After-Thoughts: Irrational Shuts Down

If you remember back when I first started the blog and have read since then, I did an analysis of Bioshock Infinite’s use of violence. I’m sure if you recognize Bioshock, then you already know that Irrational Games – the studio behind the games – has decided to essentially shut down.

Despite the critical acclaim of the Bioshock franchise, and the huge commercial success with it, the studio still had to go the way of studios that do not even come close to such success by comparison. Why? Well, presumably its simple. You mix together poor management, larger-than-life development funds, and even bigger ideas and you’ll end up having a not so great time. Even if your game sells over 4 million copies.

This comes as a shock for many and I can’t help but sit here and think…. not really. Read on for more.

Irrational shutting down is really sad.

As a HUGE fan of Bioshock, I feel honored even having the chance to experience something as delightful, imaginative, colorful in its own dreary (sometimes frightening) way that was the first game. The amount of quality talent Irrational had was immense – from the programmers, to the artists, to Kevin Levine’s ace team of writers (essentially philosophers). If there is any game I had to point at as an example of video games as an art form, Bioshock is one of my top candidates if not THE one. Irrational was literally a powerhouse, a force to be reckoned with. And it all fell apart.

But it happens. A lot. Most of the time it is cheap-cash in studios who ride a popularity wave for awhile and immediately burn out. More often then not, its studios that might make some quality games but they don’t sell big enough numbers to stay alive. Or, you get tiny “indie development groups” that ride the line between being independent and AAA that get caught up in things. But, there are times where big studios with a lot of great stuff fall over too. The games industry is volatile and no one involved is safe.

But woah, Anthony, that sounds crazy. Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto sell over 1 billion dollars when they release!

Sorry to say but even the studios at Activision and Rockstar are just as eligible to burn. And it isn’t just video games either. Its the entertainment industry as a whole. You’ll find this anywhere you look. Movie studios, musicians, artists, they all come and go. These industries demand evolving performances every time you show up with a product or show. Sometimes you might have a quarterly or bi-annual product. Even though the longer you develop content, generally, you think you’re making something better doesn’t mean that it always works out. If you have big creative ideas for example, and it takes a long time to make them or perhaps you make some decisions that dont turn out too well, you can stall out. And its supposedly what happened with Bioshock Infinite for Irrational. Too much money got blown trying to make it.

It goes with the territory. The territory where customers can’t decide what color they like today or the Facebook mood they want one minute over the next. The territory where your project may only be as good as your budget. The territory where even if you are a unique, independent butterfly of creation and awesome – you can fly by unnoticed.

My Bioshock Infinite “photography” gallery:

If you know me, you know how adamant and passionate I am about getting into the industry professionally as a career. But even I have my reservations! Its why I fought tooth and nail for an internship now as opposed to just chillin’ in college and tipping some beer back with buddies. I’ll do that once I know where I want to end up after college comfortably, even if it there isn’t a whole lot of time to hanging out in the end.

I just think a little more people need to recognize this. There is too much stigma that video game development, or even any entertainment gig, is all laughs and play time. It’s actually rather explosive, demanding, and stressful. Yes, there’s tons of room for fun and money but anything can happen. No one is safe. For some, that’s why they actually like it. For others, they sometimes don’t acknowledge it when they should have before getting involved and end up writing terrible stories online about how they hated it and no one else should get involved. They’re out there if you haven’t seen them, believe me. The consensus generally tends to be “he had a bad time at this big company, guess the whole place is a ruin.” But that’s another story.

Do I think that things could’ve been different if consumers spent more of their money better, by buying more games like Bioshock and less cash grabs/rehashes? Sure, money was supposedly the issue here after all. But would it actually have been a good thing? I mean, to continue to fund such an amazing studio – perhaps. But, if the management clearly wasn’t there, then maybe it was for the best in the end.

As I expected when I first read the news, Irrational employees have been met with an out pour of support from both fans and other companies. And this, my friends, is where those horror stories of terrible development really go to shame. If there is one thing that really makes this particular industry shine, it’s that game developers really band together for each other. The #Irrational Job Fairs and such are really fantastic and its good to see companies open up like that. Everyone knows everyone here and obviously, most know that Irrational didn’t deserve to go down because of the talent they employed.

bioshock inlay

Bioshock, 2K, Irrational Games

To Irrational Games. To Bioshock, System Shock 2, and SWAT 4. Good luck.

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