The Politics Inside BioShock Infinite

An interesting post on Game | Life report (called "BioShock Infinite’s Vision of a Nazified America") takes a closer look at BioShock Infinite in an attempt to ascertain what the political message and creepy undertones Irrational has employed for its latest BioShock game. Interestingly, the topic and the underlying settings of the game seems to be focused on the turn-of-the-century proliferation of beliefs (and subsequent laws) based on "eugenics," which is described by this Wikipedia entry as "the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans with the aim of improving the species."

Of course there’s more to it than that, and sifting through that Wikipedia entry on a subject I don’t have a lot of familiarity with, proved intriguing and mildly horrifying. The popularity of eugenics in the world in the early 1900’s is staggering, but some extremely bad PR courtesy of Nazi Germany and the subsequent Nuremberg trials nixed future implementation in America – thankfully. Sadly some laws managed to stay on the books in states all across the country well into the 80’s.

Still, during those trials, the Germans said that America’s implementation of these practices are what inspired them to implement activities that significantly contributed to the Holocaust, and to the death of "inferior beings" like mental patients. As abhorrent as this all sounds, many facets of what the Germans did was practiced in America – including racist beliefs about inter-racial marriage, racial purity and the sterilization of supposed genetic inferior beings. It’s our sad and little-known history.

So what does all this have to do with BioShock Infinite? Well, you need only look at some of the promotional art from the game to see that the fictional 1912 town of Columbia has some dark language that points back to beliefs based on eugenics.

Examples include a poster of a mother holding a perfect baby while putting her hand out to deny an imperfect one with the caption “Burden not Columbia with you chaff.” Another is a mock (Port of Columbia Immigration Authority) tag that was attached to bags given away at the BioShock Infinite premiere New York City that the author says "illustrate(s) the racism at the heart of Columbia."

While the author mentions "American exceptionalism," it seems like, from a completely uninformed opinion (based, admittedly, on very little information as well) that BioShock Infinite will play on the dark side of that concept.

I think the biggest hurdle the game faces – just like the multiplayer in Medal of Honor that lets you play as Al-Qaeda soldiers – is that gamers won’t be able to get past the controversial and decidedly mature material the game presents.

While the subject matter is dark and disturbing, it is also a sign that video game storytelling and subject matter is maturing. Wouldn’t it be nice if an "M" rating meant more than just a measure of a game’s graphical violennce and sexually suggestive content?

Source: Game | Life

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