Let's just get this out of the way up front. The following article is written by Leigh Alexander. If that upsets you or angers you for whatever reason, click the back button now. I don't care what you think of her Bombcast appearance. I don't care how funny 775 million dollars is. I really don't care what you think of her at all. All I ask is that you read with an open mind.
I love BioShock Infinite. I love it more than I've loved anything in video games for a while now. I can't remember the last time I had a played a game where I was completely enthralled from minute 1 to the ending credits. But like any great art piece, it has its detractors, which is a good thing. No matter how great something, they always have their critics and these critics aren't just important, they're essential. Infinite is no different and certainly has attracted its fair share of criticism since its release. I've read my fair share of these and some I completely disagree, some I can see where they're coming and for others, some combination of the two. By far, the most interesting and in depth piece that I've seen was published today on Alexander's blog entitled "Now Is The Best Time."
Like every criticism I've read, I don't agree with every word. I don't agree with a lot of the words, quite frankly. I feel like some of her critiques of the world can be explained by this being, in some ways, a very different game than the first BioShock. While that game was so hugely and blatantly about Rapture, Infinite isn't really about Colombia. It's about the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth. Now, should it have been more Colombia? Maybe, I can't really say. That's an entirely different discussion. One particular issue that I absolutely agree with the disconnect between the actions happening on screen and Elizabeth, specifically her throwing coins and ammo to you. All too often during the game I would experience some sort of pivotal, emotional story beat and no less than a minute later, Elizabeth would cheerfully be tossing me some RPG ammo. In a game where I was completely immersed in the story, the breaking of that immersion for even a couple seconds really sucked.
I digress. I'm not going to analyze every single point in the article and there's plenty of I could say but read the article yourself and create your own responses. Why I actually felt this article was important to share was, besides the fact that it's incredibly well-written, is that while on the surface it's a criticism of BioShock Infinite, it's actually more of a celebration. The fact that the themes of Infinite has so analyzed and picked aparted so much is perhaps the best compliment that it can be given. Most video games don't even have themes to analyze, let alone say anything remotely as interesting as Infinite as does.
I feel like Infinite is an important game. A flawed game but one that will have a profound effect on the future of games. It's hard not to get defensive about the things we love and I totally get the sentiment to want to shout down any criticism of a game like this. But I'll leave you with Leigh's final words, who put it better than I ever could.
My last thought is to emphasize that I think a thorough critique is the highest compliment I can pay to any work. This vision deserves it. And I'd rather have a hundred imperfect games aching with the hollow voices of their strained creators than the loveliest cover shooter ever made. This is a crucial moment in our canon, and I honor it.