Packaging for a snack like Oreo cookies and video game box art are not as different as they may seem, according to BioShock Infinite creative director Ken Levine. The industry veteran explained to GameSpot this week that snack packaging and box art have a shared goal: to convince consumers to make a purchase.
"What is the package of an Oreo cookie? It is a representation of something that is trying to catch your eye and appeal to you," Levine said. "Does it taste like an Oreo cookie? No. Does it feel like an Oreo cookie? Can you eat it? No. Does it have any nutritional value? No."
The BioShock Infinite box art has been a point of controversy for Irrational Games since its unveiling. It features a gun-toting Booker DeWitt, the game's male hero on the front, with Elizabeth placed on the back. Levine previously explained that the box art was designed for the uninformed. This group may not keep up to date with the happenings of the business but is in no way any less important, Levine argued. In fact, he said it is the opposite; these gamers are keeping the business alive.
"I understand why people are bothered by this, because for some reason BioShock in particular is something they put this particular value on," Levine explained. "But I have a responsibility to the company I work for, to the people I employ, to give them the best shot of having their work recognized and rewarded. And you know what, if I'm going to get criticized because I chose a [controversial] box cover, those people don't have the same responsibilities that I do."
"I have a responsibility to the company I work for, to the people I employ, to give them the best shot of having their work recognized and rewarded."
Levine explained that the process of choosing box art for BioShock Infinite came down to selecting imagery that would draw consumers to it and hopefully lead to a sale. He said Irrational created numerous concepts and showed them to thousands of people to gauge their reactions.
"This is not something to take lightly; the goal is when you walk by it on the shelf, is that person going to go and pick up the box?," Levine said. "And you can intellectualize that process a great deal and say 'What if this, what if that?' But when you actually put it in front of people, what is their reaction?"
Levine said when gamers finally do play BioShock Infinite, they will understand that the box art only scratches the surface of what the game truly is trying to say. "One's fish and one's fowl," he said.
"I pick up the front, yeah, Elizabeth's not on the front, but you flip it over, she's on the back. Sorry [waves hands sarcastically]. If that's what it takes to make the game successful and to continue to employ people, and to have more of these games, I'll take that hit happily."
BioShock Infinite launches March 26 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Levine does not know what he's making next.