Bioshock Infinite altered after “conversations with religious people on the team” says Levine
Ken Levine has been talking about some of the religious themes in Bioshock Infinite, specifically how one of the characters became “highly altered” after conversations with religious members of the team.
Bioshock Infinite’s religious themes
“It’s hard for me to talk about it because the thematic elements evolve across the game” says Levine, not wanting to give too much away. “I think people first saw it and thought it was a game about the tea party in America, then they saw it as a game about the labourer movement. Now people are going to think it’s a game about religion. It’s about patriotism, it’s about all those things but I think we keep larger meanings a little closer to our vest”.
Part of the evolution came from Levine’s desire to better grasp the core ideals at play. “I think the power baptism is a powerful experience, it’s literally rebirth,” he says speaking of an early scene when Booker is baptised before being allowed into the city of Colombia. “It’s very important for me to understand a certain aspect of the religiosity of the world,” he explains. “That’s where I tune in as a non-religious person. In the same way I’m not an objectivist, but it’s very important for me to understand the appeal of it [for Bioshock].
Obviously religion is a tricky area to tackle, something that’s hard to ignore every time you fire up an Assassin’s Creed game to see the disclaimer: “This game was developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs”. So it’s understandable if the team were nervous about religious themes. “I think that we had a similar conversation about Bioshock 1,” says Levine. “It involves infanticide, I don’t think there’s a larger taboo in the world. There were people who were very nervous about that. We didn’t have that because we thought it would be cool. My feeling was if it’s not just there to be exploitive, if it’s true to the story and you’re telling something that you think is honest, then everything has a place”.
According to Levine part of the appeal of areas like Bioshock’s objectivist philosophy was, “figuring out the appeal, what that world is like and why it’s so attractive to so many people”. The religious aspects of Infinite came under similar scrutiny. “I had some very valuable conversations. One of the characters in the game was highly altered based upon some very interesting conversations I had with people on the team who came from a very religious background, and I was able to understand they were kind of upset about something”.
Like the infanticide and objectivism before, however, this didn’t lead to any punches being pulled to avoid problems. “What I said to them was, ‘I’m not going to change anything to get your approval, but I think I understand what you’re saying and I think I can do something that’s going to make the story better, based on what you said.’ So I did that, and I’m grateful for them bringing in their perspective. The last thing I wanted to do was change something because it offends somebody, but the thing they pointed out was making it a lesser story”.
You can read our full Ken Levine interview and Bioshock Infinite cover feature in the latest issue of Official PlayStation Magazine UK.