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Levine: Gamers 'Want To Be Mentally Stimulated'

Matt Gardner
Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, Irrational Games, Ken Levine

Levine: Gamers 'Want To Be Mentally Stimulated'

Ken Levine wonders if developers aren't selling their audiences short a little bit, suggesting recently that games have more to offer than action sequences and 'visceral experiences', and that gaming audiences are more diverse in terms of tastes than some might think.

'I don’t think people give gamers enough credit and assume that they only want explosive, visceral experiences. We also want to be mentally stimulated. The fact that the scene resonated so much proves that we are more diverse in their tastes than some think.'

Levine pointed to the feedback he'd received from players of the original Bioshock when it came to the decision to harvest ADAM from the Little Sisters or protect them.

'When faced with a choice between protecting and destroying in games, point in case being the dilemma of whether to rescue or harvest the Little Sisters in BioShock, do you think we are innately drawn to one or the other?

'Well we don’t have any kind of metric to track that particular example but we do have anecdotal evidence. I do a podcast called Irrational Interviews and I was talking with Guillermo Del Toro on there. He said that he harvested in front of his two daughters and they got really mad at him. My sense is that people generally rescue and I think that decision is an emotional one rather than a logical one.'

Levine did note a few technical shortcomings with the original game, though, acknowledging that much of the combat was built around relatively close-quarters play and conceding that the ability to finish the game with just the electro bolt or shotgun was something that Irrational had taken into consideration for this follow-up.

'One of the first things we did when we started on BioShock Infinite was to draw a graph with y and z axes, and to say that one of those axes was the number of enemies in an encounter and the other was the range of those enemies. In the original BioShock, the entire game lived in one corner of that graph – few enemies, all at close range — so the Electro Bolt and shotgun were perfect. BioShock Infinite is going to have much greater ranges and, potentially, far more enemies, so we’re greatly increasing the spectrum of encounters that are possible, and that requires the player use a broader set of tools.'

Levine was keen to add that they haven't decreased the efficiency of those weapons for close range tasks at hand, but rather have looked to expand the experience and shaking up the scenarios in which Booker and Elizabeth will find themselves.

'It may be a given player will try to find a way to close down those distances and stick with Electro Bolt and shotgun, but I don’t think that’s going to be anywhere near as effective a strategy this time around. They were too devastating in BioShock, we admit that, but we’re not going to solve it by simply nerfing those weapons; we’re doing it by changing the types of encounter you’re going to face.' [Playstation Blog]

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