Ken Levine Discusses Dark Video Games and Depression

bioshock
Image: Bioshock Infinite

Speaking with The Mary Sue, veteran game developer Ken Levine talks about his creations, inspiration, and thoughts on mental health.

TMS: You’ve written some great social media posts about mental illness. Do you think video games can help people with depression, anxiety, and so on?

Levine: From my very anecdotal evidence (meaning my own experience and the experience of lots of gamers I talk to) games are often a way to work through pain. A game called Heroes of Might and Magic got me through one of the roughest periods in my life. I know that sounds strange, but there it is. I think BioShock has helped a lot of fans through rough times because the games themselves are so dark. Some people use darkness to deal with darkness. Some sad people crave “Singing in the Rain.” Others crave dystopian underwater cities.

My writing tends to deal a lot with the sense of self; who is this character I’m playing? How well do they know themselves? I think that’s because I feel a bit like an alien in my own skin. What’s the gulf between the person we think we are and the person we actually are?

 
As we learned in December when he generously joined us for our annual fundraising stream, Levine has fascinating thoughts to share on a lot of subjects–so be sure to check out the full interview for more of his insights.

[The Mary Sue]