Combating Dystopia.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Look To the Skies (Part Deux)- Bioshock Infinite Mega Demo is GO!

15 Minute BioShock Infinite Demo - Xbox 360 News at IGN

I'm sure anyone who's been paying the mildest bit of attention to my blog knows how nerdy I am, and how meaningful and profound I find 2K's Bioshock series to be. Its commentary on objectivist utopia was brilliant and chillingly effecting. The hype-o-meter has been on overdrive about its pseudo-prequel Bioshock: Infinite for months now, and I've had a metaphorical hard on about it since reading about the narrative behind it. 1920's Imperialist Americana set in a fantastical steampunk inspired city in the sky. Whats not to nerdgasm over?

The fine folk at 2K have been toying with the curious about this game for weeks now; Releasing a steady yet evasive stream of information about the combat system, the increasingly fascinating character Elizabeth, the various factions that people the floating city Colombia. And now, finally, they've released the 15 minute demo amid a fair degree (much of it warranted by my mark) of fanfare.

Several things jump out at me upon review of the video that make the fanboy in me giddy, but in the interests of seeming less like an irrational boob, I'll point out some gameplay and story mechanics that make Bioshock: Infinite stand out:

  • Elizabeth- As a sociologist and optimistic equality advocate it used to annoy me as a boy to watch Princess Peach get kidnapped and be so utterly helpless and reliant upon the Mario Brothers for her liberation. It becomes a very complicated undertaking to make a believable, modern female characters who reinforce any other idea to the typically male audience that women are to be fought over, controlled or at worse, silent partners in their own stories. Its too soon to tell if Elizabeth won't fall into the typical damsel tropes, but I'm very much liking what I'm seeing. Elizabeth's relationship with the protagonist Booker DeWitt seems based on mutual benefit and quid pro quo. Elizabeth's relationship with Dewitt differs drastically from that of the Songbird, who has been charged with "protecting" her ...which basically caused her to live a very sequestered life in a guilded cage. She expresses quite plainly she'd rather die than live that isolated life again. In 15 minutes 2K has hand waved the stilted motivations of earlier female protagonists (I'm looking at you Princess Peach) and created a person of depth, weakness and resolve. Note how when she encounters the dead horse, she reminds Booker that she's not merely someone he can control, that she doesn't need his permission. Despite being a game mechanic- a tool for the game player to use to get to point B, she reminds the player she's a character with her own ideas and feelings, and not going to be simply content to be supplicant. And despite the setting (1920s America) not offering a lot in the way of progressive thought on gender equality, this in its own way evidences a sort of empowerment I only wish was more prone to the time period.
  • (Red?) Factions- The original Bioshock's narrative was about a shimmering city built on the capitolistic ideals of a tycoon fleeing what he feared was socialist tendencies of the modern world (and really really keep restrictions off of genetic experimentation...), but by the time your cipher of a character arrives, the civilization is already in tatters. Colombia gives us the distinction of seeing this "Worlds Fair" like experiment of American exceptionalism grapple with itself in "real time". The original Bioshock essentially imploded under the weight of unchecked greed and psychotic side effects of science run amuck but Colombia has two initially well intentioned groups- the Founders- xenophobic conservatives who want to preserve their vision of Columbia and protect their way of life at the exclusion of would be interlopers, and the Vox Populi- the marginalized, disenfranchised youth movement turned militant and increasingly misguided. Ideas even now ripped from the headlines (of places like Arizona). Given this blog is oft about dystopia its important to note that both fractions have at least in the demo, descended into both anarchy and a "win at all costs" mentality that harms only the civilization they're all so invested in.
  • EasterEgghunt- Note the scene in the middle where Elizabeth accidently opens a tear into the 1980s? Tears for Fears is playing, people. Nuff said.
  • Kerion Gillen, the heir apparent to the Uncanny X-Men comic, has a miiiindblowing interview up at his former (present?) digs- Rockpapershotgun. Both the site and the commentary it has on Bioshock: Infinite is worth the attention.
  • Another interesting (if much more console technical) interview is up at
There's given the sheer amount of pretty and thoughtful here, there's likely to be a few more fanboyish posts down the pipe for Infinite, you can pretty much count on that. In the meantime- enjoy the pixel porn and mindfuckery.

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