Bioshock Infinite: Open Thread

A screenshot of Bioshock Infinite.  An African American woman and her Caucasian husband are shown tied up on stage, a few monkey cartoons in 'blackface' behind them.  A ringmaster is shown to the right, pointing at them.  The caption reads: "Groom: Please, what are you doing?"

Bioshock Infinite released this week, and I know I’m not the only one playing this game.  I actually went in just about completely blind aside from watching a couple of trailers — so I was completely shocked and blown away to see that racism is a huge theme in the game.  I’m only a couple of hours in, but I can already tell that this title will be worth quite a few articles here on The Border House with regards to how it deals with social inequalities as a main theme.  I’ve heard from others on Twitter that later on in the game it becomes quite problematic.

I’m more than impressed so far in terms of the look & feel of the game.  If you aren’t playing this game with headphones, you definitely should try it.  The sound design is absolutely phenomenal and it is worthy of paying attention to.  I’m playing on Easy because I’m terrible with shooter games and really just want to experience the story and the environment, but so far I’ve really enjoyed the combat.  And I could seriously just run around looking at the steampunky world-in-the-clouds forever.

I’d love to see some conversation happening about this game in the comments.  Make sure to use spoiler warnings in case you plan to mention any critical plot elements.  Let’s chat!

About Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!
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44 Responses to Bioshock Infinite: Open Thread

  1. Greg Sanders says:

    Is there a reason to play it on headphones rather than a surround sound system or the like? I’m not anti-headphone, I’m just curious about the specificity of your advice.

  2. Didn't Mean to Intrude says:

    As this is an open thread for a still freshly released game I won’t throw out my own opinins on it just yet, but I confess, that I started watching The Border House almost as soon as I booted it up, waiting to see what you all would make of it. I’m excited to hear that you’re playing the game and that you’re already thinking about it in terms of potential articles.

  3. riley says:

    Ha, I’ve been watching this site for people to start talking about this game too, as well as trying to think of things to write for the site about it as soon as I started playing… I’m not too far in but I am blown away. It probably helps that I’m a scholar of American religious history, especially around the time the game takes place, and fascinated with how we portray religion in games in general, so I’ve been really excited about the content and have dragged my feet around poking into everything. I’ll say that one thing I thought was super-cool without being spoilery (as it’s the VERY beginning) is that the game released during Passover, and the prayer they’re saying right before you enter Columbia is a riff on Dayenu, one of the prayers you say during Passover (“It would have been enough”), which I just thought was a wicked clever choice.

  4. Austin says:

    I’ve completed the game and can see why its latter half will be divisive (I thought it was brilliant).

    Spoilers
    Spoilers

    The game isn’t really about what it initially seems to be about. Halfway through, the game’s focus shifts to the idea of the multiverse, which functions as a meta commentary on video gaming as a whole (I feel). Much like the climax of the first Bioshock.

    However, in terms of social commentary and representation, I think the game is admirable. The central female characters are strong, intelligent, and diverse.

  5. Coda says:

    I really enjoyed the characterization of Elizabeth. She’s smart, capable, more than a little naive at the start, but over the course of the game she really grows as a character and comes into her own. By the time the finale rolls around, she’s really the one calling the shots. I also really liked the way she participates in the combat – opening a tear is neat, sure, but what really sold it for me was when she’d toss me a loaded rifle or a health kit at the exact moment when I needed one.

    I’ll admit, part of me was bracing for Elizabeth’s boobage to be prominently on display like it was in some of the trailers and such, but I was pleasantly surprised at how toned down and appropriate her outfits were in the actual game.

    That said, the Lutece twins were by far my favorite characters. The first time you play through, you have no idea who they are, what they’re talking about, and how they keep popping up everywhere, but once you understand the background behind all their little quips and commentary, it’s easily worth playing through again just to hear them a second time.

    Also, did anyone else notice the guy at the fair at the beginning of the game who cruises you? I was more than a little amused.

