This article argues that the 2013 first-person shooter (FPS) video game BioShock Infinite (2K Games) challenges gamers in its representations of race. Launched in 2007, the BioShock franchise has a reputation for thoughtful dystopian narratives, beautiful retro worlds, and addictive gameplay. As the latest installment in an award-winning franchise, BioShock Infinite entices players on reputation alone. Although the game's marketing presents it as a clichéd FPS game with a stereotypical white male hero and nonstop action, BioShock Infinite regularly interrogates its own models of hegemonic power through both the narrative and the gameplay. This article tracks the ways in which the game encourages the player to notice and engage with white supremacism and race relations in an allegorical American context. The early twentieth-century world of Columbia functions not only as a playground for the player but also as a proving ground where social mores are repeatedly tested. Practices such as lynching, segregation, and phrenology are woven into the narrative and the player must sometimes literally decide whether to endorse or oppose the racism modeled in the game. The hack-and-slash gameplay also becomes inextricable from the racial identities and views of both the protagonist and his enemies. In this way, BioShock Infinite balances gaming as entertainment with gaming as education and contributes to the broader debate around the social function of video games.
Research Article| September 01 2015
Diana Adesola Mafe; Race and the First-Person Shooter: Challenging the Video Gamer in BioShock Infinite. Camera Obscura 1 September 2015; 30 (2 (89)): 89–123. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-3078336
Download citation file: