Bioshock Infinite: Part One, Part Three, Part Four
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Bioshock Infinite. Read at your own risk.
Bioshock Infinite features something that we don’t usually see unless it’s a major focus of the story: a sexism-free fantasy world.
Or at least a world that seems to be free of sexism. It’s difficult to notice the lack of something, especially when subtle sexism is so pervasive in our society that we make out own sexist assumptions while playing games. But in Columbia, where bigotry is proudly held up as a religious and moral imperative, the lack of explicit sexism is noticeable.
It’s an interesting world building technique, because many fantasy worlds hold onto some form of racism and sexism in an effort to ground the world in “reality” and make it more believable to the audience. (I’m not going to get into the merits of this technique right now, because that’s a whole other thorny issue.)
When the racism isn’t explicitly about skin color as it is in Bioshock Infinite, it might be about aliens or intelligent AI or what have you. There’s an extensive list on TV Tropes if you would like to check it out. And as many fans of historically inspired fantasy (like Bioshock) can say, there’s a long-standing discussion of the prevalence of sexism in these imagined worlds.
So it stood out to me when I first realized that Columbia was a remarkably egalitarian society when it came to gender. Continue reading
Bioshock Infinite: Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Bioshock Infinite. Read at your own risk. I mean it. I will talk about the end of the game. Don’t do this to yourself if you haven’t played the game.
When the first trailer for Bioshock Infinite was released, I wasn’t thrilled with Elizabeth’s character design. Especially once Irrational Games, the developers, started to tout Elizabeth’s importance as a dynamic character that players would care about. If she was meant to be such a well-fleshed out character, why exactly was Irrational deciding to sexualize her? Those types of cheap tricks are used constantly in low-brow games that rely on safe thrills — lots of explosions and boobs — to make sales. And, of course, games made with higher ambitions also fall prey to the one female character with enormous breasts or jeans so tight they double as a thong. Here, I thought with Bioshock Infinite, was another that would be just a little bit lesser in my eyes because of a silly outfit choice.
So I was surprised when I first met Elizabeth in-game and she was dressed conservatively. No cleavage or pinched waistline in sight. While creating a game, hours are spent over the smallest details, and that’s especially true in a game as detailed and finely crafted as Bioshock Infinite. I started to wonder if maybe Irrational had designed Elizabeth’s dress for more than fanservice. And the more I think about it, the more I believe they did.