Irrational Games

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Irrational Games
  • Irrational Games
  • (1997–2007)
  • 2K Boston
  • (2007–2009)
Industry Video game industry
Successor Ghost Story Games
Founded1997;22 years ago (1997)
DefunctFebruary 23, 2017 (2017-02-23)
Key people
Ken Levine (creative director)
Number of employees
15 (2014)
Parent 2K Games (2006–2017)
Website   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Irrational Games (known as 2K Boston between 2007 and 2009) was an American video game developer founded in 1997 by three former employees of Looking Glass Studios: Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey, and Robert Fermier. The studio was acquired by Take-Two Interactive in 2006. The studio was known for its games System Shock 2 , Freedom Force , SWAT 4 , and most notably two of the games in the BioShock series. In 2014, following the release of BioShock Infinite , Levine opted to significantly restructure the studio from around 90 to 15 employees and focus more on narrative games. In February 2017, the studio announced that it had been rebranded as Ghost Story Games and considered a fresh start from the original Irrational name, though still operating at the same business subsidiary under Take-Two.

A video game developer is a software developer that specializes in video game development – the process and related disciplines of creating video games. A game developer can range from one person who undertakes all tasks to a large business with employee responsibilities split between individual disciplines, such as programming, design, art, testing, etc. Most game development companies have video game publisher financial and usually marketing support. Self-funded developers are known as independent or indie developers and usually make indie games.

Looking Glass Studios American defunct video game developer

Looking Glass Studios, Inc. was an American video game developer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company was founded by Paul Neurath with Ned Lerner as Blue Sky Productions in 1990, and merged with Lerner's Lerner Research in 1992 to become Looking Glass. Between 1997 and 1999, the company was part of AverStar. Following financial issues at Looking Glass, the studio shut down in May 2000. Notable productions by Looking Glass include the Ultima Underworld, System Shock and Thief series.

Take-Two Interactive American video game company

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. is an American video game holding company based in New York City. The company owns two major publishing labels, Rockstar Games and 2K, itself composed of two divisions: 2K Games and 2K Sports, all of which own and operate various game development studios. Take-Two's portfolio includes numerous successful video game series across personal computer and video game consoles, including BioShock, Borderlands, Civilization, Grand Theft Auto, NBA 2K, Red Dead, and XCOM. As of March 2018, it is the third-largest publicly traded game company in the Americas and Europe after Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts, with an estimated market cap of US$13 billion.



Ken Levine (game developer) American video game designer

Kenneth M. Levine is an American game developer. He is the creative director and co-founder of Ghost Story Games. He led the creation of the BioShock series, and is also known for his work on Thief: The Dark Project and System Shock 2. He was named one of the "Storytellers of the Decade" by Game Informer and was the 1UP Network's 2007 person of the year. He received the inaugural Golden Joystick "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his work.

<i>System Shock 2</i> action role-playing survival horror video game

System Shock 2 is a 1999 first-person action role-playing survival horror video game designed by Ken Levine and co-developed by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios. Originally intended to be a standalone title, its story was changed during production into a sequel to the 1994 game System Shock. The alterations were made when Electronic Arts—who owned the System Shock franchise rights—signed on as publisher.

Crave Entertainment American video game developer

Crave Entertainment was an American video game company that went bankrupt in 2012. It was founded in 1997 by Nima Taghavi. Its headquarters was in Newport Beach, California. It was acquired by Handleman Company in 2005 in a deal valued up to $95,000,000 but was then sold to Fillpoint LLC in early 2009 for only $8,100,000 due to Handleman's bankruptcy and pending liquidation. During its lifetime it published games for Dreamcast, Wii, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, Xbox, and Xbox 360. Crave mainly focused on budget titles, and imported games such as Kaido Battle.

