BioShock Infinite character "highly altered" after talks with religious Irrational members
As a storyteller, Irrational Creative Director Ken Levine isn't averse to addressing controversial themes—BioShock Infinite is a what-if scenario of American exceptionalism, racism, and deep-rooted class divides—but that doesn't mean he rejects constructive input. Speaking to OXM, Levine revealed how talks with religious members of Infinite's team caused him to change a certain character, not to gain approval, but to improve the story.
"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," Levine explained. "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."
Levine makes an important distinction. Conceding touchy plot elements to keep everyone satisfied works in a pinch, but if this change happened as Levine says it did—from a conversation about understanding and not appeasement—it underlines the importance of a much-ignored trait: the ability to listen. It's certainly refreshing in the aftermath of gaffes that might have been prevented by an open ear, such as Deep Silver's backpedaling after marketing a bloody female torso with Dead Island: Riptide.
"I think we had a similar conversation about BioShock," Levine went on. "It involved 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 feel nervous because we thought it would be cool. My feeling was if it's not just there to be exploitative, if it's true to the story, and you're telling something that you think is honest, then everything has a place."
The full interview is in the latest issue of Official PlayStation Magazine UK.