BioShock Infinite Dev Nearly Quits Over Religious Differences

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

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Bioshock Infinite | Comstock Statue

An employee working on Irrational Games’ BioShock Infinite nearly resigned from the project over religious differences. A new development video from Gamespot outlines some of the difficulties of creating characters for the game. Ken Levine, creative director for the upcoming game, spoke in an interview of one incident during the game’s development.

“[…] There’s a gentleman here- one of our artists- who got to a point in the game, played it, turned off BioShock, […], opened Microsoft Word, and wrote a resignation letter,” said Levine. “It had offended him so much.”

It seems that the disagreement stemmed from the depiction of Infinite’s main antagonist, Zachary Hale Comstock. Levine recounted the difficulties he had writing for the character.

Bioshock Infinite | Comstock Banner

The incident seems to revolve around antagonist, Comstock.

“[Comstock] was one of the toughest characters for me to write because I don’t have a religious background, let alone the darker side of his beliefs; the racist side of his beliefs. So I really had a lot of trouble writing him for a long time.

When the problem with the artist came to Levine’s attention, he was able to discuss the matter with the employee, and was able to translate those issues into the game.

“I ended up having a conversation with [the artist]; my first impulse was; “I don’t want this guy to go because he was a good guy and a talented guy,” and we actually ended up having a long talk. He was an extremely religious guy, and when we started talking, I realized that something I could connect to was a notion of forgiveness […] and thinking about how I would incorporate the power of that notion to Comstock- into his world- was, to me, the key. Because who hasn’t done things that they don’t want to be forgiven for?”

The artist ended up staying on with the project.

As of yet, it is unknown how the issue with the employee may have affected Infinite’s storyline, but fans will be able to see for themselves when the game is released on March 26.


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About Tyler Lubben

Tyler is a lifelong gamer, getting his start on the Intellivision when he was three years old. After receiving his English degree, he discovered all those jokes about getting a job in his field were true. As Head Editor with oprainfall, Tyler is able to bridge his two passions; playing and talking about video games at any given opportunity, and being a total grammar nazi the rest of the time.

  • Seems like a publicity anecdote…. anyhow, if true, it is surprising to me how people working on a creative fields can be so extremist on their beliefs when, after all, creating involves challenging pre-established ideas and not confirming to a set of rules. After all, what you are creating is fake, and not necessarily reflect all of the involved personal’s beliefs and morals.

    • Rebochan

      Indeed, but should an artist simply be forced to make a work they don’t agree with? Would you really want your name in the credits of a project with a message you felt went counter to your personal beliefs?

    • I see your point, but still sounds a little contradictory to me. If your job is to create, invent, make stuff up, won’t limiting what you can create be actually limiting your professional growth?
      And of course, no one can force an artist to work on something they don’t agree with, (s)he always had the choice to leave, but it seems a little extreme to me.

    • Do your job

      Do you have to quit if you disagree with anything the company you work for does?

  • Lightthrower

    This is such bullshit, religions get to create fake stories in their mythos, but when a game makes a story based on religion it offends some of them. Hypocrites.

    • Michael Kent

      Sweetie, you’re making other atheists look like whiny, 14-year-old douchebags. Stop embarrassing us.

    • Hypocrisy is in the air

      Attacking someone for their views….how very atheist of you Michael.

    • Daniel

      Who was the first to call the other a 14-year-old douchebag?

    • Juicysnake

      How is this hypocritical?

      People actually believe what you would call fake stories. Sorry, but you just seem like one of those dumb high schoolers that want any excuse to attack religion.

      The man had no obligation to stay on the project he felt went was against his beliefs, and Ken Levine had no obligation to change the game, but from reading this the two were able to come to a compromise. No need to have hissy fit about it.

    • Ibi Salmon

      “…you just seem like one of those dumb high schoolers that want any excuse to attack religion.”


  • WCM

    I’m actually not surprised this happened with this series. I’ve never played one other than demos, because I dislike what I understand the premise of the series to be about. No knock on anyone who likes it though. I’m a big fan of Ayn Rand and her Objectivism philosophy, and my understanding is that this game series is a direct criticism of that. I tend to avoid games that I feel are pushing a religious or political viewpoint AT ALL.

    I am glad that they worked it out with the employee though, and in such a positive manner.

    • Rebochan

      The game is less a criticism of Objectivism and more of a test of how a society run by someone who believes in an ideological principle above all else might survive. It uses Objectivist theory as a backdrop, but it doesn’t so much criticize it as try to extrapolate how that society might work given that it would be created under controlled conditions without the influence of outside forces.

      I think it’s a disservice to yourself to deliberately ignore any games that might have any social, religious, or political elements to a plot though, especially if you detect they could challenge your worldview. For goodness sake, the Ayn Rand Institute spoke positively of the game when it came out and they did so explicitly because it presented challenges to the theory and forced the players to come to their own conclusions. Actually, I’m not a big fan of Objectivism myself, but I honestly felt that the world of Rapture would have succeeded had superpowers never entered into the equation.

    • WCM

      Definitely a fair point, and I will keep that in mind. I still probably won’t play the series, but I agree with your points here.

      As for playing games that challenge my beliefs, thats not really why I avoid them. Politics and Religion are very divisive topics, and I believe a personal matter. I don’t think its appropriate to discuss at family events or in the office. In media, its more acceptable, but I play video games to detatch, and I don’t feel those topics help with that for me. That goes for whether I agree or disagree with the views espoused in the media. And beyond that, there is a fine line between art and propaganda. I’m not saying this series falls into the former or latter, but I have played games that portrayed a particular viewpoint and then repeatedly beat on it, and that I find to be a huge turn off.

    • Actually the developers themselves said of the first Bioshock that they weren’t trying to criticize objectivism,but extremism. Any philosophy taken to it’s extreme can be bad.

    • Run for the hills

      Sounds like you’re just trying to hide from new ideas.

  • This is interesting. This something I’d like to see more of, developers talking about the process of making the game and where they get some of their inspiration.

  • Sounds like a marketing ploy

    Pisses off extremely religious people? Sounds like my kind of game. Pity the writer caved though.

  • jcon526

    This is the type of thing that *should* happen with creative projects as well as affairs of life. The religious person is a talented worker who had impressed his boss, yet a component of the project offended him, and was willing to respectfully resign for it. However, a meaningful conversation was had that resulted in the betterment of the story and the game.

    If we spent more time having respectful conversations rather than trashing the alleged offenders with extreme prejudice OR militantly trashing the people being offended, there would be a lot less antipathy across political/religious lines and a lot more understanding between people, I believe.

  • ““[Comstock] was one of the toughest characters for me to write because I don’t have a religious background,”

    Ha ha, no kidding.