Almost Ten Years Since The Original Bioshock, Ken Levine Still Sounds Exhausted By It

By Keza MacDonald on at

Understandably, after spending years and years as Bioshock's loquacious figurehead, Ken Levine has not been seen or heard from much since Irrational Games was "restructured" in 2014, leaving him and just a few others to work quietly on something new, smaller-scale, and definitively not-Bioshock. A new interview with Rolling Stone suggests that almost ten years since the original Bioshock, Levine is still exhausted by the experience of developing these games.

Here he is on what Bioshock Infinite means to him now:

For you, it's an experience that you play. For me, it's the five years making it, and all the things that happened while making it, and the health problems I had during it. I saw a picture of me when we first announced it. That was 2010. And then I saw a picture of me after I did an interview on NPR when we shipped it in 2013. And I look 10 years older.

It changed my life in terms of what it did to my health, and what it did to my view of making games, and my relationships with people... I think the natural expectation was that I would go and do the next bigger and better BioShock game. And I felt, "I think I'll fail if I do that. I think I'll lose my mind, and my marriage." And so my solution was to quit.

Interviewer Chris Suellentrop does not hold back on some of the problems with Infinite in particular, describing one of its most-lambasted plot points thus: "If I can use a 2016 metaphor... you created a game in which Donald Trump founded a xenophobic colony in the sky, only to learn that the Mexicans really are rapists." Levine doesn't dodge the questions. Asked if he has any regrets about the games, he responds thus:

I'm not a happy person. I have crushing anxiety all the time. Which is crazy, because I wake up and I look at my beautiful wife and my beautiful dog and my beautiful home and the beautiful people I work with and these things I've created and these fans, and I say, "How the fuck can you be unhappy?" Well, we're a miserable species. I am born with a depressive, anxious brain. So I'm full of regret. I use regret to say, "How can I do it better in the future?"

The full interview is an essential read if you've ever played and thought about the Bioshock games, and Levine also talks about an Irrational Studios game that was never released. Read it here.