Levine: If the narrative doesn’t fit gaming, get a new narrative

Tuesday, 10th January 2012 23:01 GMT By Brenna Hillier

BioShock creator Ken Levine famously avoids cutscenes wherever possible, and believes if you need one to tell your story – well, maybe it’s time to get a new story.

“I don’t believe there’s any medium that doesn’t have its advantages and disadvantages relative to other media. You just have to play to the strengths of the medium as best as you can,” the Irrational Games boss told Gamasutra in reponse to a question about the drama potential of first-person games.

“I think what you lose in being able to pull the camera and show emotion, you gain in immersion, and you gain in mood.

“What you’re left with at that point is to then figure out what your strengths are in the medium, and making sure you leverage those strengths, and wherever you have to tell a story you say, ‘Okay, here’s a beat of story I need to tell. Here are the 15 tools I have to tell it, whether it’s animation, whether it’s something you write on the wall as graffiti, whether it’s a piece of art in the world, whether it’s A.I. talking to you in your ear, or it’s Elizabeth, those are the tools. What’s the best way to tell this piece of story?’

“And you sift through your toolbox and then find the best tool. And sometimes you go ‘Well, there’s no good way to tell that story. Maybe I should tell a different story.’ Then you change the story so it fits your toolset better. Whenever you find yourself fighting against your toolset, you’re not going to win that fight.”

Levine’s next game, Bioshock: Infinite, is due this year on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Thanks, Joystiq.



  1. Se_7_eN

    ^^ Please put an auto generated text box at the account creation page.

    Also, am I the only one that thinks this game looks meh?

    #1 3 years ago
  2. DSB

    My head is just going “L.A. Noire”, “L.A. Noire” reading that.

    @2 It’s not impossible!

    #2 3 years ago
  3. LOLshock94

    sort of like how batman got his gadgets on arkham asylum…

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Sini

    cutscenes can accomplish what first person view can’t. i should have his job, i already know more than him.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. DSB

    @5 Half-Life called, and it wants you to GTFO.

    Cutscenes may have relevance here and there, but most often they’re a bore, and a mechanism to add some time, explain your plot or outsource your work to a studio that isn’t capable of making anything halfway worthwhile. Most often it just compensates for lack of ability.

    If you don’t know how to tell a story within the limitations of a game, then you should probably do some soulsearching. Showing people a movie might work sometimes, but it’s not a game unless you’re playing it.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Phoenixblight


    Very much agree we are past the 2000 stage when games like FF were cutscene centric and showing off things the engine can’t do by itself. Thats why I enjoy games like Bulletstorm all the stuff happens in the game as you are playing. Cutscenes are good if done in a tasteful manner like after a long and grueling boss fight but not as a crutch.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. ManuOtaku

    Bulletstorm what such a great game, i did have a lot of fun with this game, i really do hope for a second part, although the chances are really low.

    As for the topic at hand i agree with him, all these years playing zelda makes me agree with him, and bioshock had a little bit of zelda in these asppect, man i cannot wait for this game either.

    p.s for me Bulletstorm didnt got the praise it did deserve, really a fresh idea in the stagnant first person shooter crowd.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. DSB

    @7 Yup, totally agree. The Warcraft (or I guess C&C?) model of cutscenes is definitely one way to do it. Finish a chapter, and you get a nice movie to relax with.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. OrbitMonkey

    Hey Levine, fancy telling that to this guy called Hideo? What you have? He ran away yelling “I’m not listening”? Figures…

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Phoenixblight

    @10 Hideo is not example of anything other than making a movie with his game. Damn near 20 hours of cutscenes and very little actual gameplay. THen the story just being a Japanese anime fan service. Yeah, great example there.

    #10 3 years ago

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