GamesRadar: Do you feel that the unusually mature and complex themes in BioShock are resonating with gamers?
KL: Generally, you play a game and it takes place in an ancient castle, or a crumbling space station. Hey, I've done my share of those, too. But Rapture feels like a real city, and it's built upon ideas, on economic and political ideas, and at the end of the day it's a tragedy. The story of Rapture is a tragedy, of this great man and these great ideals he had and how they fell apart. That resonates with people - it's a Citizen Kane-type story, a Howard Hughes-type story. Ryan is clearly this great man who has some real serious flaws. I think that resonates with people in a way that "The aliens have invaded" doesn't.
GamesRadar: You mention Citizen Kane and Howard Hughes. What were some of the other inspirations for the story, for the characters and for the world?
KL: Well, there's obviously a fair amount of Ayn Rand and her writings in there. All dystopian fiction, like 1984. You know one of the largest impacts on me when I was a kid was the book and the movie of Logan's Run. I always remember the preview - I'm 41, so when it came out I was 9. The ad said, "In the 23rd century, everything is perfect. You will be beautiful and rich and young, but there's one catch." You get killed when you're 30, or 21 in the book. I remember that line - that stuck with me. "A catch, what? That's awesome!" The notion of the failed utopia really stuck with me.
There's a lot of The Shining in the game, too - the notion of the haunted house story. [Spoiler Warning] And then, from a narrative standpoint, the other cinematic inspirations are Fight Club and The Manchurian Candidate.
GamesRadar: That last reference brings up an interesting point. The Manchurian Candidate and BioShock are both about programmed assassins. Using that idea in a game, however, seems to acknowledge and play with the conventions of the shooter genre - that you always do what you're told. Was that a conscious choice on your part?
KL: Well, what do you think?
GamesRadar: It worked for me.
KL: [Laughs] I think at the end of the day, that's what matters. If you sensed that there was sort of a postmodern notion there, then for you there was, right? I really believe that the game is the gamer's, not mine. In the same way that your combat experience differs, your story experience differs, in whether you were a Harvester or a Saver. How did you perceive what happened with Fontaine and Atlas and Ryan? How do you perceive your role in the world? How do you perceive your experiences after you learn your position in the world? That's for you to decide. [End Spoiler]