What if racists had a city in the sky? Ken Levine asks the hard questions!
The recent announcement that the Bioshock Infinite cover would be a tour de cliche featuring your average dark-haired caucasian protagonist, chin down, eyes up, rather than something like the (brilliant) fanart Rockwell/Leyendecker Saturday Morning Post pastiche (by Alex Garner) is symptomatic of the entire game development, at least as well as I can tell from the trailers and gameplay released so far.
Hey this game looks pretty g-
“THIS TIME IT’S PAYBACK,” SAID JOHN BIOSHOCK GRIMLY
The most striking difference is in the character of Elizabeth, who started out as a pageboy-bobbed hellraiser in copious eyeliner.
Notice the slight widening of the nasal bridge, the freckles, the nasolabial fold and the longer philtrum.
Notice also that the nose is slightly more convex, stronger and more mature here than in the later, infantilized Elizabeth, who has a more typical Malibu snub nose.
Her freckles are gone, her mouth is smaller (more baby-like), and her hair and makeup—previously strongly-styled, indicative of a woman’s agency over her own appearance (see: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc)—have been lightened and softened, brown instead of black, with the sideswept, childish bangs revealing a larger forehead (again, a physical sign of immaturity). Her nasolabial folds are softened and her skin appears to be more tan than her original gothic pallor.
And while it’s hard to tell if the voice actor has changed her reading style or if this is entirely dependent on the different emotional tones of the different scenes, Elizabeth’s voice sounds higher, more ingratiating, and not at all angry. In other words, she’s been defanged—the new Elizabeth is totally unchallenging, and appears to be about 13 years old.
The cleavage was absolutely gratuitous even at the beginning, but at least she sort of appeared to be a young woman (the character is supposed to be 20 years old), rather than a little girl with precocious tits.
Her original appearance in the first gameplay trailer to be released portrays her furiously acting, her brows lowered, her voice hoarse, low and powerful. In each following video release from the developers, she became more and more dilute, until she took on her final form of what appears to be a kewpie-head-on-a-barbie-doll bimbo. “Booker, Booker,” she simpers, holding up some shiny knickknack as they crash through some abandoned store, “gold!” Haha! Stupid girls!
Exciting realtime events!
That she has been removed entirely from the final cover design is telling, as her character also appears to have been slowly extracted from the actual game. My enthusiasm for the gameplay has waned with each new trailer.
To quote a friend,
RN: you’ve already experienced ken levine’s horrifying epic about what if objectivists had superpowers
RN: now sit back and enjoy as he takes on battered wife syndrome through the medium of robot birds and racial stereotypes
Adding to this awful morass is Levine’s revelation that Elizabeth is based on an abused woman he knew in real life:
“When you arrive in Columbia, Elizabeth has been trapped in this tower since she was a little girl – and you bust her out. That’s essentially the catalyst that heightens the conflict. You really turn the heat up in a way that it wasn’t before,”
Levine revealed that Elizabeth’s complicated relationship with her captor, the Songbird, was inspired by his personal experience with a victim of domestic abuse who inevitably returned to her abuser.
And just in case you weren’t tired of books, movies and games vilifying the notion of populist uprisings in oppressive capitalist citystates,
“The Vox Populi [editor’s note: these pseudo-soviets in the trailers appear to contain the only visibly non-white members] believe that the city is corrupt, so they want to demonstrate to the workers and the downtrodden of the world that this symbol of American imperialism has to fall. A prophecy says that if Elizabeth falls then the city falls with her. So they want her dead.”
So, just to be absolutely crystal clear here: Elizabeth is a mental child in a woman’s body, who has been freed from her tower-prison, and who is now being hunted by
the 99% Occupy populist rabble intent on senselessly smashing the state, as well as by her robot father-monster/ex boyfriend. Only one man can stop them.
There is absolutely no way this can go wrong.
CORRECTION: The SEP cover above was not official Irrational art, but fan work by Alex Garner. Kotaku says: “[The official cover is] nowhere near as imaginative or as evocative as what comic-book artist Alex Garner drew earlier this year(featured above), even if that followed a similar magazine-cover design published by Game Informer more than two years ago.” The text above has been corrected to reflect this.
“We went and did a tour… around to a bunch of, like, frathouses and places like that. People who were gamers. Not people who read IGN. And [we] said, so, have you guys heard ofBioShock? not a single one of them had heard of it.”
“I looked at the cover art forBioShock 1, which I was heavily involved with and love, I adored. And I tried to step back and say, if I’m just some guy, some frat guy, I love games but don’t pay attention to them… if I saw the cover of that box, what would I think? And I would think, this is a game about a robot and a little girl. That’s what I would think. I was trying to be honest with myself. Trust me, I was heavily involved with the creation of those characters and I love them.”
“Would I buy that game if I had 60 bucks and I bought three games a year… would I even pick up the box? I went back to the box forSystem Shock 1, which was obviously incredibly imporatnt — that game was incredibly influential on me,System Shock 2was the first game I ever made. I remember I picked it up… looked at it and I said, I have no idea what this game is. And I didn’t have a lot of money back then. So, back on the shelf. And I was a gamer.”
“I wanted the uninformed, the person who doesn’t read IGN… to pick up the box and say, okay, this looks kind of cool, let me turn it over. Oh, a flying city. Look at this girl, Elizabeth on the back. Look at that creature. And start to read about it, start to think about it.”
shorter Ken Levine: “We liked making Bioshock but in order to appease our overlords, we need to turn up the bland. Sorry I’m not sorry, guys.”
if you’re not making the next Halo or Call of Duty, and if you know you’re not ever going to be as financially successful as the next Halo or Call of Duty, why not just stick to your fucking guns, make the game you actually want to make, and let it find its audience?