Ken Levine: Violence is an Essential Part of Storytelling

There’s no denying that BioShock Infinite is a violent game, but whether the violence is an essential part of the game’s narrative is a matter of debate.

Irrational Games’ Ken Levine argues that violence within the narrative has always been a part of the “story teller’s toolkit” no matter the medium, and that games are no different. Levine points out that using violence as a narrative device is nothing new.

“Violence, for better or for worse, is…going back to the dawn of narrative,” Levine said in an interview with NPR’s Tom Ashbrook. “I think there’s a couple questions here. I remember when I was a kid; I was not a very popular kid. I was a nerdy, little kid. And I didn’t have friends because I wasn’t very good at socializing, and I found Dungeons & Dragons.

“If you remember, back in the 70s there was this big human cry about Dungeons and Dragons; kids were going off and killing themselves and disappearing into caves. And that happened with comic books and that happened with rock and roll music.”

The show’s host Tom Ashbrook trotted out the case of the Sandy Hook shooting, saying that the loss of life was immediate, suggesting that violence in games had a possible role to play in the massacre. Levine responded to this, saying that for him, games were a way to get away from the violence of the real world.

“My point is, for me personally, games were a way around being ‘that kid.’ I’m not speaking as a scientist here; we can argue the science, but I’m… not the best guy to do that,” Levine said.

“I think the other point is they call them first-person shooters; F-P-S. There’s the F-P, the first-person aspect of being, inhabiting a character’s role, and then there’s the S part, which is the shooter part. And I’m not sure that they’re necessarily one in the same.”

You can listen to the rest of his interview at NPR.

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