Ken Levine: Focus on the Story, Not the Boobs in BioShock Infinite

The co-founder of Irrational Games, Ken Levine, expressed his discontent with everyone on the internet focusing more on the chest of the character Elizabeth, rather than the struggles she goes through. In an interview with OXM, he said, “You know I think there’s two questions there, one is ‘does she need to be pretty?’ and another is ‘does she need to be voluptuous?’ or whatever.”

Inserting my own opinion here, I feel that the story is huge. I don’t mind a person who gets googly-eyes over a women’s chest. It depends how far you take it. If you buy the game to see them, then you’re just sick. The true fans of the series will appreciate the game for the story, that’s how it usually ends up. To read the full interview, go past the break below.

In terms of her body type, I think certainly people on the Internet have spent way more time thinking about Elizabeth’s chest than I have. It’s something I’ve barely thought about.

We sort of evolved her over time, and that’s the challenge when you show stuff early on – you’re still in the creative process and you’re still evolving the creative process. I’m sure Elizabeth may evolve a little bit more over time because until it’s out, I haven’t made the definitive statement on it… so I certainly don’t spend as much time thinking about this issue as the Internet does, and I’m not sure what that says about the Internet but, you know.

It’s disappointing when [Elizabeth’s appearance] becomes a focus for conversation because that was never my intent and it’s sort of a disincentive – I’d much rather talk about what she’s going through as a person, but whatever, they have the right to shout out whatever they want.

In terms of ‘does she need to be physically attractive?’ Booker’s not exactly an unattractive dude himself, he doesn’t have a spare tyre and he’s a good-looking guy. Generally people in media are more attractive than the average person. People like looking at attractive people. My wife and I always joke about TV, ‘wow, the police force in this town is really good looking! I wonder why that is…’

It’s an interesting strange kind of thing. If you came across a hospital full of beautiful people, like you see on television, I think you’d say: “woah, what the f**k is going on here? This is really weird!’ But on a television show it’s just a very natural thing, and in games it’s just a very natural thing.

Elizabeth’s pronounced features have another, more mundane purpose that speaks to Infinite’s world; they’re easy to pick out at a distance. The new game swaps claustrophobia for acrophobia, taking Bioshock from the crammed, depopulated depths to the giddy heights, where battles may be fought aboard dirigibles and vertiginous Skyrails.

To me, the most important thing with Elizabeth was just honestly her eyes because, you know, they’re somewhat exaggerated and the reason for that is because there’s so much expression you can do there, with her eyes, and you see her often at a great distance.

I’ve spent way more time thinking about her eyes than her chest because eyes show a ton of expression, and you see her at a great distance. AI characters get very, very small, very, very quickly so you need to be able to recognise her silhouette, the shape of her body. Her colour scheme’s actually very simple, you know, the sort of two tone colour look – that’s all to do with this sort of exaggeration.

I know this from comic books: if you look at certainly the iconic superhero outfits, they’re all very simple colour schemes, and that was because of the printing technology they had at the time, but it also allowed those characters to have an iconic look. And video games have the same problem – 720p is a relatively small number of pixels compared to what you see on a giant movie screen, for instance, the kind of resolution 35-70mm film has.

So you have to make judgements about exaggerating certain things if you want them to scan at a distance, which Elizabeth needs quite often because we don’t do a lot of cutscenes, we can’t always put the camera right up to her like we did at that scene at the end [of the E3 demo], where she takes your hand and puts it around her neck.

So you know, we make certain decisions, creative decisions along the way that are generally driven by what’s going to make this character work and relate to the player.


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