Art book shows a new perspective of Columbia
Almost a month after its release, BioShock Infinite is still on my mind, but not for the reasons you might suspect. If you grow tired of seeing the game plastered on just about every gaming website, magazine, and TV commercial, fear not. This commentary does not exist to reiterate the title's excellence nor is it a rant geared at opposing such praise. Instead, I'd like to shine some light on the world of Columbia before it was a fully realized sky-bound paradise; years ago when the idea of the game was just gaining traction in the imaginations of Ken Levine and creative team at Irrational Games.
After traversing every nook and cranny of the firmament-born dystopia and following the tale of Booker DeWitt and the dimension-tearing Elizabeth not one, not two, but three times, I happily retired BioShock Infinite to its rightful place in my gaming library while tucking away my many admirations into a mental filing cabinet. I'm finally done, or so I told myself before I received an unsuspecting gift shortly after the exhausting completion.
As a spur-of-the-moment present (my friends are amazing), I was given The Art of BioShock Infinite, an art book showcasing a collection of illustrations, concepts, and ideas crafted throughout the game's development process.
I'm not a game designer or an artist, and as much as I admire the aesthetics of a game as beautiful as BioShock Infinite, I didn't exactly jump for joy at the sight of a book full of drawings. That is until I took the time to flip through each page, examine every picture, and peruse all the hand-written annotations. You would be quite surprised to discover just how different Infinite was in its early stages.
Man-eating brutes who morph into more monstrous forms after feasting on human flesh, a little girl with a face caged behind torn bloody bars, and numerous other gory, creepy, and lurid imagery tint the pages of the illustrative collection. Borrowing from Andrew Ryan's aquatic landscape, Vigor junkies also make an appearance in the art compilation, bearing the drastic physical effects of vigor addiction similar to the splicers of previous games.
Besides being a pretty cool book, The Art of BioShock Infinite showcases the creative process of the game's development in a hands-on, artistic medium. Blending the boundaries between old and new, borrowing from early elements in the franchise while crafting something unique, BioShock Infinite truly epitomizes a hodge podge of symbols, aesthetics, and atmospheric clout that has evolved drastically from beginning to end.
While the book can only represent a microscopic fragment of the overall design process, viewing step by step as the Songbird transformed from an off-putting Big Daddy with wings into a hulking yet emotionally-compelling beast is an experience that necessitates respect for the characters, the story, and the world of Infinite.
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