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Ken Levine Compares BioShock Visonaries Andrew Ryan and Father Comstock

December 19, 2012 Written by Jesse Meikle

Despite being aesthetic polar opposites – BioShock and BioShock Infinite share a lot of thematic elements that bond the titles in a spiritual – rather than a direct way. The most obvious similarity the games share is the idea of a private utopia brought about by one man’s slightly insightful, albeit tunnel-visioned ambitions.

PC Gamer recently held an interview with Irrational Games’ creative director, and co-founder, Ken Levine, and asked him several questions about the studio’s upcoming game. My highlight was hearing Levine compare, and contrast, Rapture City’s Andrew Ryan, with Columbia’s Father Comstock:

They’re very different. On the surface you’d think they’re totally opposite. One is an industrialist, capitalist atheist. The other one is a nationalist, religious, charismatic, prophetic figure. But the thing where they’re very similar is that they both have a singular world view that is, they believe, all-encompassing. This ideology of “my way or the highway.” They’re very confident in that ideology. I think that’s why these worlds feel similar, even though one’s at the bottom of the sea and one’s in the clouds. They seem very opposite, and yet they’re reflections in some ways as well, from an ideological standpoint. They are so rigid in that approach. Ideologies are more similar along their rigidity scale than they are along the scale of their particular ideas. A rigid ideology of any kind tends to reflect another rigid ideology. Less rigid ideologies tend to reflect other less rigid ideologies.

Ken Levine also spoke about Andrew Ryan specifically, and how he relates to, and understands, the attraction of Rapture’s morally unrestrained ideology:

 I come from a more similar background to an Andrew Ryan. I was an entrepreneur. My family’s of eastern European Jewish descent. I have some libertarian leanings myself, although I’m certainly not an objectivist by any stretch of the imagination. But at least I could understand the appeal of his message very clearly. I’m not a religious person, though, and it was critically important to me that I spend… I probably spent more time thinking about this issue than almost anything. I need to understand the appeal of the message. It couldn’t just be a transformative, ecstatic moment of religion, because I never had that. I had to understand it on a deeper level. That may not be clear to you yet, what his appeal is to the people and why that’s important to the game.

The themes and philosophies of Infinite are sure to be major sticking points with gamers – do you feel Comstock’s nationalistic nature will be as hotly debated, and discussed, as Andrew Ryan’s humanistic objectivity?

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