  6. SleekitSicarian says:

    “Quite problematic” is really the term for it, I think. While I did enjoy some aspects that other commenters have touched on above, I think the game slips up badly in terms of how it frames the resistance movement. I think it ties into the general inclination to claim that both sides of an argument have to be received as being equally valid, even when one side is going “These people are subhuman” and the other “Everyone should have equal rights”.

    …And yes, the Lutece twins are the best bit. I wish protagonists were allowed to have interesting personalities beyond “violent asshole”.
    I also wish Elizabeth didn’t look like an anime character shunted in alongside the less stylized women. I covet her starting outfit terribly, however. (It is thus unsurprising, though gratifying, to discover that ‘Shoomlah’ had a hand in designing it and the Lutece twins: http://shoomlah.tumblr.com/post/46459446975/more-of-my-vis-dev-work-for-bioshock-infinite)

    • I never got that impression the game had a “general inclination to claim that both sides of an argument have to be received as being equally valid”. Rather the opposite, Ken Levine seems to have a hatred for extremism in any form, so it more a case of being part of a general inclination have each side be received as being invalid. To me they have different implications and the distinction is not a semantic one. This does not change the issue you’re referring to but to me it frames it differently.

      Also, thanks to the Timey Whamy stuff it I’m not sure “resistance movement” should be in the singular…let the time travel paradox analysis induced headaches began!

      • SleekitSicarian says:

        Hn. Fair enough – I was attempting to refer to the idea that one has to have a ‘balanced’ approach, and all that baggage. I’ve had it crop up quite a lot this week, but in varying contexts.

        In any case having Booker suddenly mumble that the resistance movement(s) is/are ‘just as bad’ as their oppressors is a facile way to introduce ‘ambiguity’, and moreover is rather unconvincing. (Mind, I don’t think too much of the game’s writing as a whole; it’s a little top-heavy)

        • Jellyfish says:

          “In any case having Booker suddenly mumble that the resistance movement(s) is/are ‘just as bad’ as their oppressors is a facile way to introduce ‘ambiguity’, and moreover is rather unconvincing.”
          I felt that was weird too since Booker and Elizabeth had just spent the past couple of hours trying to supply the resistance with weapons…

    • Kaonashi says:

      Both movements had their subhuman group. Notice how the revolutionaries go around beating up and murdering people in the end. Fitzroy meets her end when she’s about to murder a child for some bullshit idea about being born evil.

      I think the message is that no matter how noble your goal, if you’re willing to walk over corpses to reach it, it turns to shit. In that all ideologies are in fact equal. Our real history is full of examples of that.

    • Juushika says:

      This bothered me, too; compounded with the fact that even if it’s ultimately meant to be an argument against extremism in any form, the extremism of “we hate the oppressed” and “we hate our oppressors” are not in the least ways equal, both because the latter is justified and because the power balance that creates the two arguments means that the hatred of the oppressed does not have the same real world harm and impact as the hatred of the oppressors. The game attempts to create an alternate world in which each side has an appreciable negative impact (and the hatred of the oppressed turns out to be even more violent and destructive than the hatred of the oppressors), but the underlying issue stems from, and then directly contradicts, real world issues that persists today. It’s not just a thought experiment, it’s a fallacy–and a dangerous and circumspect one.

      Basically it tends towards the problematic parts of a Persecution Flip, so even if the intent is good, or meant to be centered around “extremism is bad” rather than “minority groups are scary and dangerous,” the actual product itself remains flawed.

      • Jesse M says:

        SPOILERS ALERT

        Careful about your projections here. The game certainly never argues that the radical leftists are MORE dangerous than the patriots… the patriots were responsible for a reality where all of NYC is destroyed, after all.

        It’s true that the game does not take sides ideologically, which will bother anyone whose own ideological sympathies are asymmetrical. If there’s any statement made about ideology, it’s “ideological purity corrupts even the noblest of intentions.” If you disagree with that, no problem, but it’s important to meet the game on its own terms before you start deconstructing it.

        That said, I DO wish the writers had eased back on the “THEY’RE JUST AS BAD AS COMSTOCK!” pluralities.

        • minerva says:

          Mods – forgot to put “spoiler” note in my comment, can I repost?

