|What is my ethnicity:||I'm belgian|
|My sexual identity:||Male|
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|What is my figure features:||My figure features is quite muscular|
|My favourite drink:||Mulled wine|
In this article, I analyze the video game BioShock Infinite as a popular site for the visual display of in justice and im morality. In turn, the game suggests to draw parallels between these fictional representations and actual US society at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the game, set in the yearplayers explore and shoot their way through the fictional floating city of Columbia, which seceded from the US mainland a few years before.
With its historically inspired setting and distinct focus on telling a compelling story, BioShock Infinite found both critical and commercial success, having sold more than eleven million copies Handrahan and thus testifying to the influential position video games have assumed as part of American popular culture. This visual representation constitutes a compressed zeitgeist of the historical US of the time, exaggerating some of the reactionary political trends that characterized parts of US society.
The main part of this paper will then concentrate on an analysis of three distinct ways in which the game visualizes injustice. These close readings of individual visual depictions, from the perspective of literary and cultural studies, will form the backbone of my argument, yet I will also contextualize these single images within the overall game.
Malkowski and Russworm; Ruberg and Shawthe depiction of history cf. Chapman; Kapell and Elliottthe remediation of specific genres cf.
Thon; Eichnerto name just a few, many of which intersect importantly with inquiries at the heart of American studies as well. As an immensely large industry and an entertainment product that reaches millions of consumers, video games thus have a particular cultural currency that renders them important for popular culture studies, visual studies, and also American studies. Looking at how they depict and deal with questions of rights and justice, then, is equally something worth studying both in itself and for how insights gained from this particular medium are relevant for other investigations as well.
Particularly, video games stand as a prominent example of how the ludic, the cultural activity of playing, figures into American visual culture.
Hyper mode: elizabeth comstock's last hurrah
While later studies have further refined conceptions of the role of play in culture, its central elements—focused on interactivity, nonlinearity, performativity, and agency—complicate understandings of narrativity and visuality in potentially productive ways. Adapting this concept for how players engage with video games is particularly productive because games, too, stress the input of the recipient, accommodating active choices and potentially nonlinear narratives, and because the active exploration of space and the choices in that exploration take up a ificant part in many games.
Space, emphasized via the concept of the storyworld, thus often assumes a more important role than narrative proper cf. While very early studies of games tended to focus on text adventures and thus highlighted the importance of textuality and narrativity in gaming cf.
Bucklescontemporary video games make use of the vast opportunities afforded to the creation of fictional worlds rendered as three-dimensional spaces Nitsche 4.
How bioshock infinite’s elizabeth makes her mark
While some examples of such scholarship look at this issue from a more moralistic point of view, sometimes condemning video games for their proliferation of violence or specifically arguing against that cf. Happ and Melzer; Markey and Fergusonother approaches focus on the representation of violence in games and link it to typical concerns of cultural studies, such as power or agency cf. Rogers ; Champion Analyzing how exactly certain elements are represented in the game, how they work narratively and visually, will allow me to contextualize the game within questions of morality and justice.
In the context of the history of the United States that BioShock Infinite engages in, race and class will be the most ificant issues when judging a society by how it treats its individual members. Atkins 7, 16, 21which risks confusing realism with reality. Instead of reiterating such discussions bioshock intimate full game questions of authenticity and reality in video games, I want to focus on BioShock Infinite making use of both the realist and the fantastic mode of representation cf. Jackson As a kind of alternate history cf.
Booker is a former Pinkerton agent who now works as a private investigator, searching through Columbia for a woman named Elizabeth, who he is meant to rescue from the city. One central part of these findings will be the discovery that Booker and Comstock are actually the same person, albeit from different universes, a revelation stylized as a narrative twist, 4 which I will come back to later. In addition to combat, exploring the world and its various environments takes up a relatively large part of the game, since there are a of optional areas in which Booker can find various items as well as additional background information.
Hyper mode: elizabeth comstock's last hurrah
They all combine to render Columbia into a visual spectacle, a magically floating city with bright colors, fantastic means of transportation, and a civil war looming underneath the surface of its society. As the game progresses, however, cracks and fissures in their ideology and unrest within the population become more visible. While this overall struggle clearly relates to questions of rights and justice, players mostly glean deeper insights into the conflict between the two factions from the narrative background, which I will focus on further below. Still, there are a few instances where the main plot—i.
Figure 1. Mock wedding of an interracial couple. The couple is presented on a stage, in front of a crowd of citizens, with an announcer, Jeremiah Fink, taunting Booker to throw the baseball. The white man, on the left, and the black woman, on the right, are poorly dressed, their hands tied behind their backs. Behind them, stage props are raised that depict a jungle, a monkey to each side framing the couple, and a black man centrally behind them fig.
These three figures are supposed to form a mock wedding, with one of the monkeys carrying a wedding ring, the other acting as a flower girl, while the man wears a black hat and carries a book, serving as an officiant. The overall depiction is thus not only degrading, it also recurs to well-worn racist stereotypes of representing African American characters. While it is never explicitly mentioned, apparently, such a union is illegal in Columbia—similar to so-called anti-miscegenation laws in the historical US, which were only nationally abolished in the s Moran 6. That realization, in turn, is engendered both by the racist depiction of the interracial couple and by the framing of the entire scene, with Columbians shown as enjoying this public injustice—or, rather, their twisted idea of serving justice against an illegal union in Columbia.
When players enter the area, they bioshock intimate full game a man behind a lectern auctioning off these different jobs to a crowd of people below him. When one of them wins the auction, another worker beats up the winner and takes his job instead, upon which the auctioneer comments approvingly. We need work! Figure 2.
