4/09/2013

How Bioshock Infinite Got It Right

Or “Thank God, a Game Where I Don’t Hate Every Female PC”
(If you have not finished playing Bioshock Infinite, shame on you, just beware that there may be some spoilers ahead. I’ve tried to be at least ambiguous, but I figured I’d put it out there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)






First of all, let me just say how blown away I was by Bioshock Infinite as a game overall. I was cautiously optimistic about it because of its marketing up until only recently. I found myself going, “Uh. This isn’t Rapture. It’s bright. I think it’s going to blind me. And you’re wandering around with this cute chick and…yeah…I don’t know…”

Then, I bought it. And played it.

On the geeky side of things, let me go ahead and point out a few tidbits: the gameplay is a balance of both the first and second Bioshock games. It’s more classic FPS without giving up the fantastic element of Vigors (this game’s version of the Plasmids), and it generally comes off as more controlled than the spastic, frantic quick-kill-everything-ness of especially Bioshock 2. It’s beautifully made with a great soundtrack (did not walk into this game expecting Tears for Fears) and a narrative that leaves you dizzy…and that’s not just because of the skylines.
That said, though…it isn’t just the fact that it’s a fun game that shows how Bioshock Infinite got it right. It’s the characters. Specifically, it’s the women. Because, believe me, I was scared for a while there. “Here we go again,” I thought, “Some dude is saving some chick and there’s going to be this cheeky back-and-forth, blah blah blah.”

After getting through this game, I realized just how wrong I was.

So you have these four different female characters in this game: Elizabeth, Rosalind Lutece, Lady Comstock and Daisy Fitzroy. They fulfill very important roles in a setting that is very sexist and masculine: Elizabeth is the innocent girl, Rosalind is the genius scientist business woman, Lady Comstock is the matriarch and Daisy is the rebel anarchist chick. Each represent a different societal role for women, but even more interestingly, they directly reflect the major named male characters, specifically Booker Dewitt, Robert Lutece, Zachary Comstock and Cornelius Slate, respectively.

And here’s the real kicker: they are more successful than their counterparts. While Booker is running amok eating food out of trash cans, Elizabeth figures out how everything is connected. Rosalind doesn’t just go about her business doing what she’s told; she crosses space and time to find another version of herself and uses him to help her achieve her ends. Lady Comstock knew exactly what was up and what was going to happen (and unfortunately that’s why the Mr. Father Comstock axed her). Even Daisy – who, granted, just ended up being a bit of a crazy bitch at the end of it – got way farther than Slate ever could. She went out and started a revolution while he sulked in the shadows of a museum.

What really got me engaged with the game though wasn’t just the archetypes these ladies represented or my sense of “you go, girl!” It’s the fact that none of them started that way, and throughout the game they changed. The player got this broader, more vivid picture of these well-rounded, interesting characters. Elizabeth wasn’t just some Princess Peach with a giant bird-man babysitter. Rosalind Lutece wasn’t just a Madison Paige who was going out-smart all those menfolk and bag a guy in the end (that was a Heavy Rain reference, by the way – one of my biggest video game heartbreaks that absolutely got it wrong when it came to crafting a female character). They take everything you expect and just go, “No, I think we’ll do this our way, thank you kindly.”

Well done, Bioshock Infinite. Well done.

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