Through the Looking Glass has conducted an interview with Irrational Games' Ken Levine about their upcoming sci-fi/horror RPG, BioShock.
Q: What's next after the current paradigm of "mutants and stuff gone genetically awry" in horror, do you think?
Are we going to drift back into Alien Menace? Or is a smaller step backwards into Technology Is Not Your Friend on the horizon? Or something totally different?
There are very strong themes in what frightens or concerns us at particular stages in our history. Killer robots, Alien Menace, Atomic Monsters, Dehumanization, the Random Assailant, Technology Is Not Your Friend, and most recently Genetic Horror -- these all tended to follow the deeply unsettling misgivings we've had about new developments in science, social structure, and technology.
A: That's a good analysis of themes in horror. The trouble is, I have no idea how to answer this question. I'm not really afraid of genetic technology, atomic weapons or killer robots. I'm afraid of ideology, and the dangers of extreme ideology. In a lot of the games I've worked on, I've tried to put the player in the role of the guy stuck in the middle.
When I did the original plot for Thief, I tried to make Garrett (or Palmer, as he was originally known) a guy with no ideology except himself. He got stuck in the middle of larger forces, each driven by a strong and opposing ideological bent (the Hammers and the Trickster).
In Shock 2, I did something similar with SHODAN and the Many. In BioShock, you're really caught between ideological extremes.
I guess the historical basis for this really is the greatest horror of all time: The Eastern Front of World War 2. On one side you have Hitler and the other have Stalin, two extreme murdering ideologically driven scumbags. Everybody else was caught in the middle.