In a reflective post on Instagram, former head of now-defunct studio Boss Key, Clifford Bleszinski, lamented the failure of the studio’s great big competitive shooter LawBreakers. I know it’s easy to have forgotten about LawBreakers, because it was a generic-looking competitive shooter that failed to stand out at a time when Overwatch – with its colourful cartoon heroes – was winning hearts.
LawBreakers was a good game, made in the Quake mould in that it had a ridiculously high skill ceiling. It was the opposite of what a good competitive game should be though; once you hit that skill ceiling, that was it. It was hard to learn, but fairly easy to master. That made it a bit of a niche game, hardly appealing to the masses in the way that Overwatch is. The marketing was also pretty terrible, with the sort 90’s method of trying to appeal to “hardcore” gamers with how EXTREME it was. It was also initially revealed as being a F2P game, and then ended up being a fixed cost one – but still stuffed with lootboxes and microtransactions. It was honestly doomed from the start.
But it’s not really these specific things that led to its failure, according to Bleszinski. No, it was his “woke” politics that fluffed it.
“Ever since the studio closed I’ve been wracking my brain what I could have done differently. Pivot HARD when the juggernaut of Overwatch was announced. Been less nice with my design ideas and more of a dictator with them,” he wrote. “One big epiphany I had was that I pushed my own personal political beliefs in a world that was increasingly divided.
Instead of the story being ‘this game looks neat’ it became ‘this is the game with the ‘woke bro’ trying to push his hackey politics on us with gender neutral bathrooms.’ Instead of ‘these characters seem fun’ it was ‘this is the studio with the CEO who refuses to make his female characters sexier.’ Instead of ‘who am I going to choose’ it became ‘white dude shoehorns diversity in his game and then smells his own smug farts in interviews’ instead of just letting the product … speak for itself.”
To be fair to Bleszinski, he doesn’t believe that his personal politics are the sole reason the game crashed. Rather that they were part of the reason.
But here’s the thing. I don’t think I’ve ever associated Bleszinski with especially “woke” political leanings, and I hardly believe that LawBreakers veered into being overtly political. If anything, Overwatch could be accused of trying to pander to diversity, but that’s a game that got its communication and marketing right and was fun to play.
Last Updated: February 6, 2020