Head in the Clouds: Writing BioShock Infinite

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Head in the Clouds: Writing BioShock Infinite

The toughest question to answer is “How do you write for a BioShock game?” Wait, let me back up.

I started at Irrational almost a year ago. At that point, there wasn’t a “writing team”, it was just Ken Levine. Luckily, Ken is a smart guy and knew that this upcoming game was going to be big. Bigger than any game he’d worked on before. So I tricked him into hiring me, and a couple months later we realized it was still a really big game, so Joe Fielder tricked us into hiring him as well. And the three of us, along with Jordan Thomas, tried to wrangle the beast that is BioShock Infinite.

The writing team at Irrational is structured a lot like a television writing staff. (At least I assume. I’ve never worked in TV, so maybe they don’t have a special room for footrubs and/or quiet sobbing.) We’ll sit down with a problem to solve (“How do we make Infinite make any sense?”) and pitch various ideas (“Free drugs in every box?”) until one of them sticks. (*INSERT ENDING OF BIOSHOCK INFINITE*) Then we’ll grind on that idea until it either sucks and we start over, or it becomes something… well, good. Hopefully.

But the key is this: We’re never satisfied. Something can always be better. The first idea is never the best one.

Our roles at Irrational are pretty well defined: Joe is the guy who can churn out an insane amount of writing in a very short amount of time, and I hate him for it. I’m really good at finding pictures of dogs who think they are people.

And Ken is able to take everything, mash it up, and deliver a coherent, challenging, and medium-defining piece of art.

So back to the first question: “How do you write for a BioShock game?”

You just start. And then you do it again. And again. And again. And eventually you get something pretty damn cool.

Hopefully, on March 26th, you’ll all agree with us.

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