Infinite Possibilities: Ken Levine Talks About the New ‘BioShock’

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There’s that chilling part in the demo with Songbird. He’s obviously a hybrid creature of some sort. Is he all robot? Cyborg?

He’s something. [chuckles] The one thing I’ll say about him is clearly he’s connected to Elizabeth emotionally. He feels strongly about her leaving him. It’s not just his job.

When you guys announced in August of last year, you showed a bit of the Alpha, that steampunk cyborg-type enemy. Why wasn’t he/it in this demo?

You’ll see more. That thing we call an Alpha is a category of a kind of bad ass…The problem with demos is we can’t show how everything connects. We have choose foci and we didn’t want to have it overshadowed by a new Alpha in this demo because there’s already so much going on in what we’re showing.

Fair enough. Looking at Infinite in comparison to the first BioShock, it seems like there’s a bit of a recurring theme for you in terms of sketching out a moral breakdown of society. But with Rapture in BioShock, it seemed like more of a top-down decay. While the common man was a little bit complicit in it–by virtue of individual overreaching ambition and the genetic splicing–here it seems to be coming from both directions in society, from the top to from the bottom. You have the Vox, who are the proletariat and they decide to start a rebellion, and you have the Founders who are trying to suppress it. Am I over simplifying?

No. That’s about right.

We’re in a moment where one of the core currents in political discourse right now is populism and the dangers of populism. But what do you see as a counterpoint to that and how are you setting that up in the game?

There are certain sorts of populist movements on each end of the political spectrum. Often, both the left and right can adopt populist stances. The last demo [in August], you saw Saltonstall espousing the Founders’ politics and stumping about faith, flag, and family. Sort of a very populist right wing. Where here it’s all about Daisy Fitzroy, who’s the leader of the Vox Populi, and she’s basically talking how the big boss sees you as piece of cattle and he’ll turn you into chop. That’s what she says. And that was the philosophy of the Workers’ Movement, as we saw with the Industrial Workers of the World.

They said you have more in common with the worker in some other country than you do with a rich man in your own country. An internationalist movement, that’s what the Vox Populi is. And that’s a radical idea, the notion that nationalism is a tool to keep people down, and that’s obviously so at odds with the view of the Founders.

Who still cling to exceptionalist ideas.

Yes. And the nation is so important, the notions of faith, nation, and family, and you see that all over if you look through the bookshelves of recent political books. I remember that I wrote campaign posters for Saltonstall that said “For Faith. For Race. For Fatherland,” and then a famous politician had a book come out that was another version of the ‘Faith, Flag, and Family’ idea. That’s such a common thing through history…

Yeah. Like, these organizing ideas remain attractive and resilient.


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