The Best Thing Cliff Bleszinski Ever Did…

... was be visible. "So what," you might say. "Isn't that part of his job?" Actually, it isn't.

In his role as Design Director at Epic Games, all the man sometimes known as Dude Huge really had to do was work on the developer's games. He could have brainstormed, play-tested and guided the Unreal, Gears of War and Bulletstorm games in relative obscurity. Instead, he became the face of the development studio he just left, helping articulate the philosophy and ideas of Epic's game-making for a long, long time. And yes, Epic execs Mike Capps, Mark Rein or Tim Sweeney also do that all the time. But, Bleszinski linked his job to his personal passions in a way that remains rare in the video game business.

He's talked about the plot of the Gears of War games as being partially inspired by his own so-called daddy issues. He's described shooting—one of the most taken-for-granted actions you can do in a game—as a way of feeling your way through a virtual world. He didn't laugh off the growth of casual and mobile games. He's discussed how games trump, in his opinion, movies or TV as a creative medium that connects people. He's done all of that while knowing full well he could come off like a jerk.

The thing I've always appreciated about Bleszinski is that he knows that the video games industry needs faces that don't get controlled by a gamepad. Faces that invest a human personality into releases that sometimes seem like just so much product. Some naysayers say that it was ego and a thirst for the spotlight driving Bleszinski's visibility. "Guy just wants attention," they'd grouse. But, when people who don't read game websites everyday want to know when some game is coming out, the question is never framed in a way that inquires about the people that made that game. And it's people that make games and that pour their sensibilities into them. It's a truism that's commonly understood with regard to movies, books or TV shows. But the mainstream perception is still that EA, Activision or other companies pull new video games off of some assembly line in the ether.

That's not true, of course. And if you've ever gritted your teeth when some sensationalistic news report about video games airs on TV or the radio, then consider the fact that the brush of generalization is easier to wield when a medium looks like it's only a bunch of characters or corporations. Without names or faces to call on to speak to both triumphs and controversies, video games—and the people who play them and make them—get easily reduced to trite bullet points.

We don't know how long Bleszinski's break will be or what he'll be doing when he comes back. (There's no way he's not coming back.) But if you want your uncle, significant other or college professor to understand that games can have as much depth or ambition as any other kind of entertainment, they need to hear some other voice in addition to yours telling them that. So, let's hope that when Bleszinski comes back, he keeps on talking. Whether you like what he says or not, the fact that he chooses to do so is a very good thing for video games.