Ken Levine on tackling social issues: Games should not be 'restricted to a certain set of topics'

One of the most surprising things we discovered when playing through the first few hours of BioShock Infinite was the rampant presence of racism throughout the streets of Columbia, a society seemingly lifted to a higher standard in terms of technology but dragging its knuckles on the wrong side of history. Playing another key role in the narrative of the upcoming Irrational Games title is religion, centered around a self-appointed prophet that rules the skyward city and who stands in the way of allowing protagonist Booker DeWitt to complete his ultimate objective.

Along with being the President of Irrational Games, Ken Levine wears the hat of creative director and lead writer on the developer's projects. Speaking with Joystiq, Levine made it clear that he doesn't subscribe to the notion that video games should be restricted from tackling any sensitive issues.

"For my own personal tastes, I'm not afraid of any topic or I wouldn't walk away from any topic because it was controversial. And I wouldn't run towards any topic because it was controversial. There's a story I want to tell," Levine said. Levine noted that the team at Irrational tests narrative ideas, feeling them out to see how they work. Throughout the development of BioShock Infinite, the story of Columbia was forced to evolve as original concepts didn't work alongside the vision for the universe Irrational was crafting.

"Originally, the conflict in [BioShock Infinite] was one between technologists and luddites, and it just wasn't very interesting for us. The story didn't go anywhere, because there wasn't a lot of historical precedence for it and it didn't really resonate. And it evolved, and it kept evolving many, many times," Levine told Joystiq. "But it's all about how you do it, not what you do."

Watch the complete interview above for more from Levine on the state of writing in games, along with widening the industry's narrative to include more female characters and varying sexual orientation.

For more on BioShock Infinite make sure to read Joystiq's recent hands-on preview and watch the first part of our Ken Levine interview detailing the game's evolution and the second part focused on the studio's evolving corporate culture.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.