BioShock Infinite creator hearing criticism from opposite political sides

By Steve Watts, Dec 14, 2012 9:00am PST

After the first BioShock and now with BioShock Infinite, it's clear that creator Ken Levine is interested in exploring political themes. By setting itself at the turn of the century, Infinite is primed to tackle issues of race, immigration, and the idea of American exceptionalism. As the old saying goes, everyone is a critic, so Levine says the game has gotten criticism from people from all over the political spectrum.

"When I started working on this game, relatives of mine were very offended, because they thought it was an attack on the Tea Party. Specifically an attack on the Tea Party, which they were very active in," Levine told PC Gamer. "Then, when we sort of exposed the Vox Populi people, I saw a lot more left-leaning websites being like, 'This is trying to tear down the labor movement!' I remember that I saw postings, unfortunately, on a white supremacist website, Stormfront, where people literally said, 'The Jew Ken Levine is making a white-person-killing simulator.'"

Levine says that the thematic elements are difficult to talk about, because they "may not be going where you think they’re going." He compared the reaction to the first BioShock, which had those on the right and left disagreeing about his thoughts on objectivism. "I think these games are a bit of a Rorschach for people. It's usually a negative Rorshach. It pisses them off, you know? These games are, to some degree... If they're about anything they're about not buying into a single point of view. About having a lack of confidence in anything. They're not ever an attack on a single idea. It's a bit of a plague on all your houses."

He notes that whatever we see in BioShock Infinite, it has to be viewed in context through the lens of history. "Abraham Lincoln, if you read his writings now, you would ascribe him? Even though he’s the most important abolitionist of all time, and a great man, he was a man of his time," he said. "He viewed African-Americans as a lesser race. He just thought they should be free. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. George Washington owned slaves. People were men of their times, and this is a game that's set in a time where, if you don’t have those elements in the game, it's just dishonest, you know?"

BioShock Infinite is coming March 26, after the latest (and hopefully, last) delay.

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