Recently, people have been thinking deep thoughts about BioShock, BioShock 2, and the nature of video game design in general.

In other news, Steve Gaynor, who was a level designer for BioShock 2 as well as the Lead Designer for the DLC Minerva's Den at 2K Marin, has moved to a new job as Senior Level Designer at Irrational Games, working on BioShock Infinite.

Irrational Interviews Zack Snyder

Below are some excerpts from Ken Levine's interview in which he discusses adapting Randian philosophies to the game world. He also mentions his time with Gore Verbinski trying to adapt BioShock into a movie. The entire interview is fascinating, and contains some truly geeky insights into making movies, comic books and games.

Chris Remo
When you work on games like BioShock what you're essentially trying to do is adapt some kind of broader ideal; you're trying to find some kind of essence. BioShock is a game whose story is told, in many ways, visually, communicating these grand ideas—this Randian utopia—through the architecture, through the tone, through these ideas— trying to coalesce that into some kind of physicality.
Ken Levine
I'm fascinated with adaptation, and we took a very abstract idea, which is basically the writing of this woman, and instead of adapting it literally, 'cause I think people have tried to adapt Rand for a thousand years, and they're still trying— It's really hard! (chuckling)

The thing that I think people don't understand about her, is that it's a pretty goofy book in a lot of ways [referring to The Fountainhead], but it's also a great yarn, you know— it's a great story, and it has these almost comic-book like heroic characters.

There's an idealization of humanity. There's this sense that you could become this— this impossible thing. I think she's actually a really strong story teller, but she also makes these idealized characters. You know, I think what we were trying to do with BioShock is say 'what if these characters actually existed, if they were people, and they were people who could fail'— and the books are set up so that they can never fail. The freedom we had in making that game— we didn't have the responsibility of adapting something, but we were trying to adapt it in a different way.
I had an experience recently, you know— I worked a bunch with Gore Verbinski on trying to, sort of, turn BioShock into a movie. I think one of the challenges, and the reason that I find your work so interesting [speaking to Zack Snyder] is the ability to walk that line of the adaptation, but also making a valid movie that stands on its own— and nobody's done it with a game yet.
Zack Snyder
I honestly believe it's just a mist by Hollywood. I feel that it's like the comic book movie in a lot of ways. Someone needs to make a movie about a video game, who loves video games.
Ken Levine
Yeah, because the video game movies feel like that Spider-Man TV show in the 70s, where there's no love for what the material is.
Zack Snyder
You know, most of the people, when they talk about making a video game into a movie it's that weird kind of... 'We're humoring the amount of money that the game made, and so we have to kind of respect that part of it, but we'll fix it when we make the movie— the story part that those video game people didn't understand.' And I thought that's just wrong. That's the same kind of attitude that got the comic book movies jacked up for so long, because the mythology wasn't being respected.
Ken Levine
I think now there's a bit of, in Hollywood when a game comes in, they say 'don't worry, the adults are here now, and now we're going to be able to tell this story.'
Do you think one of the challenges is that in order to be entrusted with something —like to make a BioShock movie— that's an expensive proposition, and the fact that generally when a film director gets to the point in their career when they can be trusted to make a movie on that scale, they're a little bit older. And it sounds like you and I grew up interested in things that weren't that popular at the time, whether its Frazetta or comic books or whatever, but I think most of the film directors I've spoken to (who can be trusted with making a movie on that scale) didn't grow up playing games, so now they can't even play a game. You know— they don't know how to play a game; they just don't have that tactile experience, and therefore they're just sort of observing it. So there's almost a generational problem to some degree— even with relatively young guys.
Zack Snyder
I think it is a problem! I don't know that you can make a video game movie— and this might sound crazy— unless you have some experience with the game; some connection to the game. And I'm not saying you have to have fought in war to make a good war movie, but the best war movies are made by people who sort of have an understanding of combat. And so I feel that leap is a pretty big leap— to observe a video game [like some sort of phenomenon of pop culture that somehow now needs to be turned into a movie] is not right. It does not work.

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