Irrational Games boss Ken Levine has told OXM he's saddened by the section of Bioshock Infinite discussion that has focused on leading lady Elizabeth's eye-catching physique.
The Irrational faithful took to the developer's forums with their concerns last year, not long after the game's first trailer (check out our announcement impressions for more). The topic has resurfaced a few times since, and Levine had plenty to say when we invited him to elaborate.
Not unreasonably, Levine would rather vocal sorts dwelt on Elizabeth's development as a character. "You know I think there's two questions there, one is 'does she need to be pretty?' and another is 'does she need to be voluptuous?' or whatever," he commented in a recent interview, the bulk of which can be read in issue 81, on sale now.
"In terms of her body type, I think certainly people on the Internet have spent way more time thinking about Elizabeth's chest than I have. It's something I've barely thought about.
"We sort of evolved her over time, and that's the challenge when you show stuff early on - you're still in the creative process and you're still evolving the creative process. I'm sure Elizabeth may evolve a little bit more over time because until it's out, I haven't made the definitive statement on it... so I certainly don't spend as much time thinking about this issue as the Internet does, and I'm not sure what that says about the Internet but, you know."
Besides her low-cut top, Elizabeth is notable for the ability to tap into neighbouring dimensions. As Bioshock Infinite begins, she's being held prisoner by a mutant entity known as the Songbird aboard the floating city of Columbia. Player character Booker DeWitt's main goal is to liberate her, and their relationship is the game's central dynamic.
"It's disappointing when [Elizabeth's appearance] becomes a focus for conversation because that was never my intent and it's sort of a disincentive - I'd much rather talk about what she's going through as a person, but whatever, they have the right to shout out whatever they want," Levine continued.
"In terms of 'does she need to be physically attractive?' Booker's not exactly an unattractive dude himself, he doesn't have a spare tyre and he's a good-looking guy. Generally people in media are more attractive than the average person. People like looking at attractive people. My wife and I always joke about TV, 'wow, the police force in this town is really good looking! I wonder why that is...'
"It's an interesting strange kind of thing. If you came across a hospital full of beautiful people, like you see on television, I think you'd say: "woah, what the f**k is going on here? This is really weird!' But on a television show it's just a very natural thing, and in games it's just a very natural thing."
Elizabeth's pronounced features have another, more mundane purpose that speaks to Infinite's world; they're easy to pick out at a distance. The new game swaps claustrophobia for acrophobia, taking Bioshock from the crammed, depopulated depths to the giddy heights, where battles may be fought aboard dirigibles and vertiginous Skyrails.
"To me, the most important thing with Elizabeth was just honestly her eyes because, you know, they're somewhat exaggerated and the reason for that is because there's so much expression you can do there, with her eyes, and you see her often at a great distance," Levine explained.