Why Ken Levine Stopped Making BioShock Games
"I'm not a happy person. I have crushing anxiety all the time."
Rolling Stone's Glixel today published a fascinating, in-depth interview feature with BioShock designer Ken Levine. One particularly interesting segment of the interview focuses on why Levine stopped making BioShock games to instead focus on a "smaller, more entreprenuerial" effort for Take-Two.
He started off by saying he "didn't want to make another one" after BioShock Infinite, though he tempered that statement by saying he also had a "never say never" attitude about it. He informed his bosses at Take-Two that he would leave the company after shipping that game because he wanted to make a "much smaller" and "very experimental" game.
"They asked me to stay. I figured they would keep Irrational for the next BioShock. That's not what happened," he said.
Take-Two ultimately closed Irrational Games. Levine and a small number of staffers started a new studio for Take-Two. The company's first game has not been announced, but Levine has teased that it is set in a small scale open world.
As for why he wanted to stop making BioShock games, Levine said the process of making BioShock Infinite had an adverse effect on his life.
"I saw a picture of me when we first announced it. That was 2010. And then I saw a picture of me after I did an interview on NPR when we shipped it in 2013. And I look 10 years older," he said. "It changed my life in terms of what it did to my health, and what it did to my view of making games, and my relationships with people."
He added: "Managing 30 or 40 people where you know everybody's name is a very different process than managing 150 people. You walk by people in the studio and you don't know who they are."
While some people may thrive on this kind of setup, Levine said he is a creative type who would rather write stories than manage people in particular.
"I think the natural expectation was that I would go and do the next bigger and better BioShock game. And I felt, 'I think I'll fail if I do that. I think I'll lose my mind, and my marriage.' And so my solution was to quit," he said.
Also in the interview, Levine speaks frankly about how he sees himself.
"I'm not a happy person. I have crushing anxiety all the time," he said. "Which is crazy, because I wake up and I look at my beautiful wife and my beautiful dog and my beautiful home and the beautiful people I work with and these things I've created and these fans, and I say, 'How the f**k can you be unhappy?'"