With BioShock Infinite, Ken Levine of Irrational Games said he wanted to reshape storytelling in games. That’s a pretty ambitious goal to say the least. Did they even come close? In my opinon, yes, yes and a thousand times yes. It may have its flaws, but BioShock Infinite is a breath of fresh air in an industry that needs it.
I’ll keep the description of the game very brief, because as I explain below, the story is the best part, so I absolutely don’t want to spoil anything for you. The protagonist is a man named Booker DeWitt, a private investigator, mercenary and veteran. All we know at the start is that to honour a deal he’s made he has to go to Columbia, the floating city in the sky and find Elizabeth. It turns out that Elizabeth has been imprisoned there since she was a child and seems to have inexplicable and powerful supernatural abilites. Columbia is led by Zachary Comstock, their religious and political leader and a self-proclaimed prophet. Most of the white citizens of the city live quite well, but there is clearly unrest among the working classes (essentially made up of anyone who is not white, other than those of Irish descent) and we hear much around the city of the Vox Populi, a revolutionary movement that’s gaining momentum.
To me, the story and the art were the best parts of the game. The twisting, complex plot of BI is by far the best I can remember in a long long time. It’s an intelligent game that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues. In fact, the very premise of the game is built on philosophical, political and theological questions that were undoubtedly going to be controversial. However, BioShock never tries to make up your mind for you. It merely presents the situation and the characters to you and asks you to judge them for yourself. There are no easy answers and like with real life, good and evil are often difficult to distinguish from each other. More than anything, the people in the BioShock universe are presented as human and even the racist and often casually brutal people of Columbia have their own redeeming qualities. They too, like Booker, like everyone we meet along the way, are simply looking for redemption. Even Booker, the ‘hero’ of the game is presented right from the beginning as a man with too many flaws to count. I applaud Ken Levine and Irrational Games for making a game that tries to be something more than just entertainment. There are many great cities that were built on the backs of slaves and there have been religious dictators throughout history. It’s a fact of life and are issues that have been explored in film and other forms of media, so why not video games? I don’t believe that BioShock Infinite is anti-religion at all, as some might have feared. It doesn’t try to make any statements as sweeping as that. If anything, it’s simply pro-human.