          —————————

          SPOILERS

          Thing is, it really does shift straight into “they’re just as bad” with very little reasoning. At least the patriots had a build-up and a ready-made backstory in racism and the South, bringing them to a racist slave-state from which they did not deviate; the backstory of Vox was emancipation and civil rights. But they suddenly deviate to abstraxt violence and general “as bad as” label. How? Why? It’s unexplained. So – we get one line by Booker that they’re suddenly “as bad” + one scene with Fitzroy inexplicably deciding to kill a kid (!). Why??? I get the French Revolution imagery tacked on (in visuals only, basically, rather than actual plot events or even more audio recordings – we never hear Fitzroy turning past standard anti-oppressor, fight-for–justice rhetoric.)

          It leaves a pretty bad taste, because after the game spends time revealing the deep pit that is racist and classist thought through nicely layered audio tapes and conversations, it reverts to the tired old trope that we should fear change because the minorities will “go too far” and/or “are as bad as us anyways.”

  7. Canisa says:

    I for one do not see why Elizabeth couldn’t have been a/the player character. I can’t give any further opinion on the game as I have sworn off games with white male protagonists entirely.

    • Boiler says:

      Honestly, I felt this game is a big disappointment for so many reasons I don’t know where to start which for one of the biggest reasons there are alot of missed opportunities that this game could have taken but scoffed off the side for example, a flying city based around American Exceptionalism which could have been a perfect opportunity to play as a Lakota woman seeking revenge against Comstock who slaughtered her people at Wounded Knee or simply class struggle story centered around the Vox Populi and Daisy Fitzroy (which I’m also very disappointed how they were portrayed…) but nope, make way for some White Male rescuing a Damsel in Distress (yep that’s what Elizabeth really is and I don’t care how many powers she has and what she can do but at the end of the day she’s still a Damsel in Distress which believe or not, she does get captured couple of times in the game which you have to save her)….what a disappointment. Well I did play through this game for while but stopped after I learned some of the outcomes of this game.

      While I did like the concept of a steampunkish flying city but I didn’t like the direction that the game has taken. That’s all I have to say about this game for now.

    • Nash says:

      I’d argue that this game absolutely needed Elizabeth to not be the character you’re controlling – the fact that she’s not under your (ie. player) control ties in thematically from the outset. And for what it’s worth, the story is also structured in such a way that it couldn’t work without the protagonist being a white male, unless the story was fundamentally changed. And this is such a good story that I’d consider it a darn shame to miss out on it.

      But yes, rest assured that Irrational are well aware of their characters and their social dynamics; it’s not subscribing to a default just for the sake of it.

    • James A says:

      Because the story would have made no sense if she was the PC.

      Although I wouldn’t call Booker the protagonist; that is pretty clearly Elizabeth. Its an interesting effect, because as a player you’re conditioned to expect that the PC is the focus of the game, but this is really Elizabeth’s story, seen from the perspective of a supporting player. Kind of as though DA:O was EXACTLY the same game, but you were playing Alistair instead.

      • Canisa says:

        Well then the question simply becomes ‘Why was the story written such that it only made sense for the PC to be a white man?’, and my reasons for abstaining from the game remain entirely unaltered.

        • namelesschaos says:

          ‘Why was the story written such that it only made sense for the PC to be a white man?’

          For most games the answer to the question was it wasn’t, the problem with the vast majority of games is that there isn’t a compelling reasons for the PC to be a white man. In my mind however this is one of the few games where it does only make sense for the PC to be a “white”* man. In this case, his status as a white man is thematically relevant to the story (to fully explain why I believe this will require massive spoilers so I’ll put them in a separate comment). This is not something apparent unless you play the game all the way, through however I beat the game about 6 hours ago, 6 and half hours ago, I would have agreed with you.

          *by white I mean he has to visual be able to pass for white, there is no reason however for him to actually be white. Him only passing for white would actually add layers to the story, as stated by Jellyfish and Coda below. So I only sort of disagree with you here.

