Early on in Bioshock Infinite, you're treated to a grisly staging of the racism propounded by Columbia's ruling class, the ultra-nationalist Founders. The scene serves as a trigger point, tipping a period of exploration over into carnage, and not everybody's happy with the results. In an illuminating interview with PC Gamer, Irrational boss Ken Levine has discussed some of the more extreme responses to Infinite's mishmash of political standpoints.
At the end of the day... It's hard for me to talk about where all that element is going in the game," he said. "Not the element of 'the foreign element,' but the thematic elements you're talking about, where they're going. Because they may not be going where you think they're going.
"This may not be about, necessarily, what you think it's about. In the same way I really think BioShock wasn't truly about a critique of Objectivism. I think it was about something else."
Columbia also plays host to the labour movement Vox Populi, who appear to be more or less as violent and bigoted as the Founders. Both portrayals have attracted fiery feedback, Levine revealed. "Trust me, I get tweets... When I started working on this game, relatives of mine were very offended, because they thought it was an attack on the Tea Party. Specifically an attack on the Tea Party, which they were very active in.
"Then, when we sort of exposed the Vox Populi people, I saw a lot more left-leaning websites being like, 'This is trying to tear down the labor movement!'" he went on. "I remember that I saw postings, unfortunately, on a white supremacist website, Stormfront, where people literally said, 'The Jew Ken Levine is making a white-person-killing simulator.'"
Nasty stuff - but there's a certain satisfaction to be derived from the idea that all these groups may be playing into Levine's hands. "BioShock had the same thing, where you had Objectivists being infuriated by it, and people more on the left thinking that it was a love letter to Objectivism. I think these games are a bit of a Rorschach for people. It's usually a negative Rorshach. It pisses them off, you know?
"But I'd way rather have that than to...These games are, to some degree... If they're about anything they're about not buying into a single point of view," he elaborated. "About having a lack of confidence in anything. They're not ever an attack on a single idea. It's a bit of a plague on all your houses."