Shortly after BioShock was released, rumors arose that many of the staff who had worked on the game were leaving 2K Boston/Australia. In 2007, five members of the 2K Boston team moved to a new 2K Games studio in Novato, California. [6] Soon after, 2K Games announced the formation of 2K Marin in Novato. [7]

Novato, California City in California, United States

Novato is a city in northern Marin County, in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 51,904. Novato is located about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of San Rafael and about 30 miles (48 km) north of San Francisco on U.S. 101. Novato has been called one of the best places to live in the U.S.

2K Marin

2K Marin, Inc. is an American video game developer based in Novato, California. Founded in December 2007 as a spin-off from their parent, 2K Games, the company developed BioShock 2 (2010) and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (2013) before laying off or relocating all staff in October 2013. The studio is working on new installments in the BioShock series.

In late July 2010, several media outlets reported that a recently created website,, was a promotion relating to Irrational Games' unannounced project. The following week, information about the game was again teased, with the trailer confirmed for release on August 12, 2010. [8] This was eventually revealed to be BioShock Infinite .

Website set of related web pages served from a single web domain

A website or web site is a collection of related network web resources, such as web pages, multimedia content, which are typically identified with a common domain name, and published on at least one web server. Notable examples are,, and

<i>BioShock Infinite</i> First-person shooter video game and the third installment in the BioShock series

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games. It was released worldwide for the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and OS X platforms in 2013, and a Linux port was released in 2015. Infinite is the third installment in the BioShock series, and though it is not immediately part of the storyline of previous BioShock games, it features similar gameplay concepts and themes. Irrational Games and creative director Ken Levine based the game's setting on historical events at the turn of the 20th century, such as the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, and based the story on the concept of American exceptionalism, while also incorporating influences from more recent events at the time such as the 2011 Occupy movement.

Before Irrational started development on BioShock Infinite, the studio did preliminary work for the XCOM project that later became The Bureau: XCOM Declassified . [9]

<i>The Bureau: XCOM Declassified</i> 2013 science fiction video game

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a tactical shooter video game played in third person. It was developed by 2K Marin and published by 2K Games. As the eighth title in the turn-based strategy series X-COM and a narrative prequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in August 2013. Set in late 1962 at the height of the Cold War, the game's premise mainly revolves around The Bureau, the predecessor of the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (XCOM), as they attempt to repel an alien invasion. As a tactical shooter, players can use the battle focus mode to issue commands to two other agents accompanying the protagonist, William Carter. Players can permanently lose their squad members so they must make good tactical decisions.

Restructuring and rebranding

On February 18, 2014, Levine announced that the vast majority of the Irrational Games studio staff would be laid off, with all but fifteen members of the staff losing their positions. Levine said that he wanted to start "a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two", speaking to how much stress completing a large game like BioShock: Infinite had caused him. [10] Levine said "I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience." [10] Levine had considered starting a new development studio for this, knowing that building the ideas would take several years before any game product would be made, but Take-Two offered to let him keep the division within Take-Two, with Levine saying that they told him "there was no better place to pursue this new chapter than within their walls". [10] The studio helped to find positions for the displaced employees, and 2K Games hosted a career day for the remaining 75 employees to help seek employment at 57 other studios. [10] [11]

Levine and the 15 remaining members of the team began the process of creating new, smaller games focusing on a replayable narrative for the core gamers. It was said that Levine's studio will continue to keep the Irrational name, although Take-Two later stated that it was not true. [12] Through 2014 to 2015, Irrational Games continued to post several openings for jobs at the studio. [13] [14] [15] In January 2015, Levine and the remaining staff are currently developing their first game which will be a "first-person sci-fi" game. [16]

On February 23, 2017, the studio announced it had rebranded itself as Ghost Story Games, founded by 12 of the former Irrational members with Levine continuing as president and creative director. [17] The studio's focus is "to create immersive, story-driven games for people who love games that ask something of them"; [17] the name was chosen as ghost stories "are immersive, exciting, and steeped in community", similar to the studio's design philosophies. [18] As of this point, the studio had about 25 employees. [19]