      • Ari says:

        See, the same thing was the case in FFX and FFXII, where Yuna and Ashe were clearly the protagonists of those respective games, but the PC was some bloke, and Squenix came out and admitted that they were afraid that sales would be bad with a female lead. Then they pulled their pants up and just went ahead and made Lightning both in FFXIII and it sold just fine.

        I suspect a similar line of reasoning is at play if Elizabeth is the protagonist and Booker the PC merely observing her story. It’s, uh, not the most wonderful line of reasoning either.

  8. Austin says:

    Given Elizabeth’s role in the plot, I for one do not see how she could have been a player character. …Perhaps you would see if you would deign to play the game.

    • Ari says:

      Eh, I see her point. It’s frustrating to see a seemingly endless parade of (grizzled dark-haired 30-something) white male protagonists, and one of the few options we have as consumers to protest is to vote with our wallets. Of course, that means giving up on some excellent games, which is why I haven’t reached that point myself yet. Instead I vote with my wallet by definitely buying games that feature a protagonist that is something, anything else (hell I’ll take younger/older/fair- or red-haired white male at this point) and bitching online about the aforementioned deluge of Samey McBlandface.

      I plan to buy and play Bioshock Infinite, but given what I know of the setting, passing up on the chance to play a character of colour (particularly one who “passes” as white) seems like an egregious oversight and grossly missed opportunity, honestly.

      • Coda says:

        There is some interesting back story for Booker, if you look hard enough for it. Apparently his notorious reputation that he earned at Wounded Knee was in part a overreaction to his fellow soldiers mocking him for having some Sioux ancestry (supposedly he speaks Sioux, as well). Too bad that part of Booker’s background didn’t get addressed in anything more than out of the way voxophones.

        • Jellyfish says:

          Yes, not to get into spoilers but the idea of Booker having Native American ancestry and, as a young man, experiencing some serious, internalised racism and denial about it (an urge to disassociate himself from ‘those people’ and be ‘accepted’ as white) fits in well with his past actions and with the ending. I too wish they’d explored it more, but it does fit his motivation.

    • SleekitSicarian says:

      Can we not? This isn’t exactly Ulysses, here, and there were enough spoilers in the previews leading up to release to give a general sense of her role in the story before the damn game came out. Everything else is an exposition dump in the latter part of the game.

      It’s easy enough to point to the finished game and say it wouldn’t make sense if she were the protagonist. But it’s ridiculous to suggest that there’d be no way to make an interesting narrative out of those same materials if you went into development planning to center the game around Elizabeth as protagonist. Heck, maybe it’d lend some gravitas to the whole “Oh no, I’m creating butterfly effects” business.

  9. Spoiler Warning!

    Spoiler Warning! (I’m not joking here the biggest twist will be spoiled)

    Spoiler Warning! (Final warning)

    As stated above I think this is one of the case where having the PC be a white* male is thematically justified and that the story would actually suffer if this where changed. To me it all boils down to the last thirty minutes and the revelation that Booker is an alternate version of Comstock. Before the last 30 minutes, I would agree that there is no reason for Booker to be a white male. Most of the argument at this point would boil down to “realism” however this being hardily a realistic game those can easily be dismissed however with Comstock there is a thematic reasons for him being a white male. Comstock as a villain is very much rooted in white male trope; both he and Fink are both distillation and concentration of white male oppressors: the fire and brimstone white evangelical male Christian and the robber baron.

    If Comstock where not white I’m no longer fighting a clear figure of white racism and privilege.
    If Comstock where female I’m no longer fighting the figure of a patriarch.
    Comstock would no longer be an effective representation of the inequalities and power structures we are supposed to hate in the game if he was no longer visually a part of them. What we hate about Columbia needs to be reflected in it creators and it includes the worst element of whiteness and maleness.
    Booker needs to be a white male because Comstock needs to be white male and Comstock needs to a white male so it he can be a critique of white maleness.

