s been attached tend to speak for themselves. Gears of War notwithstanding, the popularity of the Unreal Tournament franchise and even retro titles like Jazz Jackrabbit has led me to believe that CliffyB is just an exceptional developer who happens to be extremely popular. While he boasts an impressive resume, I wonder if the same can also be said for other celebrated creators.

    The industry has more than its fair share of well-known auteurs, but only a handful among them can be considered video-game rock stars: developers whose brand cachet speaks louder than their products; says Tomonobu Itagaki or David Jaffe.

    Or developer/figurehead Jade Raymond. While remaining relatively unknown up until last year, Raymond became an instant sensation when she was first associated with Assassin’s Creed, a title founded on huge ambition and anticipation. If one was to question her overnight popularity, I believe it can be attributed to either/both of the following factors: 1. She served as producer and spokeswoman to what was deemed the spiritual successor to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a cherished title within the gaming community (and my favorite game of all time); and 2. She’s incredibly hot.

    That a heavily male-dominated community like ours would be rocked by such an attractive woman in the industry is hardly surprising. Yet despite her natural beauty, Raymond carried a genuine charisma that was instantly charming and personal, similar to CliffyB. In the thick of Assassin’s Creed’s marketing, she received a ton of attention from both the enthusiast and mainstream press. Not only was she asked to be on various cable and international programs, she was even asked to do a spread for Maxim.

    Undoubtedly, much of the attention showered onto Raymond eventually trickled down to the game she was developing. Ultimately, when Assassin’s Creed was finally released, it ended up being immensely successful, boasting the best first-month sales for any new, original property and being the ninth best-selling game of 2007.

    When considering the game’s art direction, setting and tone, it’s hard to believe that the content alone could’ve inspired such success. As much as I adore Prince of Persia, I still find it unbelievable that Ubisoft’s previous acclaim could summon the hype needed for Assassin’s Creed’s enormous sales and attention. How could the spiritual successor to a moderately profitable game fare better upon its debut than Gears of War — a title that not only plays better, but also recognizes and satiates the abundance of testosterone that’s so indicative of this culture? It wouldn’t have been possible without Raymond’s affiliation.

    It may seem obvious that a limelight developer would want a considerable say in their game’s future — if any creator is worth mentioning, then surely their creation should be worthwhile, too. Once we consider how little respect the gaming industry receives, and the possibility that one person has to determine an upcoming title’s reception both communally and publically, it’s hard not to be excited. Time magazine ever recognizes Shigeru Miyamoto as one of the most influential people in the world today.

    If more individual developers become physically prominent within our industry, will there be a time when adequate respect is shown to developers and their games alike? The day gamers see a gaming section under the Arts & Culture section of the New Yorker will be the day we rule the world. Hell yes.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $2320
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $2320
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal