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Cliff Bleszinski makes a business case for diversity

"Even if I didn't care about diversity - which I do - I want everybody's money, of all walks of life"

Cliff Bleszinski has taken a pro-diversity stance on recruiting at his studio, Boss Key Productions, but his reasons are grounded as much in pragmatism as they are morality.

In an interview with Polygon about Boss Key's first game, Project Bluestreak, the man that planted the seed that became Gears of War described the less discussed, but very real benefit of having a balance of gender and ethnicity in the workplace.

Put simply, and a little crudely, it can mean more sales and more money.

"As a capitalist, even if I didn't care about diversity - which I do - I want everybody's money, of all walks of life," he said. "I want an Asian person to see a character who they feel like they can rally behind. And then maybe they want to spend money on that too."

"If I want to make it all-white characters, I'm going to do it. If I want to make it all-black characters, I'm going to do that too"

Indeed, this is consistent with Bluestreak's likely business model, which will monetise through the sale of playable characters - think League of Legends and Smite. This allows Boss Key's team to address any number of demographics, and Bleszinski has already reaped the benefits of diversity when it comes to the design of Bluestreak's characters.

"We had one character we were doing that had some interesting leggings go on. The other day, I asked Ana [Kessel, a junior artist] what she thought of that. She said, 'Well, the laciness was kind of weird and oversexualized.' So, yeah, we should probably change that. Just having that perspective is useful."

But the influence of such opinions shouldn't be absolute. Bleszinski was also careful to stress the importance of maintaining creative freedom in the midst of the ongoing and frequently intense debate over equality in the games industry.

"Listen, nobody is going to force me as a creator; nobody is going to pin me down and tell me what to put in my video game," he said. "If I want to make it all-white characters, I'm going to do it. If I want to make it all-black characters, I'm going to do that too.

"However, when I read all these articles about why it's cool to do this and why diversity is important, it's like this little voice on my shoulder saying, 'Hey, you know, you might want to pay attention to this.' I treat it as a factor."

Bleszinski founded Boss Key last year after a long and hugely successful period working at Epic Games. Nexon owns a minority stake in the studio, which it purchased as part of a publishing and marketing deal.

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Latest comments (7)

Being decidedly not-a-capitalist I find the 'economic argument' for diversity a little exasperating, but hey - whatever factors can encourage people like Cliff to do the right thing, I can't really argue with it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 25th June 2015 10:12am

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship6 years ago
Also don't find the economic argument all that convincing, since many entertainment producers operate by segmenting the market and targeting their products at different demographics.

So for at least some categories of product, blandly chasing diversity is a bad thing.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 25th June 2015 3:04pm

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James Berg Games User Researcher 6 years ago
The economic impact is well-supported by research though - gamers engage more with character that they relate to, and being able to select someone that looks like you certainly helps. I agree that it's better to be done because it's the right thing to do, but if it'll help the diversity issue in our industry without causing some other worse harm (and I can't see that happening here), then three cheers and all that.
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Show all comments (7)
Aaron Brown BA Computer Science Student, Carnegie Mellon University6 years ago
@Jessica Hyland

Maybe this is the wrong site for this debate, but its a known fact that Capitalism has been encouraging people to do the right this since its inception.

I never understand those who make a point of being "not capitalist". It honestly just sounds silly, don't kid your self.
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 6 years ago
sounds like "because i love money, im for diversity", diversity should be a given, a bit like being polite to people, being honest and so on. And here we have Mr B talking about money and diversity in the same sentence. Might be me but it just sounds a little off....
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Shehzaan Abdulla Translator/QA 6 years ago
I think people should hold their tongues on their distaste for the capitalist motivations behind diversification when they as consumers (of this site) and this site (as the creator of the articles/product) operate under the exact same principle.

When criticism is negative (and drives clicks) the media and their followers are very active. Case in point, despite the Fire Emblem gay marriage story being the inverse of the whole Tomodachi Life nontroversy I doubt it will even get 1/10th of the exposure. In fact GamesIndustry doesn't even seem to be reporting on it.

It's even stranger as the story coincides with the legalisation of actual gay marriage in the US. You know, things that this audience supposedly cares deeply about. But I guess you can't get many clicks from a story where there's no bad guy in the narrative and no sides to be taken.

The media will then go on to claim that it is either not biased or that bias is completely inavoidable (despite the fact that the bias on display could have easily been avoided). The truth is they are biased: To the capitalist principles that compel them to find any sensationalist click-driving garbage they can get their hands on. And believe me, that's the charitable interpretation.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shehzaan Abdulla on 27th June 2015 2:58pm

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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend6 years ago

I have to say after reading your posts for a while now I notice that you generally come on here, talk very little about games and pretty much berate for whatever link you can find with journalism/media. Now personally I have no issue with what you say, for the most part its usually inoffensive and doesn't really hurt anyone. But damn Shehzaan, you can't half throw a comment section off topic with your posts.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 29th June 2015 10:04am

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