updated 12:55 pm EDT, Thu August 3, 2006
Levine on BioShock
Irrational Games' Ken Levine, producer on the PC, 360 and PS3 title BioShock, recently answered a host of questions posed to him by fansite Through the Looking Glass. It's a great read. Topics include story, art design, moral choices, and the themes of horror. Says Levine in one quote: "I'm not really afraid of genetic technology, atomic weapons or killer robots. I'm afraid of ideology, and the dangers of extreme ideology. In a lot of the games I've worked on, I've tried to put the player in the role of the guy stuck in the middle."
"When I did the original plot for Thief, I tried to make Garrett (or Palmer, as he was originally known) a guy with no ideology except himself. He got stuck in the middle of larger forces, each driven by a strong and opposing ideological bent (the Hammers and the Trickster). In Shock 2, I did something similar with SHODAN and the Many. In BioShock, you're really caught between ideological extremes."
Nietzsche would appreciate Levine's take on the moral dilemmas presented by many game developers: "[They] put the moral choice right in the player's nose...what always bugs me about this is that it ignores the key component of what compels people to do nasty things: need. In BioShock, we put you in a terrible world that has exploited the weakest members of that world in horrible ways. Then we put you in a situation in which, in order to survive, it's pretty damn tempting to exploit the weak yourself. And there's no moral authority telling you what to do, what's right and wrong.
"The people who exploited the Little Sisters in Rapture were motivated by ideology and their survival instincts. Any player who plays BioShock is going to be very tempted to exploit the Little Sisters, too, because now it's their life on the line. That's going to lead, I hope, to an understanding of how terrible things happen. It brings the player into the process of evil, and maybe makes them understand how terrible things happen, even when basically good people are involved."
Head on over to TTLG to check out the rest of the interview and the Website.