Games developed

Mac PS3 Win X360 Lin iOS XO PS4
1999 System Shock 2 YesNoYesNoYesNoNoNo
2002 Freedom Force YesNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
2004 Tribes: Vengeance NoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
2005 Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich NoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
2005 SWAT 4 NoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
2006 SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate NoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
2007 BioShock YesYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
2013 BioShock Infinite YesYesYesYesYesNoYesYes

Cancelled video games

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<i>BioShock</i> (series) First-person shooter video game series developed by Irrational Games

BioShock is a video game series developed by Irrational Games—the first under the name 2K Boston/2K Australia—and designed by Ken Levine. The series is considered a spiritual successor to the System Shock series, on which many of Irrational's team including Levine had worked previously. As with System Shock, the BioShock games combine first-person shooter (FPS) and computer role-playing games (RPG) elements, giving the player freedom for how to approach combat and other situations, and considered part of the immersive sim genre. Additionally, the series is notable for exploring philosophical and moral concepts with a strong in-game narrative influenced by concepts such as objectivism and American exceptionalism.

Elizabeth (<i>BioShock</i>)

Elizabeth is a fictional character in Irrational Games' BioShock Infinite, the third title in the BioShock series. The game is set in 1912 on a floating steampunk city named Columbia which was founded on the principles of American exceptionalism. Elizabeth has been groomed in a controlled environment to take over the reins of the city once its current leader, Father Comstock, dies. Elizabeth has the power to open "tears" in the fabric of reality, allowing her to access parallel universes. To prevent her from leaving Columbia, her captors employ a "siphon" which drains and limits her powers, and she is locked in a tower guarded by a giant mechanical bird called the Songbird. The main protagonist of the game, Booker DeWitt, enters Columbia in order to rescue Elizabeth in exchange for his gambling debts being forgiven. Elizabeth also appears in Burial at Sea, a film noir-inspired episodic downloadable content story set in the underwater city of Rapture. She takes on a femme fatale role and serves as the player character in the second episode.

Development of <i>BioShock Infinite</i>

The development of BioShock Infinite began after BioShock's release in August 2007. 2K Games published BioShock Infinite on 26 March 2013 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as the third game in the BioShock series. The five-year development, led by studio Irrational Games, began under the moniker "Project Icarus". Irrational's creative lead, Ken Levine was inspired by events at the turn of the 20th Century and the expansion of the concept of American Exceptionalism set by the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. His story took these events to create a tale set in 1912 where the player, as former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, is challenged to rescue the young woman Elizabeth that has been kept aboard the floating city of Columbia in the middle of a civil war between its founder Father Zachary Comstock and the Vox Populi, the underclass revolting against him.

<i>BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea</i> Episodic expansion to the first-person shooter video game "BioShock Infinite"

BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea is a two-episode expansion to the first-person shooter video game BioShock Infinite. It was developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games for Linux, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and macOS platforms. Episode 1 was released worldwide on November 12, 2013, with Episode 2 following on March 25, 2014. A retail version for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was released as part of BioShock Infinite: The Complete Edition, and later included in BioShock: The Collection.

Voyager was a graphic adventure computer game developed by Looking Glass Technologies from 1995 until its cancellation in 1997. It was published by Viacom New Media. Based on the Star Trek: Voyager license, the game followed Kathryn Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager in their attempts to rescue members of their team from the Kazon. Voyager was the first game in a multi-title agreement between Viacom and Looking Glass, and Viacom took a minority equity investment in the company as part of the deal. However, Viacom decided to leave the video game industry in 1997, and Voyager was canceled in spring of that year. In response to Voyager's cancellation, team members Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey and Rob Fermier left Looking Glass to found Irrational Games.

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<i>BioShock: The Collection</i>

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Ghost Story Games

Ghost Story Games, LLC is an American video game developer based in Westwood, Massachusetts, and led by Ken Levine. The studio is the rebranding of Irrational Games as announced in February 2017, and while still the same business subsidiary under Take-Two Interactive, the rebranding was considered a fresh start by the founders as they move into more emergent narrative-driven titles compared to the larger titles they had made under Irrational.


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