Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski thinks that one of the key goals for a young designer is to make their work personal. In fact, the developer stated that Gears of War was inspired by the failure of his first marriage.
According to Bleszinski, "I wonder how much of the first Gears, the violence and weight, came out of the angst from the failure of my first marriage. I’m sometimes at my best when I’m challenged by someone or angry at someone in my life.” Suddenly the theme of testosterone-filled, hulking men slaughtering aliens with huge guns takes on a whole new subtext.
Another influence is the subject of Marcus Fenix's father and the fact Bleszinski, senior gameplay designer Lee Perry, and director of production Rod Ferguson all lost their fathers at a young age. In the game, Marcus believed his father had been killed during the war in the first two games but later discovered that he had actually been kidnapped to work on a top-secret project. “When I was 15 and dealing with grief I had these dreams that my father hadn’t actually passed, that he was, for tax reasons or something, he was secretly living in an apartment a few towns away," Bleszinski admitted, "These are the ways you cope.”
Bleszinski also states that videogame development is similar to a Ouija board, in that while many people have their hands on the pointer, only one person controls the direction of it, and what it spells out.
Gears of War didn't come into its own storywise until the third game, however.
“Gears was always meant to be a lot more Band of Brothers than Predator, and that’s one of the things that, in hindsight, if I could go back and change I would,” Bleszinski related. “The characters didn’t need to be huge, although it turned out to be an iconic thing. I never stood in front of the company and said I wanted to see the biggest, most macho motherf---ers you could ever see, that never happened. (The character design) happened completely organically.”
As for Bleszinkski's life, he said: "I'm not going to front, I was picked on in high school. The majority of my job involves e-mail and meetings, and playing broken games that aren’t fun until they work... My happy place is the Carolina shore, Lauren and I sneak out there all the time. That’s where we’re at our happiest."
For CliffyB, while videogames are personal, his personal life comes first.
GDC 2012: CliffyB to young devs, "Make your work personal"
13 March 2012 | By JonahFalcon