Is Bioshock Infinite less of a horror game because of the country I was born in?
I had a great week of gaming. Played some Tomb Raider with my wife and played some more Lord of the Rings: War in the North with my friend online. War In the North is pretty damn awesome and aside from some terrible inventory management I think it is some excellent co-op gaming. (Hey Snowblind! Repair *ALL* has been a staple of RPGS for a long time...what part did you think I would find fun in repairing each item individually?)
I also had some wonderful sessions of Bioshock Infinite. I’m totally in love with the game, but it isn’t quite up to my expectations after System Shock 2 and Bioshock. The gameplay is similar but so far the game feels far more linear and the combat feels more like pitched battles than the more flowing encounters of Bioshock and System Shock 2. Not that any of this is really a problem and I am nowhere near the end of the game, or so I believe, so maybe this changes further on. I guess I am a little disappointed that we’ve maybe taken a little step backwards in level design and game design to accommodate the breathtaking visuals.
Then, there is the lack of horror.
System Shock 2 was most definitely a horror game. A sci-fi themed, survival horror game that was generally scary when I first played it. Bioshock, while less fright-filled, would still fall under the horror classification for me. There was definitely some good scary moments and the game really was trying to spook you by playing on many primal fears.
Bioshock Infinite seems to really have shed the more obvious horror tropes in favour of the horror of blind religious and patriotic allegiance as well as the obvious affront to all sensibilities with the racial segregation and slavery. However, it really doesn’t make me feel scared and tense like I did in Rapture or on the Von Braun.
Of course, this is likely intentional in many ways on the part of Irrational Games. Doing what is expected of you in gaming often can lead to stagnate and uninspired games. It is always nice when extremely competent game developers try something new and give us unique experiences.
But then I began to wonder, am I not as scared because I am Canadian?
There is a lot of twisting of the almost sacred iconography of America’s founding, the flag, and many of the symbols that are truly American. There are hallways of defiled American art and many, clearly American, images in scenes that are meant to elicit an emotional response from the player due to the almost blasphemous use of these symbols.
Being Canadian, I wonder if there is a desired effect of this imagery that is lost on me. While I have been exposed to lots of American history, frankly more than the history of my own country, I don’t have any personal attachment or reaction to the use of these images. The use of the founding fathers, flags, and American trappings throughout the game make the world feel foreign to me while I wonder if it feels somewhat familiar to my American cousins.
It is often the corruption of the familiar that can evoke fear. Look how many horror movies and games use defiled religious imagery to scare people. Maybe it feels surreal and disturbing to walk around Columbia if you’ve grown up with these icons as a part of your social upbringing. I would love to hear how scary or even creepy you found your time in Bioshock Infinite if you are an American.
So, more Bioshock Infinite for me tonight and this weekend. What are you playing this weekend?