In Real Life

How One Christian Developer Helped Ken Levine Shape BioShock Infinite's Controversial Themes

It was something that occurred to me during my four hours with BioShock Infinite — its treatment of Christianity was interesting and, as far as I could tell, pretty scathing. Surely there were Christians working on Ken Levine’s team: I wondered how they might react to the game, and what their input was.

I actually asked this question to BioShock Infinite’s Design Director Bill Gardner and received a relatively benign response. Yes, there were Christians working on the game. No, everyone was on board. Yes, there was input from everyone.

A little context: BioShock Infinite’s city in the sky, Columbia, is decidedly cultish, a large scale Christian commune led by Comstock who has rewritten history, placing himself at the centre as a divine saviour. Its satire is, as far as I’ve seen, pretty cutting and I’m interested to see how Christians react.

But in a recent interview with GameSpot, it seems as though the game’s Creative Director Ken Levine was asked the same question, and he had an entirely different response. Apparently, after playing one scene in the game, one Christian developer actually handed in a resignation letter as a result of Comstock’s characterisation. The following conversation Levine had with this developer actually helped him reshape his writing of Comstock in the game.

“My first impulse was I don’t want this guy to go because he was a good guy and a talented guy,” said Levine. “And we actually ended up having a long talk; he was an extremely religious guy and when we started talking, I realized that something I could connect to was a notion of forgiveness and what an important part that is of the New Testament and why Christ was such a revolutionary figure.”

“And thinking about how I would incorporate the power of that notion to Comstock into his world was, to me, the key. Because who hasn’t done things that they don’t want to be forgiven for?”

Apparently the developer in question eventually decided against leaving Irrational Games.

Levine, as an Atheist with no religious background, had difficulties writing the Comstock character according to the interview. It’s interesting that this conversation took place, and that it ultimately ended up shaping the game in a positive way.

BioShock Infinite’s religious themes led dev to consider quitting [Gamespot]

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