Bioshock infinite forces players to confront racism (hands-on preview)
Wall of employment. This, then, does not involve elements happening as part of or alongside the main plot but, rather, optional aspects. Players either have to discover these in specific areas that they do not necessarily have to explore, or they must actively choose to look at or listen to them, while also having the choice of simply ignoring them, in turn affecting the reconstruction of the storyworld. Some of this narrative background is filled with audible elements—particularly through public announcements e. Beyond the way certain characters and buildings are deed and the omnipresence of flags mentioned beforethis especially concerns the different statues found around Columbia as well as a large variety of propaganda posters and images.
Of these many examples, I want to look at two sets of propaganda images in more detail to, again, demonstrate how they catalyze questions of injustice in Columbia specifically along race and class.
As with all of the propaganda posters and images, the characters are drawn in a more realistic style than the usual graphics of the game, also strengthening their link to US historical reality. Her skin … so white!
Bioshock infinite: the complete edition
Or are they? We must all be vigilant to ensure the purity of our people! Figure 3. Mural painting depicting Washington. The background consists of clouds, suggesting a heaven-like setting, whereas Washington and Columbia are surrounded by a golden glow, distinguishing and foregrounding them. Below Washington, multiple flags are draped to form a kind of pedestal, and in a variation of this image circulated as promotional material for the game fig.
To the left and right of Washington, various shadowy figures stand next to each other, looking towards him.
All of them show people of different ethnicities and nationalities through established racist stereotypes: There is an Irishman drinking beer, a Jewish man with a long face and long claws for hands, two Asian possibly Chinese figures with slanted eyes, and other people that seem to be of Arab, Mexican, and Native American origin. It also links faith and Christian religion with this nationalistic view, through the Ten Commandments, the heaven-like setting, and the way in which Washington is positioned similarly to depictions of Jesus, with the poor masses below him and reaching towards him.
In turn, this event prompted a of news stories criticizing parts of the Tea Party and noting the irony in using this image without awareness of its contexts and origins cf. Tassi; Fillariparticularly since the hyperbolically xenophobic and racist depiction of the Founders in the game can be read as a criticism and parody of movements exactly like the modern Tea Party. Figure 4. Propaganda poster found in Finkton. It depicts a white man in the foreground, dressed in a business suit and apparently looking at a pocket watch fig.
Bioshock infinite forces players to confront racism (hands-on preview)
Watching the clock opens the door for others to take your job! The poster thus works on two levels by combining racial and class anxiety: On the one hand, it reminds workers to work diligently, since they might otherwise lose their job. On the other hand, it connects the already established threat of ethnic minorities directly to that potential loss of employment as well, alleging that their jobs might be taken by immigrants.
Of the many kinds of violations of rights that appear to be part of Columbia, the visuals of the game particularly highlight them through racial and social injustices—and by pointing out their intersectionality. As this analysis has shown, only if players take the time to explore the often optional visuals that form the narrative background and thus arrive at a more detailed reconstruction of the storyworld will they fully understand the oppressive and discriminatory world of BioShock Infinite.
As mentioned before, there are a of visual references to US history in the game, such bioshock intimate full game statues depicting the Founding Fathers, who are religiously worshiped in Columbia, or unfavorable portrayals of Abraham Lincoln. However, it is in the area called Hall of Heroes that the visual reenacting of history is vividly displayed, and where a misrepresentation of history becomes most obvious.
The hall—basically a kind of museum—celebrates the history of Columbia, particularly through two exhibits, which depict the events of the Boxer Rebellion and what the exhibition calls the Battle at Wounded Knee. Both follow a similar pattern as visual representations since they both work to cast minorities as the ethnic Other, as a threat to be fought. In comparison to the ly discussed examples, however, the link to—and misrepresentation of—US history becomes even more evident. Figure 5.
Stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in the Hall of Heroes. The Wounded Knee exhibit is accompanied by war music, with the incessant sound of drums and shouts aling the advent of a Native American war band. As players walk through the exhibit, various cardboard cutouts depicting Native Americans pop out. Many of them hide in bushes and are colored entirely in black, while others jump out of those bushes, again in line with depicting them as constant threats that might appear very suddenly fig.
Throughout the exhibit, the war chants and shouts become increasingly louder, cardboard fire appears in the bushes alongside more Native Americans, and the light starts to flash, all combining to evoke imminent danger. The color red dominates the entire exhibit, also symbolizing danger. Additionally, all of the Native Americans are consistently associated with violence, brutality, and savagery—they are all warriors, muscular and armed, and they are particularly shown in scenes in which they act as threats to white people. But when our soldiers took the field, the savage horde could only yield.
In terms bioshock intimate full game how the events at Wounded Knee are portrayed in this exhibition, the Native Americans appear as the sole aggressors, with no mention of a massacre committed by US soldiers, instead honoring their heroic battle. Figure 6.
Analysis: marc cieslak, bbc click
Instead, BioShock Infinite also draws distinct parallels between them. While they might look slightly differently, there is no distinct change in the gameplay for fighting them, nor is this narratively reflected. For instance, once the Vox Populi have taken over large parts of the city, Daisy Fitzroy, their leader, is portrayed eerily similarly to Jeremiah Fink, whom she overthrew. As part of a longer revelation that culminates in a narrative twist, Elizabeth explains to Booker that, in the world of the gamemultiple parallel universes and, thus, parallel timelines exist with Elizabeth having the power to travel between them.
After Booker kills Comstock, Elizabeth realizes that he lives on in other worlds and that he can only be stopped if they prevent him from ever being born.