The lights are on
BioShock Infinite protagonist Booker DeWitt’s job sounds relatively straightforward – arrive in the airborne city of Columbia, find a woman named Elizabeth, and extricate her from captivity. The reality of the scenario couldn’t be more complicated. Since its disappearance into the clouds, the city has fallen into a bitter civil war over clashing ideologies and differing interpretations of the American Dream. While one faction clings to a concept of American exceptionalism tied closely to religious and Aryan values, another violently champions the inclusion of all races and religions, and will go to great lengths to unseat the powers that be.
In the middle stands Elizabeth. A notion of prophecy regarding this unusual young lady swirls throughout Columbia. Both groups want to exercise control over her – one wants to keep her imprisoned and the other hopes to unleash her extraordinary powers as a method of furthering their cause. To shed more light on these two factions, we asked Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine what makes these rabble rousers tick.
THE POWERS THAT BEAfter Columbia’s mysterious disappearance into the skies, the ruling class precariously clings to power in the face of a violent uprising. Their predominant rallying cry? Either you’re with us or against us. While conceptualizing the motivations for this antagonistic incumbent group, Irrational drew much of its inspiration from the ultranationalist movements that have appeared on the international scene and in America over the years. “Through the history of almost all countries you see periods of national identity being more or less important as time goes on,” Levine says. “You see a buildup of a nativist or nationalist movement, and often there’s an event that comes out of that – whether it’s a war or whatever – which either enhances that or pushes it back.”For Columbia, the event in question is an international incident that sullies America's reputation and divorces Columbia from the motherland. Once thought to be a shining beacon of American industry and ingenuity, Columbia had a deceptive ulterior motive – it was also a fully functioning warship. When this is revealed to the world in a catastrophic event, the United States severs ties with the floating city, triggering a civil war within Columbia as splinter factions fight for the soul of the fleet. For the powers that be, their primary interest is in preserving the status quo. During the BioShock Infinite gameplay demo, we got a glimpse into the thought process of this faction through the agitated ramblings of a politician named Saltonstall. Standing in a gazebo filled with barrels of rifles in front of an audience of empty seats, the frantic orator pontificated to anyone within earshot: “Only by the blessed powers of our Constitution and our savior can we set it right,” he said. “And if our guns thunder, then I say let them thunder. The needs of our great city of Columbia must come before the desires of any foreigner, whether they be enemy or friend. For I have looked into the future and one path is filled with amity and gold, and the other is fraught with the perils of a hostile and alien world.”Saltonstall’s message is an inflammatory cocktail of xenophobia, religiosity, antagonism, and selective reading of the U.S. Constitution. Take Saltonstall out of the gazebo and place him on the set of a contemporary 24-hour news network and his tirade would hardly be out of place. His position eerily echoes some of the race-baiting positions taken by far right personalities like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Rand Paul during the virulent debates over the current direction of our country. That’s hardly a coincidence. “There’s definitely a component in America today that nationalism is extremely important to certain people – a sense that America is a separate case,” Levine says. “It’s something I’ve always found fascinating. It’s an interesting element to divide over – where you’re born. It’s kind of an accident, right? And how porous those borders are – people who are in the same country with different ethnic backgrounds and religious backgrounds – there are a lot of ways to draw demarcations. It’s interesting to me how important those become to people and I wanted to explore that.”As with any political movement, there is a figurehead who energizes the ultranationalist base, but Irrational isn’t ready to reveal the demagogue yet. “He’ll be very present,” Levine confirms.
Read on to learn about the anarchist group running rampant in Columbia.
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Just to top it all off put a flobots soundtrack and we are ready to go with politics. Sounds like an AMAZING GAME I'm just not sure where I'll be in 1 1/2 years. They seem to be pushing a lot of information for this game so early. Should be an amazing game but I feel there's a lot of room to fall and bioshock 2 wasn't as good as the first one so I also had a fear of another slightly above average game. Although I will say the daylight it making me feel a lot better...but does this mean no apocalyptic like Splicer's to fight? That could be depressing.
Haha, maybe people will realize how dumb people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are after playing this game.
BioShock, you never let me down. This sounds like it will be a bit more complex than Rapture's conflicts.
Referencing GI's recent campaign to make a case for video games as art - A game like Infinite might be a good consideration, as 'art imitating life' can often introduce new people to ways of looking at things, causing life to imitate art.
