Infinite Discourse

It's been nearly a month since BioShock Infinite hit shelves. That's been almost four weeks of analysis, discussion, and Twitter-bickering. The topic is wearing thin on me, and I'm excusing myself from the conversation. But, not without a few parting words.

By Tony Walter | Apr 13, 2013

There is a profound difference between taking issue with a work for moral reasons and taking issue with a work for critical reasons. The chief distinction between those is an understanding of the driving concepts of a work, and a thoughtful analysis within the context of the creation. I take no issue with those who avoid a product for personal reasons. However, it is equally possible to critically take issue for similar reasons, if the work is irresponsible with its themes or actions. A film about rape is not inherently a bad film, though I am perfectly happy to acknowledge it is a topic not all are interested in visiting. However, a film that mishandles such a topic, can have valid critical opposition, in addition to the moral opposition. It is important to realize that those who are putting forth a critical argument against a creator's choices are not necessarily morally opposed to the choices, but offended by a misuse within the context of the creation.

Aside from the shallow insult, hipster gamer, thoughts like this seem not to understand that the problem many take with the violence in BioShock Infinite has little to do with the violence itself, but that it rips the player from the narrative. For all intents and purposes the violence in the game could be replaced with racing sequences; it's out of place. The point isn't that we're offended by a game dealing with death, but rather offended that this game simultaneously attempts to tackle serious issues while being too afraid to stray away from what is keeping it firmly nestled among the lowbrow, annualized first person shooters.

Perhaps there is a small contingent of players who were also offended by the violence for moral reasons. While this is not necessarily the same group who are leveling analysis against the choices within Infinite, they too are entitled to their opinions. It is perfectly acceptable that after seven years of the most violent generation video games has ever seen, the studio that earned the reputation of pushing things forward, be held to a higher standard.

The most frustrating thing that has revealed itself to me after the release of BioShock Infinite, isn't that violence still overwhelms some of the best games we have to offer, but that most mainstream critical analysis within this industry still fails to analyze games. Instead we're fed spoiler-free and watered-down box quotes, that feel closer to checklists of expectations versus achievements than proper analysis. Phrases like "it feels good" and "paced well" are rarely backed up with any sort of evidence or presented with context, partially out of fear of the audience reaction to spoilers, and partially out of laziness. And when a vocal minority of budding writers picks up the slack to attempt a deeper analysis of a game they're greeted with labels like hipster, and from one of the men responsible for several of the games that would make the list of reasons I still love video games. Frustrating isn't the right word, it's heartbreaking.

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