It’s difficult to understand how a movement only a few months old could influence the production of a game near to going gold, but Irrational Games Co-Founder and Bioshock Infinite Creative Lead Ken Levine recently admitted being inspired by the populist protestors of Occupy Wall Street. According to a Washington Post interview with Levine, the aggressive anti-authority mentality and loose organization of the Occupy movement helped solidify some of the similar motifs for Bioshock Infinite‘s Vox Populi.
“Leftist movements are always less organized. There’s a messaging machine on the right, where they’ll come up with something and the next day you have 10, 20 people out on the news using those points.” Levine detailed, “Leftist groups tend not to like authority; nobody in them tends to listen to it. So Occupy Wall Street has been helping me because I’ve been struggling to figure out how the Vox Populi get to the point in the demo. Throughout the game, you’re actually watching them — you see in the beginning of the game that they’re a dead movement and a movement that really fails, and it picks up steam based upon your actions.”
He adds, “Hopefully, Occupy Wall Street won’t get to the point that the Vox Populi does, but seeing it spread and taken more seriously, that’s been interesting and really helpful.”
Despite the obvious political undercurrents of the Bioshock universe, particularly under Levine’s direction, the developer said he isn’t about making propaganda games for either ideology.
“The games tend to be a Rorschach [test] for people, and I’ve heard both sides of reaction. I had the displeasure of going to a white supremacist site that made a point of saying this game by ‘the Jew’ Ken Levine was about killing white people. But then I went to this leftist site that said this is about discrediting leftists movements. Games, as I said, are a Rorschach, and I don’t want to be making games that are expressing a political or philosophical view.” Levine described, “What’s the point of having something that’s about people shutting down ideologically, intellectually? People are using these movements to pose questions. If you look at Occupy Wall Street, it’s opened up dialogue, and you can say the same about the tea party. Hopefully, they don’t become extensions of parties, they will open up the conversation.”
Have you seen shades of current political conflicts in the newest Bioshock Infinite, EGs? Do you believe it’s possible to develop a game rooted in multiple ideologies and not succumb to endorsing/condemning at least one of them? Comment below!