Ken Levine, creator of Bioshock, stood in front of hundreds tonight at PAX 2008 to give his keynote. After several minutes of applause, Ken took us down a journey from a geeky youth to a geeky adult who designs games for a living. Ken described being ashamed of his love for Dungeons and Dragons and comic books. He told how his sexual development began with his desire to have sex with the Scarlet Witch.
Ken began his career as a game designer at age of 12 playing D&D with his friends for hours on end. Eventually he worked his way up to screenwriting, were he wrote a screenplay about vampires. After telling him only kids were interested in vampires, the motion picture company asked him to write a romantic comedy. Ken described going from being a nobody to living large. He was having expensive lunches at the studios, eating extravagant dinners with his manager, and feeling like a nobody nerd who had finally made it. Until his movie flopped. Suddenly he was alone again, and was back to working day to day to pay the bills.
All of his worries and stresses throughout the day would pill up on him through the course of the day, until he got home and turned on his PC. Ken engrossed himself in the world of games and even though he knew it was only numbing is dislike of the life he had created for himself, he felt that this was his calling. The world of nerds, games, and geeks was his portal out of the mundane world that had taken hold of him and didn’t seem to want to let loose. And then Ken had a startling revelation. He owned many games. If there were obviously people to buy these games, then someone had to be making them.
As Ken himself said, these things weren’t growing in a petrie dish. So he picked up a gaming magazine and to his surprise found ads for jobs in gaming. The one that caught his eye was one for a game designer. Ken applied for a job, and a month later was flown out to find a place full people just like him. Nerds who had grown up on Atari and had spent hundreds of hours huddled in groups with 12-sided dice and decks of cards. Ken’s dreams of making it had come true, even if it wasn’t the way he had imagined. The world of gaming is enticing and when it gets you it doesn’t let go. To quote the man himself; “We’re all here because we’re a bunch of freaking nerds, now get out there and enjoy.”