Examining nationalism is a good topic along these lines, from the rise of the Nazis to how our own politicians use it to manipulate us on various levels. Unfortunately it sounds too heavy handed (too literal) to be really profound and insightful for new gamers. It also sounds like the status quo are going to just be the 'bad guys' but there might be some valid points that they could make instead of having a black/white choice for a gamer.
Given how excellent BioShock was and how Irrational managed to fairly portray how unfettered capitalism (a right-leaning ideal) may destroy a society, I would think most folks are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and wait and see how they present the two sides in the game itself.
"Frankly, if you can't handle these kind of discussions in a grown up manner, maybe the BioShock games really aren't for you."
Totally agree. Note tho that a lot of irritation in these comments has nothing to do with the game, but rather with the way the author of this particular article referenced the game back to reality.
"I'm on the more left side of the aisle, and I'm not a bit offended that some of the ideals I believe in were related to other fringe left-wing groups when discussing the Vox Populi on the second page."
Sure, because you don't identify with said groups. But reverse the situation. What if the right-leaning examples had been the KKK and Neo-Nazis and the left ones had been Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and President Obama? I'm not trying to start a fire and this is a rhetorical question, but don't you think you may feel differently were the standards reversed?
If you're going to mock/satirize the leaders of one school of thought, do it for the others as well. I think that most rational people would agree that neither side is totally right (which is why elections hinge on us independent voters). Or go the easier route and call out fringe groups on both sides that nobody likes. If we're going to be truly objective, we have to frame the debate correctly and fairly for ourselves.
The author is absolutely entitled to his opinion. But once he makes it in this article (in the not-so-subtle way he does) it ceases to be a news article or report on the game and devolves, at its core, into a political editorial.
Once again racism is inserted into the landscape and attributed to the same personalities and persons, those who believe in a strong country and God...yeah! I could follow the original storyline in rapture as a departure from every status quo...this is more specific and disturbing. Maybe instead of towing the line for left or right we step out of the paradigm all together and realize what is actually taking place. That would make a great script and ironically it hit a high in the early 1900's. Ill play it, it is just unfortunate to see the rhetoric here too.
Since when did a video game site talk about politics? And why no neutrality?
This just seems a bit unbalanced and offensive to me. I'm a conservative, but I don't hate liberals - most of my friends are extremely liberal, and I love our discussions.
But this just seems like *** to me. Both sides are considered bad, that's what it boils down to. But we're saying one side is terrorist groups, the very select and sparse bits of the population like The Weathermen (I think that's a better analogy), while the opposite side is Glenn Beck.
People don't seem to realize that while they may not like Glenn Beck, portraying him, when compared to a liberal terrorist group on the opposite side in this game, is not fair at all. I mean cmon, what about Keith Olbermann? He's essentially the opposite of Glenn Beck. Our country is so damned polarized politically, that everyone thinks everyone else is an extremist. But Beck represents what is truly the core of the conservative beliefs, and Olbermann represents what is at the core of liberal beliefs.
However, most of the country falls onto the core beliefs of one side or the other, with many in the middle.
How about instead of comparing ALF or ELF, very small fringe groups that are as extreme as you can get, to mainstream politics of the right on the other side, how about something like the Identity Movement, of which Timothy McVeigh was a member? He was not a Christian, he was an agnostic, as he said "Science is my religion." However, he was an extreme conservative.
This article I find to be poorly thought out, and if this is what Bioshock Infinite is trying to express, I will not give them any of my money. Regardless of if you hate Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann, as is "popular" and "cool" to do these days, this concept of the game, and this description of the idea in the article will assuredly be offensive to you, a friend, or a loved one.
Please, next time think this out better. I can understand why you may draw this comparison, but in a game where you're supposed to question who is evil/who is right, a comparison like that is grossly unfair and incorrect. Use extremist groups on both sides, not Glenn Beck vs. Eco Terrorists. How about Weathermen vs. Neo-Nazi/any extremist conservative militia?
You can always tell you have a good script when it sets off a firestorm (see below comments)
Great article. I like the complexity of the factions. While politics is not really my thing, I think Irrational will do an excellent job of making this very interesting in terms of gameplay and story.
After watching the trailer for the umpteenth time, I get the feeling that I was stuck in some form of the Matrix. Banners and pictures changing, and Saltonstall going from American to Russian.... still looks great though.
i'm so gonna pre order this game when its gonna be available
This game will be amazing, that is all :)