Well, boys and girls, it’s that time of year again. That time when “game of the year” lists and awards are trotted out to remind us what exactly came out in the past year and what exactly was the best. The year in question is 2013, the Year of Luigi, and there some very strong contenders for various awards, as some venues have already issued out. Among some of the expected titles such as The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V, is one of the most anticipated games of the past few years, Bioshock Infinite.
Bioshock Infinite represents an odd beast of a game for a lot of people, especially since the game had to live up to one of the most iconic games of the past decade as well as a bastardized sequel that was still even surprisingly good, despite its superfluous nature. For some people, it did, with the gorgeous floating city of Columbia and its engaging tales of morality and quantum theory and whatnot, but the game had its fair share of detractors as well.
Many argued that the game played it safe with its high-octane action gameplay and that there are many elements of the story which are brought up but never quite resolved—and not in that open ended The Graduate way, either. And of course, who can forget the buzzword of 2013, “ludonarrative dissonance,” the idea that a game’s narrative or message conflicts with the inherent message the gameplay suggests. In the case of Infinite, it’s that the story says “violence is bad” while the gameplay says “look how fun it is to chainsaw the face of racists!”– just to simplify the argument, of course.
The prevailing argument was that Infinite may have been a tad on the overly violent side. Combat often became intense and graphic, thanks to the implementation of the Skyhook, but this seemed to be at odds with what was a much more cognitive story. There are many arguments as to why this might or might not be and even whether or not “ludonarrative dissonance” is a real thing. Either way, I for one am most certainly happy this discussion exists.
For me, I enjoyed Bioshock Infinite, but it didn’t set my world on fire like the first Bioshock; one of my favorite games of this generation, did. I found the story to be overly confusing and felt like a vehicle for the action-heavy gameplay. But what really grabbed my attention with the game was the way it really got some gamers talking.
Yeah, I still think the argument of “ludonarrative whatever” is ultimately a bunk one—one of the parts of engaging with media, especially video games, is a suspension of disbelief—but once that discussion was out of the way, some prodding gamers were still asking the next big question; How much violence is too much violence?
Video games are a phenomenal medium. There are a ton of different types of games in the world and we have a number of ways to interact with them. It’s just a shame that most of the biggest once deal with violence in some form. No seriously, go take a moment and look at the last ten or so games you’ve played and see how many of them involve any sort of violent as a key core of its gameplay. Go do it, I can wait.
Alright, did you do it? Great.
It’s a lot of the major games of the year, and of the industry in general. I think the discussions Bioshock Infinite raises represents one of the first, though small, steps towards a more unified gaming future. By which I mean that the same variety you see in film and comics may become as major within gaming.
The gamers who sat down to really think about sitting down to think about why some of the violence in Bioshock Infinite may have felt out of place may have found themselves thinking upon the many ways we have to interact with great worlds and stories of our time. Granted, while Infinite weaves a tale of a violent man within a violent world, think about how much the original Bioshock stands up with its much less fleshed out combat system? Arguably the most iconic part of the game was the interactive narrative that was the world of Rapture, and there is proof that this concept can stand up completely on its own as this is exactly what Gone Home is.
So for me, Bioshock Infinite isn’t exactly the greatest game ever from the standpoint of being a standalone game. The impact that it had on some gamers from thereon out certain helps boost its standing, though. It’s not very often that you see these legitimate questions being asked outside of “gaming intellectuals” but more and more people were asking more questions about violence in their games. Granted, a lot of this may have been bandwagoning to get involved with more virtual discussions, but all the same it can help plant that idea in the mind.
And that is where I feel Bioshock Infinite succeeds, and that is why I will remember it as one of the final great games of this generation.