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developer salute

Developer Salute – Irrational Games

by Kimberley Wallace on Sep 02, 2013 at 08:00 AM

Do you have that developer who is your sure bet? Mine’s Irrational Games. The visionary studio never lets me down and continues to break the mold with each release. Not only does Irrational continually outdo itself and other developers, but its innovation is most admirable. Whenever I step into an Irrational world, it’s incomparable. In an industry that’s often stuck on the status quo, this is by far the most refreshing part of Irrational.

Irrational’s best known work is undoubtedly BioShock; I’ll never forget playing it for the first time. BioShock lured you with Rapture, its underwater world, begging you to explore a supposed utopia. The deserted city was a sliver of its former glory, but its story was told by reading journal entries, talking to the few remaining inhabitants, and seeing firsthand the impact of power-granting ADAM. You fight through various ADAM junkies and make your job easier by harvesting Little Sisters or saving the darlings. This isn’t your typical video game plot. 

I could go on about how the atmosphere swept me up, how something in me knew I had to save those Little Sisters, or how Irrational gave me so many choices in how to take down enemies, but ultimately, Irrational makes very smart games. The scope is wider than gunning down enemies. As somebody who loves literature, I’ve often said that Irrational’s games are the closest we’ve come to great literature in our medium. And after completing BioShock Infinite, I believe this tenfold.

Watch our editors discuss the ending and more in our Spoiled! edition of BioShock Infinite

When you play an Irrational game, it sticks around long after completion. You have to dissect it. Analyze the themes. Take the whole experience and find your own answers. The depth is shown every time Irrational releases a new title; the internet is flooded with discussions and different takes on what the game meant. The conversations are some of the most thoughtful and inspired ones to hit gaming circles. The reaction isn’t so surprising, as writer and creative Ken Levine often pulls inspiration from prestigious writers such as George Orwell, and isn’t afraid to explore philosophies such as Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. 

You could say, why not just read a book? Why play a game? How Irrational gets you to view the bigger picture is what’s fascinating. The telling of its cerebral stories that are enhanced by interactivity. The way audio logs are scattered about, the environmental cues, the intrigue to explore these breathtaking worlds, and the progression at which you piece together that nothing is as it seems makes the journey. Irrational constantly tests your mind, giving you just enough information to get a vague idea of what’s at play, then blindsiding you with revelations. These are the best moments, as you step back and think about how you didn’t see something coming, and then have that moment of inspiration. 

My admiration for Irrational boils down to how it keeps coming back and totally blowing my mind. Any work that makes you ponder it after completion is a success in my book. Irrational takes profound steps as a developer and isn’t afraid to change its initial vision or take as much time as necessary to complete projects. But mostly, Irrational gets my nod for being inventive, fostering discussion, and proving video games can be smart as the artistic works we often praise.