    I would agree that it could have been better done (see below) and better emphasized however my point remains, Booker need to fit certain tropes less for his role in the story but due to comstock’s (who he is)

    *Again by white I only mean he has to be able to pass visually as being white. As discussed below him actually not being white would open up a lot of interesting possibilities internalized racism/hypocrisy etc. It actually represents many missed opportunities, it for example would reinforce the difference between the Booker who let himself be drowned and the Comstock he has/had/would become if it included an embraces of his heritage and a rejection of Comstock’s internalized racial hatred.

    • Canisa says:

      Even so, Booker doesn’t need to be the player character for this to work. He can be a heroic supporting lead, much like Elizabeth is at the moment, but with her as the PC.

      I think this would actually work better, because then the visual theme of Booker’s (apparent) white maleness is more immediately noticeable to the player, since you’re actually looking right at him, whereas it’s sort of hidden if you’re playing as him in first person.

      It also fits better with the ‘reveal’ that Booker is multiethnic, since it doesn’t really make sense for that to be a ‘reveal’ if you’re playing *as* Booker, because presumably he already knows that.

      • Canisa says:

        It’s just occured to me that an additional point to make is that by having Booker, an (apparent) white male fighting against an image of white male oppression is pretty much an expression of the mighty-whitey trope as well.

        To me, Elizabeth makes much more sense as a protagonist in pretty much every way. I would suggest that since her importance to the plot doesn’t seem to stem from her being white either, that she could be made into a character of colour as well, and then the image of Comstock as Kyriarch-extraordinaire would be better highlighted by his main antagonist being a WoC.

        Bioshock has a long legacy of lampshading and challenging the strictures of the gaming medium, but for some reason it seems to focus itself mainly on matters of mechanics rather than message, continuing with the white-man-as-protagonist thing pretty much uncritically. Assassin’s Creed is guilty of the same thing. It seems mightily hypocritical to me that these games pretty much never actually break out of or attempt to interrogate this theme.

        • Greg Sanders says:

          While it is add-on content and I want to avoid spoilers, I think that gamers that enjoy the Bioshock universe but are troubled by the problem you mention would do well to check out the Minerva’s Den add-on to Bioshock 2. It’s a lovely shorter game and well worth the cost if you already have the second Bioshock or can borrow it from a friend or the like.

        • Jellyfish says:

          I think Elizabeth as a protagonist could’ve been really interesting. One thing that disappointed me with the game was how static and uninteresting the tears could be- summon a turret, summon more guns or health packs etc. If we played as Elizabeth then maybe the tear mechanic could’ve been more interesting and dynamic. The changes to the environment could’ve had more impact.

          I also agree about the whole mighty whitey thing. I wish we’d gotten to spend more time with Daisy Fitzroy. I really liked her before she went off the deep end.

          “To me, Elizabeth makes much more sense as a protagonist in pretty much every way. I would suggest that since her importance to the plot doesn’t seem to stem from her being white either, that she could be made into a character of colour as well, and then the image of Comstock as Kyriarch-extraordinaire would be better highlighted by his main antagonist being a WoC.”

          Not sure I understand this. Elizabeth is Booker/Comstock’s biological offspring so unless she is biracial (her mother being a POC) then that wouldn’t work. She was also being raised by Comstock as his heir, which wouldn’t make sense unless she could pass for white.

          Or do you mean that they could’ve changed Elizabeth’s backstory ? If that’s the case then she’s not really Elizabeth anymore. She’s a new character from the ground up. Just as changing Booker changes a lot, changing Elizabeth in this way also means going back to the drawing board where a lot of the game is concerned.

      • Jellyfish says:

        I think you make some really good points, but I also think that Booker’s gender and apparent whiteness was about more than his visual appearance. The way he (the player) moved through Columbia was made possible due to his appearance. He could move around the wealthier parts of Columbia without an escort and no one batted an eye. In certain areas he could walk around armed in public without being seen as an automatic threat (his privilege as a white man). Most of the POCs you encounter in the earliest parts of the game are in uniform and working for or serving white people. Booker wouldn’t have made it into the raffle if he wasn’t white (unless he was serving drinks maybe).

        Some of the most striking moments of the game for me included entering the ‘colored and Irish washroom’ and being begged to leave in case I got the black npc in there in trouble and the time I came across a black man smoking a cigarette behind the carousel and he began immediately defending himself thinking Booker was going to report him.

