Bleszinski: "Gamers Exist in a Wired World Where Ignorance is Inexcusable"

By Published April 25, 2013 at 3:31 am

Former Epic Games Design Director Cliff Bleszinski gave a keynote presentation at the 2013 East Coast Game Conference (ECGC) Wednesday, April 24th. His keynote speech reached twenty years into the game designer's past, explored the once-emergent shareware distribution model, and then bridged those experiences with the future of gaming and its charted trajectory.

Bleszinski's keynote spanned topics across the gaming world, including commentary on the "millennial" generation—a term that the twenty-year veteran hates—the enablement and rise of indie gaming, and brief commentary on software piracy. The central message to the speech seemed to encourage a coming-together of the industry's seemingly-severed AAA and indie market segments. We've embedded a video of the entire ECGC 2013 keynote with Cliff Bleszinski, found below, but have also gone through and extracted some noteworthy statements.

 

After his background and upbringing, the former Epic Games visionary delved into the somewhat nebulous realm of software piracy, governmental adherence to corporate copyright pursuits, and how the game industry can learn from the phenomenon:

"I've always had trouble with these demographic labels -- I think they're manufactured by marketing people who like to create those buckets for people who count the money. Honestly, there's just as many older gamers who enjoy doing many of the same things the millennials do, there's really no line there. But if we were to try and define this, we'd identify this group as a group that largely grew up with Napster, Limewire, and now they're moving on to Bittorrent.

This ["millennial" demographic] of gamers expects things for cheap, but if something's great, they will shell out for it -- hence the rise of free to play: 'I'll give you as much money for your game as I think it's worth.' Many of these gamers who torrent may not realize that it's technically a crime - maybe they see it as a victimless crime. I, for one, would rather convert these gamers into paying customers as opposed to spending federal money to track these gamers down, arrest them, intimidate them, or pass laws that could potentially limit internet freedom, thank you very much.

[...] These gamers exist in a wired world where ignorance is inexcusable."

The statement comes at a poignant time in recent history, where CISPA (which passed the House, but likely not much further) and other internet censorship and intelligence bills have been on a bit of a resurgence. The audience met the statement with applause, where Bleszinski went on to deliver his point that publishers and developers who can tap into this emerging technology- and community-driven mindset will be paving the road for their success.

And he didn't neglect to specifically mention indie developers, either; with Bleszinski's unique experience at Epic from startup to Triple-A behemoth, he's in a firm position to realistically look at both the larger and smaller working components of the industry. And it makes sense, given Epic's history of licensing engine software for free to smaller organizations (the UDK, for instance) -- they're obviously heavily invested in the future of all games, not just their own AAA games. Temporarily ignoring the obvious monetary gains from commercial engine licensing, it's clear that Epic could have just as easily hoarded their technological advancements for their own games. No one's required to share technology, but as the world grows more fond of community-sourced development ideologies and community testing/design methodology, it would appear that open platforms have a distinct advantage over fading proprietary systems. That goes for hardware, too, where Bleszinski used Oculus Rift as a firm example:

"If you look at the way [Oculus VR is] launching the Rift, it's really quite brilliant: They crowdsourced the funding through Kickstarter, but it wasn't just to put the headset out -- they crowdsourced the dev kits, which are now getting in the hands of hungry developers out there.

So I want to ask you a question -- you think Palmer [Oculus VR founder] and those guys know what the killer app for the Rift is? Possibly. They might know how to make the perfect game. But you know what? There's a good chance that there's a small, hungry team of developers who might have a better idea. Well, why not let them have a shot at it? When we talk about team size, it's important now to consider -- it's not just your team, the community is now your team as well. You can crowdsource your levels [...] people are eager to contribute in this manner."

The concept of entrenching the community in a game's development cycle—thereby increasing their emotional investment in the product—has been building in implementation for years now. Readers of the site will recognize immediately that Chris Roberts and his Star Citizen project have subscribed to this model since first reveal, as discussed in this PAX East crowdsourcing panel.

Bleszinski's highlight for the evening wasn't his industry insights or predictions, though, but instead was derived from his desire to see a less fractured gaming community. This quote comes after he initiated discussion about the "Triple-Hate" for big-budget games 'versus' the indie alternatives:

"More and more it really feels like there's this us-versus-them attitude that's happening in gaming, almost like a mini-gaming civil war. There are actual witchhunts for 'fake nerds.' Gamers one-up each other for nerd cred now. 'Oh, you like your Wii U? Well I played Zelda when it was 8-bit.'

[...] We're not supposed to be divided like that, it's not a competition. So this is my message to all the gamers out there: Cool it. You know we're all gamers. If you just started playing angry birds or have that multi-sided die, we're all gamers. Besides, I think we have enough outsiders that are railing against our industry and attacking our hobby and we should really band together, I think."

Check out the embedded video for the entire panel. You can read more about ECGC (the conference at which this was held) on their website.

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.

Last modified on April 25, 2013 at 3:31 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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