Games rarely "affect" me. When I say "affect," I mean it much in the same way that a movie would "affect" someone. I can keep the count of games which have pulled this off on one hand easily. Imagine my surprise when I started up Bioshock Infinite (on PC, of course) and initially said "wait, so this is the first Bioshock?" Having recently just played the first few hours of the first Bioshock within the last week, I realized something: I was analyzing Bioshock Infinite in the same way as a movie. I was drawing parallels, and it felt awesome.
Right off the bat, I'm introduced to a familiar scene: a lighthouse that I am arriving at, one that will presumably take me to this "magical" land outside of the normal world. As I entered, I basically expected to get a sky-o-sphere (my idea of the opposite to a bathosphere). Instead, I was greeted with a grisly scene overall. It was tense and wrought and exciting.
When I finally made it into Columbia, there were clouds kissed with sunlight, great buildings floating through the sky, and religious fanatics to greet me? Wait, what is going on here? What the hell have I walked into? People are praying to George Washington and Benjamin Franklin? Okay, I don't remember hearing anything about any of this in the few previews I watched and read.
Oh, and now we're apparently in a rather racist place that continues to follow in the belief that all men were NOT created equal? I'm at a fair...and they want me to stone a black woman and an Irish man who are a couple because they are racist pricks? Fuck you, announcer. Fuck you right in the...
These little secrets, things hidden away behind closed doors for the public to finally discover upon its release is what, I think, has pushed people to react so heavily about Bioshock Infinite, singing so many praises. It's tackling sensitive topics within a medium that...well...
We are an industry that acts with a certain level of gusto about our hobby, but we're also an industry that still features large-breasted women, dildo bats, anthropomorphous animals, and Duke Nukem. That's not to say those things aren't great in their own rights and ways, but as it stands, I can't recall a game off the top of my head that hit on the ideas of religion, racism, bigotry, AND transdimensional tears all in the same thing with such a heavy hand and bluntness. If anything, it's the ONLY thing that has shocked me about Bioshock Infinite.
Something unique and important to my experience with this game happened, though.
During the course of the week that I started playing Bioshock Infinite, my grandfather (mother's side) turned 92 years old. He's an incredible human being that has taught me so much in life, and I started thinking about something complex. In 92 years, think of the things that my grandfather has seen and lived through. When he was born, segregation still existed, women were just getting the right to vote, insulin was created for diabetes, and the radio/TV/record/8-track/cassette/CD/DVD/MP3/internet/cellphone were created. He has seen every major war of the 20th century.
The next time I loaded up Bioshock Infinite, I went into it with the mindset of my grandfather as a child. What would he think? How would he react? He's not a racist. He's not a bigot. He's just a guy living his life. He was a race car driver as a teen and he liked working on cars as well as gardening.
I saw the game in a very different light. I saw this game as though everything was normal, that this was just the way life was. I looked at it at a tilt, and I saw that this was a city created solely for the idea of being its own product to the people who inhabited it.
It was an interesting change, to consider looking at it through the eyes of someone who lived through shit like that. I still didn't agree with almost any side in the game other than Elizabeth. Even then, she pissed me off plenty. She would run off because she didn't agree with the way I handled situations. There was a strain there, something that felt distant. This is where the disconnect happened for me, though. With Booker being a voice-acted and written character, it meant that I rarely had much of a choice when it came to the decisions I was making or the way that I was interacting with her. In turn, it felt like I was just making someone else's decisions for them with this character. It's an interesting disconnect, as it basically made me feel like this was a first-person shooter where...instead of taking on the role of this lead character, I was God taking control of him.
I haven't reached the end of Bioshock Infinite yet, and at the rate I've been playing it (a few missions at a time to soak in everything that is happening before continuing on), I should be done within the next week or two. Yes, the combat is better than the previous two games but not by much. Yes, there are still computer-controlled AI opponents that aren't very smart (although they can be a real hassle on Hard). Yes, the skylines are totally rad!
Is it a work of art, though? No. Is it a masterpiece? Not really. Is it something for people to get all "OMGWTFBBQSAUCE" about? Maybe, but I'm not seeing it. Is it a fantastic game, though? Fuck yes.
Hope you are all enjoying your adventures in Columbia.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. -- I'm under NDA for the Marvel Heroes beta...so I can't give specifics...but I can say this: I'm going to be playing A LOT of Marvel Heroes when it comes out.