        That’s not to say that Elizabeth or a POC as the playable character couldn’t have worked (it could have and despite my enjoyment of Infinte as it is I’d jump at the chance to play as a different kind of main character in that world) but the slowburn that is the reveal of Columbia would have played out very differently. The way you move through Columbia’s social spaces and the way npcs react to you would change in a big way.

        As I wrote in my other post: change Booker and everything else changes. A switch from Booker to Elizabeth or a POC would work just fine but it wouldn’t be straightforward. So much of the game would have to change.

        I’m also not 100% convinced that the ending would’ve had the same impact if you had been controlling Elizabeth instead of Booker. I’m just not sure how smoothly that’d play out.

    • Jellyfish says:

      *Major spoilers in this post too*

      I think this is one of the reasons I liked Booker as a character. Initially I was disappointed that the main character was (again) a white man and that he would be a character who talks rather than a silent cypher like Jack or Subject Delta. But having played the game I began to see that his past, personality, appearance and gender actually had a place in the narrative. He’s not like, for example, the default male version of Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. Play as a female and/or POC Shepard and nothing really changes in terms of the story Bioware was trying to tell: Shepard still commands the Normandy and saves the galaxy. But Infinite’s world is different: change Booker and everything else changes too. Literally.

      However, I must stress that I don’t defend all of the developer’s decisions here. They chose the setting, the themes and the overall plot. Somewhere along the line they decided to write the story of Columbia from the perspective of a white man. Did they come up with the twist of the racist, patriarchal antagonist being a version of the hero from another universe first or did they design Booker first and then build the world and story around him? Or maybe it was more complicated than that. Either way they chose to explore these themes using this path and this POV.

      Also there was that whole issue with the game’s cover design featuring Booker with a gun, and Ken Levine’s response that they chose the cover design so it’d attract the attention of ‘frat guy’ types who might not otherwise pick it up (http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2012/12/bioshock-infinite-box-art/). In this case they appear to view Booker’s appearance (even though it’s a first person shooter so you barely see him in game) as marketable to the demographic they wanted to tap into.

      So even though I think Booker is far more interesting than the usual placeholder male protagonist and even though I think his story was thoughtful and clever, the developers could have written an engaging and surprising tale with a different kind of main character too (subject to backing and funding from the people in charge that is).

  10. Ridley says:

    SPOILERS

    Okay, I’m not going to be able to sleep until I leave a comment.

    What ticks me off is that the whole racism, anti-labor, and Vox Populi thing is unnecessary to the game. The game abandons all of it in favor of the multiple worlds theme and could have been made without it. It only serves as a cheap, quick way to characterize Comstock as a Bad Guy and Columbia as a Bad Place.

    I think experimenting on children and torturing people for information is enough to show Comstock is a Bad Guy. If I’m going to be assaulted by racist images and rhetoric, there better be a way better reason than to point out the villain is a Bad Guy, and there better be a big, triumphant pay-off in which the Bad Guy’s racism is shown to be his downfall. This is not something we get to see.

    What we do see is that the Vox Populi and Comstock are “just as bad” as each other. Which, to me, is a sign that the developers were just fine with reproducing racism but were too chicken to actually confront it and take a stand. This is 2013 and I don’t think it’s a radical thing to say “racism is wrong”, but apparently the developers were too scared to actually say this.

    And sure – the multiple worlds/quantum physics thing is neat. But to abandon the pressing themes of racism, economic inequality, and patriotism-as-religion in favor of a hypothesis in the quantum physics field is really cold. People of color and people in poverty struggle every day to make their voices heard, and Bioshock Infinite treats their struggle as a convenient plaything.

  11. Disclaimers: straight cis white male, so take what I’m going to say with a grain or two of salt. Also Spoilers. All of them.

    On the note of gender relationships in BioShock Infinite (I’m working on a review of sorts now, so I’ve been giving the game a lot of thought):

    DeWitt/Comstock seems to embody two kinds of white male villainy, that is to say we have Comstock the patriarchal oppressor and Booker the white knight. But in the end, it isn’t just one but both halves of this person who must die to set Elizabeth free.

