A city under the sea. A city forever touring the skies. The ability to program yourself with genetic marvels. None of this sounds like the kind of story that has much grounding in reality, but creative director over at Irrational Games, Ken Levine, thinks otherwise. In a recent interview at NYCC’11 Levine talks about his own literary and political influences in the Bioshock games.
Levine turns to politics and notes that many people see parallels between the political groups in Infinite and the Tea Party – a conservative movement in America. While Levine acknowledges the similarities he says that this is part of a movement that has repeated itself over and over in both American and European history. The games other political group – The Vox Populi – also has some similarities to the current leftist Occupy movement in America. Levine claims that this is simply evidence of this kind of cycle – where one group rises to expound certain values another will form to oppose it.
It is this contrast of ideas, that occurs over and over, that Levine draws influences from for the Bioshock games.
When asked about the possibility of Bioshock in the future Levine reiterated just what made a Bioshock game a Bioshock game. He says that the root of the Bioshock games are people, and cites the book Red Mars as another inspiration for the games. In Red Mars a group of colonist attempt to escape all the social ills of the future by going to live on Mars with the hopes of starting anew. Sound familiar?
“What they forget about is that they bring people with them. They bring all their problems with them because they bring people with them. They thought they were leaving their problems, but they are the problem. I really was inspired by that and I don’t think the period in history matters. I think it’s what kind of story your telling and if that story relates to the experience we have as people.
As someone who has himself written about the politics and underlying themes of the original Bioshock I have to applaud Levine for weaving intelligent discussion into a videogame with such dexterous skill. Sure, not every game needs to be a long-winded deconstruction of some philosophy or political ideal, but games that take the time to actually say something are precious gems in my opinion.