The designer of Unreal and Gears of War offers an eye-opening personal account of the video game industry as it grew from niche hobby to hundred-billion-dollar enterprise.
Video games are dominating the planet. In 2020, they brought in $180 billion dollars globally—nearly $34 billion in the United States alone. So who are the brilliant designers who create these stunning virtual worlds? Cliff Bleszinski—or CliffyB as he is known to gamers—is one of the few who’ve reached mythical, rock star status. In Control Freak, he gives an unvarnished, all-access tour of the business.
Toiling away in his bedroom, Bleszinski created and shipped his first game before graduating high school, and at just seventeen joined a fledgling company called Epic Games. He describes the grueling hours, obscene amounts of Mountain Dew and obsessive focus necessary to achieve his singular creative visions. He details Epic’s rise to industry leader, thanks largely to his work on bestselling franchises Unreal and Gears of War (and, later, his input on a little game called Fortnite), as well as his own awkward ascent from shy, acne-riddled introvert to sports car-driving celebrity rubbing shoulders with Bill Gates. As he writes, “No one is weirder than a nerd with money.” While the book is laced with such self-deprecating humor, Bleszinski also bluntly addresses the challenges that have long-faced the gaming community, including sexism and a lack of representation among both designers and the characters they create.
Control Freak is a hilarious, thoughtful, and inspiring memoir. Even if you don’t play games, you’ll walk away from this book recognizing them as a true art form and appreciating the genius of their creators.
Cliff Bleszinski, former Epic Games Design Director and twenty-five-year veteran of the video game industry, shipped his first commercial title, Jazz Jackrabbit, before graduating high school. During his tenure at Epic, he was a key visionary behind the award-winning, multimillion-selling Unreal game series and the billion-dollar Gears of War franchise. While at Epic, he also lent his creative expertise to games such as Fortnite, ChAIR Entertainment’s Infinity Blade series, and multiple unannounced projects. Bleszinski is the cofounder of Boss Key Productions, which released two titles but ultimately folded. He’s now actively involved as a producer on Broadway and figuring out what's next.