Why BioShock’s Splicers Had to Seem Sympathetic

BioShock creative mastermind Ken Levine had advice for Joe Fielder as he worked on BioShock Infinite.

The first few times players encounter a splicer in BioShock, it’s one of the scariest and weirdest moments in modern gaming. For Joe Fielder, who helped design the high-flying world of BioShock Infinite, it wasn’t just a chance to create an intimidating enemy type, it was a chance to humanize one of gaming’s most iconic factions, and he learned how to do it at the hands of BioShock director Ken Levine himself.

“I’d done a pass on [the Splicers], and [Levine] and another one of the writers, Drew Holmes, gave me feedback,” Fielder said on this month’s episode of IGN Unfiltered. “Ken opened up his playbook on how he came about writing the Splicers and some of the influences: Requiem for a Dream, other things like that, [Death of a Salesman character] Willy Loman. I’d written characters who said funny or nasty things, and he was like “no, you have to feel sympathy for them. For horror, you really need to have some sense of empathy. Otherwise it’s just scares. That meeting, I felt like, taught me a lot about writing and game writing in particular.”

Exit Theatre Mode

In this month’s episode of IGN Unfiltered, host Ryan McCaffrey sat down with BioShock Infinite designer and Underworld Ascendant creative director Joe Fielder to talk about his path from being a games journalist to developer, the lessons he learned from Ken Levine, what it’s like to write a book adaptation, and plenty more. Make sure to watch the entire episode above.

You can also check out IGN Unfiltered every month, where Ryan McCaffrey sits down with some of the industry’s biggest and brightest voices, including Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price and 3D Realms founder Scott Miller.

Joseph Knoop is a freelance writer for IGN. Follow him on Twitter @JosephKnoop.

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