Video game taps into Occupy Wall Street

NEW YORK Thu Nov 24, 2011 3:14am IST

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators march while carrying a banner during what protest organizers called a ''Day of Action'' in New York November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators march while carrying a banner during what protest organizers called a ''Day of Action'' in New York November 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - When gamers take the wraps off the new "BioShock" video game next year, they should not be surprised if parts of the game remind them of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Ken Levine, the creative director of the Boston-based development studio Irrational Games visited the protests in Boston this month to do research for the next game in the best-selling "BioShock" series, which will be out in 2012.

The game "BioShock Infinite," is set in 1912, in a floating U.S. city in the sky called Columbia, where two fictional political factions, the left-wing group called the Vox Populi and the right-wing Founders, are fighting.

"It's been fascinating to watch the conflict in the game, which is based on historical conflicts, sort of become reincarnated in our times," said Levine, who previewed parts of the game to media months before the Wall Street protests started.

Some of his inspiration comes from political groups such as the Baader-Meinhof gang, left-wing militants in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Know Nothings, an anti-immigration U.S. political faction in the mid-1800s.

But when the Occupy Wall Street protests broke out, Levine seized the chance to see a protest up close.

"It's one thing to read about these movements by reading history books but another thing to see one of these things happening in real time and go there and breathe it in," Levine said.

It's not that first time Levine has delved into political ideologies. The first "BioShock" game took place in an underwater universe inspired by author Ayn Rand and the valley of "Galt's Gulch" she created in her book "Atlas Shrugged."

But Levine will not say what in the game, which will feature police, paramilitary groups and strike breakers, was inspired by his experience at the protests.

Levine, whose games have made millions of dollars for his studio's parent company Take-Two Interactive, said he is not taking a political stance.

He wants to leave the elements of his games up for interpretation.

"The games we make tend to be a bit of a Rorschach test," he said, referring to the psychological test in which people explain what they see in inkblots.

But one thing Levine hopes is that the protests do not take on the radicalism in "BioShock," which features political conflict that turns into shooting and warfare.

"That is a place you hope these protests never go to," he said.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker; editing by Patricia Reaney)

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