Monday, May 22, 2006

Gears of War: The Race to E3

MTV2 showed a great half-hour documentary this weekend called Gears of War: The Race to E3. Their cameras were given what seemed like extraordinary access both to Microsoft's Redmond offices, and Epic Games' headquarters in Raleigh. The result was the funniest, most uncomfortable workplace comedy since the original The Office. It helps that the featured player was Cliff "Cliffy B" Bleszinski. (And who ever thought, back in the days when Jeff K. was still funny, that the nickname would have stuck like it has?)

Bleszinski is the revenge of the nerds personified. Not only does he wear tight pants and borrow his boss's Lamborghini to go out partying, but he also breaks up with his 19-year-old girlfriend and gets back together with her in the course of about five minutes. (Not kidding -- the show covered the span of maybe two months maximum, and it went from "We're perfect for each other" to "We broke up" to "We got back together.")

But much funnier was the barely-veiled hostility between the developers at Epic and the money men at Microsoft. The developers' liasion at Microsoft is a 40-ish woman who spends the entire show with an "I got my MBA for this?" look on her face. To watch her sweetly smiling at Epic's president as she explains that Microsoft feels the chainsaw-bayonet is a little excessive is to see the pinnacle of pointless inter-office power plays. The guys at Epic absolutely would not compromise on the chainsaw, either. I think they turned out to be right.

Best moment, hands-down, happened after Gears of War was introduced to a rapturous reception at E3. Bleszinski runs into none other than Bill Gates outside the convention hall. It seems impromptu. Gates comes over to say hi. Cliffy B starts babbling about the chainsaw. Gates glances off camera repeatedly, but Bleszinski adds clause after clause to the longest run-on sentence ever captured on film. Gates asks if they're on track for a fall ship date, and Blezsinski stammers like his teacher has nailed him for not doing his homework. Finally, Bill Gates simply says, "We're counting on you," and then Cliffy B asks for a picture. You need to see this show.

Fortunately, since this is an MTV2 production, it will probably be on several times a day for the next month. It's probably on right now.

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