    Look at Infinite’s credits and you’ll see a long list of “development babies”; Irrational developers are parents now, and–statistically speaking–that means at least some of them are fathers with daughters. When I look back at the game in light of that fact, and with the knowledge that Elizabeth is Booker’s daughter, I see a grown-up version of the princess tropes that have dogged us since Mario. The princess not as an object of romantic desire, but of familial love and obligation.

    Comstock and Booker are both overprotective parents, the first attempting to shield her from the world (and, to some extent, herself), and the second from sin (by offering to kill Comstock in her place, thus taking the sin upon himself). I see in this a reflection of the hopes new fathers at Irrational may hold for their own daughters; Comstock wants her to lead Columbia into his vision of a “glorious” future, and Booker, eventually, comes around and feels obliged to offer her the dream of Paris. But neither of them actually has the power to choose or create those futures – that power belongs solely to Elizabeth.

    In the end, Comstock’s future cannot make Elizabeth happy, no matter how good a future he imagines it to be. Booker cannot kill Comstock in Elizabeth’s place because he is Comstock. Instead, she must drown him. Both the oppressor and the white knight must die to allow their daugther Elizabeth the true freedom to have a future only she can choose.

    It’s still a game that I see as primarily intended for a male audience, but it’s a message about being a better father, about not making choices for your children (daughters especially), and not engaging in a futile struggle to shield them from the “evils” of the world. Elizabeth I see as a positive portrayal of curiosity and intelligence in young women (with her lockpicking and code-breaking), and Rosalind Lutece as a role model, a successful woman in STEM (who, as a bonus, is voiced by the always-excellent Jennifer Hale).

    I’m not denying the presence of problematic aspects in the game, merely providing one additional interpretation of its narrative elements. I’m not qualified to say what I would or wouldn’t find objectionable had I been born bereft of my particular privileges.

    PS: Coda, “any port in a storm” guy, right? Noticed him, thought that was pretty cool.

    PPS: To those people who are skeptical about Elizabeth’s viability as a POV character: consider Portal/Portal 2 as examples of games where a female character escapes from SCIENCE! gone awry with nary a male protagonist, nor a conventional firearm, in sight.

    • “Elizabeth’s viability as a POV character”

      You’ve made me think of something I’ve been making the mistake of assuming the game had to have only one playable character. I neglected to consider the possibility of switching between Elizabeth’s and Booker’s point of view which could be an interesting approach, both gameplay and story wise.

    • Jellyfish says:

      “To those people who are skeptical about Elizabeth’s viability as a POV character…”
      Are you referring to the discussion above? I agree with you. Elizabeth would be a wonderful protagonist and if the player controlled her the scope for the tear system would’ve needed to have been expanded and used to its full potential, which would’ve been great.

      But the discussion above wasn’t about that. It was a discussion of the idea that the game’s POV could switch from Booker to Elizabeth without greatly affecting the overall narrative and experience. It was argued that the game as written is very much Booker’s story and that his social privileges deliberately frame the player’s experiences in game.

      This isn’t like switching from male to female Shepard in Mass Effect with little difference to the main narrative. Having Elizabeth as a protagonist would’ve given us a radically different gaming experience on all levels. While I’d purchase a game like that in seconds, I disagreed with the notion that Booker is just a white male placeholder type of character that could be easily switched out for someone else without much overall change to the game and its story. Though I’m disappointed that Irrational chose to go with a white, cis male protagonist rather than buck that trend, I do appreciate that at least Booker’s POV and actions are shaped by his social status.

  12. minerva says:

    SPOILERS

    I think the thing I really object to is that the unjustly accused Black woman is proven, in the end, to indeed be a murdering bitch who kills white people just cause they’re white.

    As Juushika says, it makes equivalent the hate for the oppressor as equal, and not based in the realities of oppression.

