Bioshock Infinite: Most Definitely and Justifiably for a Limited Audience

Spoiler Alert: I will review key events about the game in this response.

Last night, Jon and I finished Bioshock Infinite. Jon geeked all over himself, as he’d played this franchise before (I’d watched in those earlier campaigns, as I was working on a ms at that time, but I joined in for this go). And I geeked all over myself, because it’s a steampunk wet dream equip with crazy detailed graphics, insane vigors (powers) and enough dimensional tearing that you question where you are, or who to shoot anymore.

And the shooting is where one of the “problems” of the game comes in. At least, partially, according to Chris Plante at Polygon, who I think makes  valid points, though I disagree. His opinion piece struck me, as I had just finished the game, loved it (despite faults I’ll note later), and I happen to be  a wife (his piece was based on the limiting on Infinite’s audience–including his wife).

Unlike Plante’s wife, my video game experience is moderate. I’ve played and enjoyed several gore-high shooters, though Infinite takes the cake there. That being said I have fictitiously shot a lot of men and women in the face in my video game history. In fact, my husband makes the point that I leave a lot of dead people in my wake. I like shotguns (so, the Heater in Infinite made me roll on the floor with joy, though the Carbine was lovely), and I like getting up close for a kill (do I sound like a psycho yet?).

But the guns aren’t what made me love Infinite. In fact, off the top of my head Mass Effect 3 and Borderlands 2 had a better array of guns. What did draw me in was the very same thing that drew in Plante’s wife: the city in the sky (you know I love those), the mystery of DeWitt’s nameless girl, his awful and cryptic debt, the graphics (OK, maybe that’s more me than her). But when it was time to pick up a gun and start mowing down policemen, I was ready. Wanna know why?

You’re given a choice before sh!t gets real in this game. The choice of whether or not to start the stoning of an interracial couple in a town square. Sanctioning this is all of citizens present—-police and all.  If there are naysayers in the crowd, they are silent. We are the naysayer and from then on out, it’s black and white for me: take out the bigoted citizens of Columbia before they take me out.

Now, I didn’t always start fights. I didn’t steal things unnecessarily to get folks riled up. And if they didn’t shoot at me, I didn’t shoot at them.

But the facts (for me) are this: you are the number one enemy of this city-state (I mean, they have posters up for your before you even arrive), everyone with a gun is going to turn it on you and there is no proceeding without taking them out to reach your goals. I could see why some would consider the violence excessive. But I consider it vindictive. The race and class struggles are clear in this game, and you get to take out the bad guys, though admittedly once you start walking through tears, who the bad guy is changes quite a bit, which leads me to the pitfalls.

Pitfalls

  • The Vox (party/militant group for the lower class) goes way rogue, and it seems unnecessary to make them an enemy
  • Elizabeth was at times nonchalant about DeWitt’s carnage and others totally disgusted. Have some conviction Elizabeth!
  • No clear explanation as to how the conclusion is made possible. I understand the big a-ha moment, but it’s just not clicking how some of it fits together and I think that’s  a major negative considering the rest of the writing made sense
  • Why is it that when the biggest fights came, you left me with no guns and no ammo? Rigorous gameplay is fun. Damn near suicide is not.

Either way, I still give this games two thumbs up, gore and all. Here’s what I figure.

Considering the elements of the game–zealous, religious nuts, class oppression, race oppression, number one enemy of the state abducting number one prize of the state–it’s an equation for some serious carnage. You equip Booker DeWitt with the means to get through, and he will. I think that’s  a character trait that plays a lot into this game experience, as well. But you combine all these things and you’re going to get a lot of violence. And I think this violence is an excellent highlight to the injustice, hatred and oppression that is free-flowing in this world.

Of course, I’m not saying DeWitt is a crusader for justice. He isn’t. Wasn’t. Would not be in the future. He’s the kind of character that only does what he has to when he’s pressed into a corner. But his circumstance allows for the opportunity to come up with some creative ways to survive in this violent setting and to take out a sort of revenge on the kind of people you know you detest.

Which worked for me. I don’t think this game is for everyone, but I don’t think its limiting of audience is a downfall.

I hate that some folks will miss out on the fantastic set-up and twisted story,  but it’s clear the game creators wanted this game to be a shoot out.

For those who are looking for more story and less of a massacre, I suggest a different title. But let’s not make this a flaw of the game. It’s not a flaw. It’s purposeful and integral to this game’s experience. In Plante’s post, he made reference to the game’s defenders comparing Infinite to Nolan’s Batman: a melding of “the cerebral indie aesthetic and the mind-numbing blockbuster spectacle,” but beyond the fact that both creators meant to combine certain elements, to match up different ends of the spectrum, the similarities seem to die there.

All of this talk of violence got my thinking about the recent spotlight on video game violence: Sen. Dianne Feinstein is calling for a limit on video game violence. If video games are having a negative influence on young people (as she states), we need to look to how they’re getting the games, not limiting the creators’ abilities. These games are not for children. But that’s a post for another day.

In other news: I am so in love with this song from the trailer (feat. in the trailer above, which gives a pretty good idea of the violence in the game). Bought it already. Fits the mood of the game so well.

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