Q: What's your influence when you're writing these games then?
KL: I say these games are not set in history but in the context of history. The sort of political and social scenes you see come from real things and there are mirrors in them through many periods in history. I do read a lot of history. I'm a movie whore and a TV show whore. I think people asked in BioShock 1 things like, "Is this a steam punk game?" We get that question here. The answer is really no. I haven't read any Jules Verne but I've read a lot of Histories of Teddy Roosevelt. And we do a lot of architectural research. People working in new vogue, people working in neo-classicism. And I've always been a history buff anyway.
Before Mad Men came out there was WWII and then there was Vietnam. There was this period in between that was really interesting to us. Then in American history you have American Civil War then WWI and in between people don't know what happened, and it was such an interesting time for America finding its way on the world stage. You think of 1880, where people were driving horse and buggy around and then 20 years later there's radios and movies and there are movie stars and phonographs. If you told somebody there would be a city in the sky they might have said, "Ok, that sounds about right." You can't even imagine that. And to take that kind of optimism about America and optimism about technology and slam them together seemed really interesting.
Q: The flying city seems to be the hyperbolised version of small-town America. You have racial issues, issues about immigrants stealing jobs. Do you think you'll get backlash in the States for that?
KL: It's interesting. There are people who say I'm a Randian disciple and people who say I'm a communist. And I like that, I like that people can't really pin us down. What's interesting to me is not so much [people who say] "yeah those guys are idiots, they're all wrong" and more about showing how people can get to a place where they buy into a system of beliefs.
And that's really interesting from an American perspective. Two people can look at exactly the same writing, whether it's Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, and come away with totally different understandings of what that writing meant. And that's one of the themes we have here. How do you look at the same text and come away with polar opposite viewpoints on that text? Because you hear arguments in America all the time, you know, "he's un-American or she's un-American". It's such an interesting notion because it's a different viewpoint. It's a theme that recurs, it's in every country and it repeats itself over and over and over again with things like Nativism and Protectionism and things like that.
Q: Are you more interested in a narrative than you are in gameplay then?
KL: As a gamer I have almost no interest in narrative. It's at a different stage than movies and films are. You go watch something like Mad Men or Breaking Bad and most games can't even get on that playing field.
Q: Why do you think that is?
KL: It's hard. It's really difficult to write for games. Because you don't have control of the camera. All you have are puppets. You can't have an actor [in the game] in terms of creating a subtle performance, you don't have the control that Pixar has of every frame, and you have an interactive experience so the player has to be a participant. I was a screenwriter before I was a game developer and coming from that background a lot of people were saying "oh we'll bring Hollywood to [games] and it'll be great". You always hear "When's the game that's going to make somebody cry?" But that's not the mission of games. Games immerse you in the world. And that's our best storyteller, not the people, the world. We can tell world like nobody else tells world, and that's where we focus on as a studio.
BioShock Infinite is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in 2012.