    It’s like Irrational wanted to make their own little “tear”for us, to reveal the ugliness of racism/classism and how it props up the American Dream. The terrifying scene where we had to choose to out ourselves, threatening everything, or stone the interracial couple (with a baseball, very nice touch) was awesome. And…. nothing like it ever again. We observe more oppression, but we cannot act to make choices about anything to do with it anymore.

    Then the tear closes and the man behind the curtain says “no worries, white folks, it’s all good, they’re all equivalent anyways!”

    Leaving us privileged to skip off not having to ‘choose’ or think any more about it, returning us to the bedrock state of privilege. Whew! Almost had to confront issues there!

    (Imagine if we’d had more choices, over the game? What if not getting the weapons was a choice, and then led to violent repression and the Vox’s destruction along with the promised airship? Then you’d need a tear to go back to when you could make the distasteful choice of getting the weapons for self-survival, even if “they’re all bastards!” And the necessary add-in of giving a bridge to how Fitzroy got from A to crazy. Hell, even the idea that “they’ll kill us all if we don’t get them first” would then make some sort of sense to the PC, however flawed and awful. At least it would be nuanced, as a set of evils, not dressed as inevitable.)

    • Courior says:

      **SPOILERS (END GAME)**
      I don’t think she is proven to be a murderess. What I mean by that is there’s two Fitzroys in the game. The first is the one who asks you to secure guns for her while the second is the one that kills Fink after leading a successful revolution. The difference between these two aren’t just guns but that one followed DeWit and the other led by herself.

      I think the actions of the one who worked with DeWit from the start are meant to reinforce that hes a false Shepard regardless of whither hes DeWit or Comstock. The Vox Pobuli aren’t the same as there oppressors because all people are as bad as each other but because both forces were basically following in the footsteps of the same man.

      Personally I prefer the idea that DeWit unwittingly corrupts everyone around him. The man is a walking atrocity regardless of who he tries to help or his good intentions. It gives the ending a more fatalist twinge, he has to die because the world is better without him in the world.

      People have been talking in this thread about how the white knight has to die along with the supremacist as both are two sides of the same coin. I like the idea that for a better world to be born white privilege has to come to an end. But these are my private thoughts about the games story I have no idea if the developer meant them at all.

      • Courior says:

        Sorry I replied abbot the start of minerva’s reply and forgot to talk about the last paragraph.

        A game about being able to relive choices like in Groundhog day wold be pretty cool. Especially if all the changes ended p allowing you to remake the world and history but damaged the players character. The PC becomes like a log of all the awful choices the player made and regardless of how good the outcome for the world, the PC is left in tatters at the end.

        I think its a similar idea to what bioshock was trying but would allow a player to feel the same guilt that DeWit feels at the end of the game. I would love to lie in the world where I get to play that game especially if character creation was part of the choices you can change at will. Allowing you to experience the game world from point sociological disadvantage as well as from points of privilege.

      • Alex says:

        I think the actions of the one who worked with DeWit from the start are meant to reinforce that hes a false Shepard regardless of whither hes DeWit or Comstock.

        Now that’s interesting! I definitely need to replay the game with this in mind. (And personally I don’t care too much about what the writers intended, I’m more interested in hearing people make a case for how they read the game.)

        • Courior says:

          I really want to go back and play the game as well. Especially after hearing that there’s tapes in the game that allude to DeWits Sioux ancestry.

          If anything it makes the difference between himself and Comstock make allot more sense. The guilt of wounded knee and internalized racism turning DeWit into a depressive and Comstock into a radical.

          I kinda love the idea that the constant in every universe is that DeWit is a false Shepard while the variable is who he leads, with both ending in destruction. Someone reminded me today that the insane Vox Populi see DeWit as a revered hero and martyr when we first meet them. They even fight with you for a bit.

          There’s even the meta commentary from Fitzroy that a DeWit who doesn’t agree with the Vox Populi would only end up complicating the narrative.

          That being said I think its high time we see a game that has a protagonist that doesn’t fit in with the society around them in a more prominent fashion. I’d love an Assassins Creed or even a fantasy game like Dragons Age to deal with women’s suffrage or civil rights movement.

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