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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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Matthew Handrahan

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Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.

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