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Ken Levine ‘wouldn’t have known’ how to make a non-violent BioShock

Posted on July 1, 2014 AT 01:41pm

In a recent interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, Ken Levine has responded to criticism that BioShock Infinite was too violent.

“I think the reaction to the violence is more an expression of people building confidence in the industry’s ability to express itself in more diverse fashions,” Levine said. “I think, to some degree, we were able to do that with [the first] BioShock, where we said, ‘OK, games can be more diverse.’ And then after Infinite, they came back and said, ‘Well, can’t you do it without the shooting?’ Maybe. It’s not something we were able to contemplate at that stage, because the game was done already. But it’s certainly an interesting question in retrospect.”

He also explained that taking an approach centered wholly on environmental storytelling and exploration—something, perhaps, like Gone Home—never crossed his mind. “I’ve always liked game-y things. I wasn’t terribly interested in making a game that didn’t have a game component.” When asked whether he could have included “game-y” elements that didn’t involve violence, Levine was similarly skeptical. “I think when you have non-violent components, it would have been odd. I wouldn’t have known how to make a game like, for instance, Mario. I wouldn’t know how to make this kind of story and turn it into a game about jumping on blocks or a Pac-Man eating dots.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that Levine’s attitudes on what’s possible in games haven’t shifted in the years since Infinite was first conceptualized. In fact, some of his final remarks during the interview hinted that the projects we see from his smaller, post-Irrational Games team might be different and more ambitious on a fundamental level. “I assumed people were coming for the shooting when we made the game, originally,” he said. “I think now we have a little more confidence now, especially when you don’t have to appeal to 8 or 10 million people, if you can just digitally distribute things like you can. You can do that now, because you don’t need to spend money to put it on trucks to get it to a store and deal with retailers and shippers and all that. You can really try to have a one-to-one interaction with a smaller, more dedicated fan base and give them the thing they want.”


Josh Harmon, Associate Editor
Josh Harmon picked up a controller when he was 3 years old—and he hasn't looked back since. This has made him particularly vulnerable to attacks from behind. He joined EGM as an intern following a brief-but-storied career on a number of small gaming blogs across the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @jorshy. Meet the rest of the crew.

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