In BioShock Infinite players are presented with a world, or rather a floating city, in conflict. Both ideological and physical. The conflict is between the dominant right-wing nationalists, the Founders, and a coalition of populist groups who feel disenfranchised, the Vox Populi. On the surface it's not completely dissimilar to what's happening in the US with the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Ken Levine spoke with The Washington Post to discuss how real life is reflected in video games.
When we started the game, we had this idea for these movements, and we were looking back at history. Our games are heightened versions of history... In this world, we came up with the idea of looking at what was happening at the time of the game [the 1890's], with the jingoism movement and the nationalist movement versus the internationalist movement. This was before the tea party, before Occupy Wall Street.
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I think that because the original BioShock took place after the conflict in Rapture and the game was dealing with more abstract ideas like moral absolutism as well as an ideology that has fallen out of favor, Objectivism, it was more distant and less personal. But BioShock Infinite takes place in the middle of a conflict. One between two recognizable groups that hold a mirror to many groups throughout history. So it's easier to draw comparisons. Of course, the side effect of that is that there are plenty of people in those groups who take it personally.
The games tend to be a Rorschach [test] for people, and I've heard both sides of the reaction [to the demo]. I had the displeasure of going to a while supremacist site that made a point of saying this game by "the Jew" Ken Levine was about killing white people. But then I went to this leftist site that said this is about discrediting leftists movements.
Personally, I'm looking forward to people criticizing and debating the perceived message of BioShock Infinite when it comes out. It will give me an excuse to be a boring git and talk about politics after I've just fought a giant metal bird and opened a portal to another time. Best of both worlds. The full interview is here. Don't worry, it's not all politics and history, videogames do get mentioned.
The tea party, Occupy Wall Street and 'BioShock Infinite...' [The Washington Post]