Rare is the Man Who Takes a Stand/For God and Sweetest Father Land: “Bioshock Infinite”

I won some raffle at a fair, and my prize was to chuck a baseball at an older biracial couple, tied up on-stage. There was a whole crowd of bigots in bonnets or suspenders cheering lustily all around me, pressuring me to really nail one of these two people.

F*ck that, right? I chucked the ball at the fat, tuxedoed M.C. on the stage. Then police grabbed me, so I took them all down.

Bioshock_infinite_wallpapers_HD (1)

From the game.

A recent NPR story on “Bioshock Infinite” asked quite seriously whether this video game is art. It absolutely is, but duh.

“Infinite” takes place in 1912 Columbia, a city in the clouds which has seceded from the U.S. The people there worship, literally, the Founding Fathers. We see massive statues of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and the others, where people kneel and pray. There’s a man running the city named Zachary Hale Comstock, who considers himself a prophet and is represented in huge statues whose plaques say things like “The Seed of the Prophet Shall Sit the Throne and Drown in Flame the Mountains of Man.”

(The statues in “Infinite” are awesome to look up at. Another huge one is of John Wilkes Booth, the staunch secessionist who, of course, assassinated Lincoln.)

There’s this whole backstory that reveals itself slowly, about the history of this cloud city Columbia. There were battles, where important figures distinguished themselves. Comstock’s wife was apparently very powerful, and there’s some major mystery surrounding her. These pieces fill in among the shootouts against heavily armed officers in patriot gear, and robot George Washingtons with bazooka arms.

And I’ve been having fun in Finkton, a steamy manufacturing community where labor’s so weak the workers compete for who’s willing to be paid least for a job. The rich leader Jeremiah Fink is heard over loudspeaker, telling them all to be more like the bee, which is the world’s greatest animal because it works its ass off without sick days or vacation.

This political subtext ties together who many of us were then (racists) and who many of us are now (anti-government Fox News viewers), but there’s also a plot here. The story in the game is about a war-veteran detective and a girl with a bounty on her head, fighting their way through this madness together. As that NPR clip notes, you don’t play “Bioshock Infinite” for any kind of score. You play it because you want to know what happens to these characters.

I’m not a big gamer. I usually only play NBA 2K. But there was too much chatter in the ether about this game for me to ignore it, and I’m glad I paid heed. Not only is it fun to see a society where religion and Founding-Father worship combine into creepy dystopia, it’s also fun to blast my way through it.


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