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Ken Levine is the creative director and co-founder of Irrational Games. He led the creation of BioShock, and is known for his work on Thief: The Dark Project and System Shock 2.[2][3][4][5] He was named one of the "Storytellers of the Decade" by Game Informer[6] and was the 1UP Network's 2007 person of the year.[7]

Early Life[]

Born in Flushing, New York in 1966, he grew up in New Jersey in the '70's. Growing up a recluse, he called his early childhood very rough, due to not being popular and also citing a stammer.[8] He also grew up an avid Dungeons and Dragons fanatic, thinking there wouldn't be other kids like him to play with, he trained himself to play on his own. [9] When he did find his way into a group of friends who also enjoyed the role playing game on the same level he did, he called it like "finding my tribe." He said through this experience, he'd befriend new friends, who would expose him to Monty Python and Doctor Who.[10]



Levine studied drama at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a film career, writing two screenplays.[11] In 1995, he was hired as a game designer by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Looking Glass Studios after replying to a job ad in Next Generation Magazine.[11] At Looking Glass, Levine worked with pioneering designer Doug Church[12] to establish the initial fiction and design of Thief: The Dark Project.[13]

Irrational Games[]

In 1997, following his work on Thief, Levine left Looking Glass along with two coworkers, Jonathan Chey and Robert Fermier, to found Irrational Games.[14] The studio's first game was the science fiction RPG/shooter System Shock 2, a direct sequel to Looking Glass' 1994 original System Shock. Levine served as lead writer and designer,[15] and the game shipped in 1999 to critical acclaim.[16]

Irrational's next project was Freedom Force, a real-time tactical RPG that drew heavily on the love Levine and Irrational artist Robb Waters had for the Silver Age of Comic Books. After the first Freedom Force game, Irrational developed Tribes: Vengeance and SWAT 4, on which Levine served as writer and executive producer respectively.

Although Tribes: Vengeance, SWAT 4, and Third Reich all shipped within a year of one another in 2004 and 2005, Irrational had been working in preproduction on the first-person shooter BioShock, the studio's most ambitious game at that point, since 2002.[17] The game went through numerous revisions to its premise and gameplay, and was released in August 2007, soon after Levine, Chey, and Fermier sold Irrational Games to publisher 2K Games.

In 2008, Levine delivered the keynote address at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, discussing his youth as a nerd in the 1970s and how it impacted the path of his career.[11]

Levine served as creative director on BioShock Infinite, set in 1912 in the fictional floating city of Columbia.

Game Credits[]

BioShock series[]

Year Game Company Credited as/for
2007 BioShock 2K Boston / 2K Australia Story, Writing, and Creative Direction, Voice of Martin Finnegan and Circus of Values
2013 BioShock Infinite Irrational Games Story, Writing, and Creative Direction


Year Game Company Credited as/for
1998 Thief: The Dark Project Looking Glass Studios Initial Design and Story Concepts
1999 System Shock 2 Irrational Games Lead Designer, Voice Actor (Cortez)
2002 Freedom Force Irrational Games Writer
2005 Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich Irrational Games Writer
2004 Tribes: Vengeance Irrational Games Writer
2005 SWAT 4 Irrational Games Executive Producer
TBA Judas Ghost Story Games TBA


  1. "Developer Origins: Irrational Games’ Ken Levine" article by Sid Shuman on the PlayStation blog
  2. Fahey, Mike. "X-Play Awards BioShock Game Of The Year", "Kotaku," December 18, 2007. Accessed April 6, 2011.
  3. Jenkins, David. "BioShock Wins SpikeTV Game of the Year", "Gamasutra," December 10, 2007. Referenced April 6, 2011.
  4. GameSpot UK Staff. "BioShock, Wii Sports top BAFTAs", "GameSpot UK," October 23, 2007. Referenced April 6, 2011.
  5. Davey, Jamie. "Take-Two: Grand Theft Auto franchise sells over 100 million units, GTAIV accounts for 20m", March 10, 2011. Referenced April 6, 2011.
  6. Game Informer Staff, "Best Storytellers of the Decade." Game Informer, #212, December 2010, p. 70.
  7. 1UP Staff. "2007 1UP Network Editors' Choice Awards", "1UP," January 30, 2008. Referenced April 6, 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Levine, Ken. "PAX 2008 Keynote", August 30, 2008. Referenced April 4, 2011.
  12. G4 TV. "Feedback LIVE! At PAX East 2011 With Ken Levine", March 12, 2011. Referenced April 4, 2011.
  13. Omni. "Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich Q&A with Ken Levine", "The Armchair Empire," March 10, 2005. Referenced April 4, 2011.
  14. Irrational Games. "Studio", referenced April 4, 2011.
  15. MobyGames. "System Shock 2 (1999) Windows credits", "MobyGames," referenced April 4, 2011.
  16. Metacritic. "System Shock 2 for PC Reviews", referenced April 4, 2011.
  17. Irrational Games. "From the Vault - The BioShock Pitch", referenced April 4, 2011.
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