The Troubling Predicament of BioShock: Infinite
One of the most anticipated games of 2012 faces one of gaming's oldest dilemmas.
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There's something wrong with BioShock: Infinite, but it isn't the game itself. The spate of videos released over the past three weeks highlight individual enemies, with members of the development team discussing the inspiration behind these creatures' form and function.
They raise some questions: Why give us the director's commentary when we haven't even seen the movie yet? Shouldn't there be some surprise? And since no one is forcing me to watch them, why does the recent bombardment of videos bother me so much?
Many of BioShock: Infinite's public appearances in recent weeks are trailers that don't reveal anything that isn't supposed to be seen. There's little opportunity for investigation, but more importantly, there's almost no room for interpretation. It feels like there's no confidence in the audience to come to its own conclusions because doing so would mean expectations go unchecked. In turn, this raises some important questions: Is this game not capable of standing on its own merits? Why not let fans come to their own conclusions? To be fair, the associated interviews with Irrational's creative director, Ken Levine, give some much-needed context to these scraps cut from the roast, but Levine isn't in a position to go outside the unspoken but understood boundaries of this week's "heavy hitter" or whatever happens to be the agreed-upon topic.
These videos do a great disservice not only to Infinite, but also to Irrational. On a macro level, the constant dissecting of game content introduces an element of media fatigue so pervasive that by the time the game is released, there's nothing to talk about. There's no mystery. There's no opportunity for fans to interpret their own narrative, because they're already being told why something is in the game and why it looks the way it does. It was all spelled out months before, and by the creators no less. It's like attending a Shakespeare class and being told your take is wrong because the professor is Shakespeare, and he would probably know better than anyone.
"It's like attending a Shakespeare class and being told your take is wrong because the professor is Shakespeare […]"It's amazing that a studio with such enormous artistic and visual talent would spread the gospel of BioShock that, quite frankly, is antiquated and boring. Why tear down the universe when it hasn't even been built in the minds of the audience? Why not use the magnificent talents of your art team and feed imaginations? You also have one of the most passionate and talented fan bases of any game out there, so why not let them do the work for you on some level?
Regardless, it's a shame and simultaneously worrisome that there are potentially several more months of this ahead. Will there be anything left to discover come October 16?