Kirk Hamilton, Erik Kain, Benjamin Popper, Michael Abbott, and hell, the rest of mainstream games journalism out there, stop embarrassing my race. You fucks, you sick fucks. I’ve never been more disgusted with games “journalism” and “criticism” in my life until lately, with the release of Bioshock: Infinite and the writing that’s followed in it’s wake.
For the past week I’ve heard claims that Bioshock Infinite would have been a better game, if it was not a shooter. I pondered this line of thinking, had a couple beers, another beer, a shot of whiskey, a margarita, some chicken lo mein, and a final beer, and sat the hell down finally with Bioshock Infinite.
I got to the interracial couple scene, and man, did I wish I didn’t read Hamilton’s rambling beforehand.
So, Kirk Hamilton, arrogant piece of trash that he is, likes to sit over there on his Kotaku blog, and write a long-form, idiotic piece full of animated .GIFs about how the ultra violence in Bioshock Infinite makes him sick. How he wants to spend all his time, getting “lost” and “immersed” in this world where white people wear fancy clothes, live in impressive floating cities in the sky, and brutally oppress racial minorities.
It really goes to show how little society has progressed from the Civil Rights Movement that white people as a whole, still talk and think about race in this abstract, diluted sort of manner. That walking around and “interacting” with the denizens of Columbia is what people like Hamilton want to do more than violently, brutally tear it down. Claiming that Infinite shouldn’t have had guns in the first place, that there shouldn’t have been violence, that Bioshock: Infinite should have been some sort of god knows what, a point and click adventure? A Telltale style Walking Dead-esque mildly interactive film? Does being grossed out at violently standing up to oppressors make you feel wrong, Mr. Hamilton? Grossed out? What kind of sick, perverse desire do you have to want a non-violent experience through the floating dystopia of Columbia? Do you feel this is the way things should be, that Columbia is a place you’d feel at home in?
I guess I should forgive you, Kirk, since both your Twitter avatar and your Kotaku profile image are separate, “classy,” overexposed photos of you sipping at liquor, as if you are some sort of “cultured” individual. The sort that think racist, oppressive societies with nice clothes are for “exploring” and “immersion” and not destroying.
I really don’t mean to pick on Hamilton alone, because it’s a problem systemic to the entirety of games journalism, and hell, the games industry in general. With such a white dominated society, especially in the subculture of video games, there’s a certain awkwardness when it comes to the issue of race. When creative individuals come together and create something like Bioshock: Infinite, and create worlds that aren’t afraid to show what racism was like in 1912. Yet, Infinite fails to acknowledge that the politics of Columbia hardly strayed too far from the America of 1912. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t come until a half-century later, for reference.
As white people, it’s quite gross, utterly disgusting, to write fancy, long-form “articles” about how Bioshock: Infinite should have been a non-violent spectacle, how the guns are the problem, how much we want to “explore” and be “immersed” in Columbia. It really is a white people thing, to just really, utterly lack any sort of decency when it comes to America’s racist history and creative interpretations and/or acknowledgements of it. You don’t, well, you just don’t sit there and rally against the violence against an establishment like Columbia. It’s demented, it’s sick, and it’s really not okay.
It really is, however, the white-centric establishment of Games Journalism, that has utterly disgusting me in one way or another with regards to their praise and criticism of Bioshock: Infinite. Whether it be the heaping of praise, the total acceptance of the politics in Bioshock: Infinite, or the lack of, gee, I don’t know, maybe seeking out the words of a person of color about their thoughts of the use of racism in Infinite. There’s been a voice utterly shut out of mainstream discussions in Infinite, and it makes me sick to see them not being brought to the forefront.
As for Infinite’s politics, they are, unsurprisingly, utterly abhorrent and horrifying, grossly inappropriate, and the typical white-centric storyline which uses a lot of exposition about time travel and parallel universes to eventually end on White Guilt. The dichotomy of Booker and Comstock and baptism and all this horseshit about Wounded Knee is all, in the end, utter horseshit - because regardless, in all these parallel universes, the people of color that Booker/Comstock inflicted violence upon are still living with the after-effects of his acts for decades if not centuries to follow.
Yet we never hear their stories.
We hear the story of a white man with a gun blasting away at everyone that opposes him left and right, eventually turning on the oppressed classes of the Vox Populi, who eventually are equated with being as evil as Comstock and Columbia itself - an utterly shameful, gross, nauseating equation to see in 2013. Levine should be ashamed of himself, quite frankly.
We hear the story of a white man who accepts a baptism and sees himself absolved for his crimes at the atrocities of Wounded Knee and the Boxer Rebellion, falls in love with the ideals of the Founding Fathers and Christianity, and builds a city in the sky, just as racist and violent as the country he abandoned.
We hear the story of a white woman kept locked up a tower by her father, with powers beyond imagination, rescued by her father from another dimension. Her anguish, hiding behind cover, throwing health packs and rifles (which are apparently ammunition for rifles) to her protector, opening up tears at her father’s command. A very strong female character with her own agency, certainly. Uh-huh. You hear all these games journalists wax on about how she’s such an amazing character yet they can’t seem to name one interesting trait that isn’t related to her function in the plot or gameplay or in giving exposition.
We hear the story of a woman of color who even Ken Levine knows has such a legitimate grievance, that he feels the need to construct such an asinine, idiotic scenario to put her on the same level of Comstock.
Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the Vox Populi, almost kills a young white boy, for apparently no reason, before she’s stopped by Elizabeth, a white woman, stabbing her to death. It’s like Levine almost gets the point, almost gets the major flaw in in his thinking over Infinite’s storyline, and makes up a really convenient excuse to not confront his own racist ideals.
We never really hear the very human stories of the oppressed in popular media, especially Bioshock: Infinite. Or when we do, they’re so twisted and portrayed in a light that makes them seem as bad as an oppressor like Comstock. This is really one of those times where hiring a non-white writer, or someone with the slightest hint of empathy would have been a tremendous help, as clearly Levine and the gang couldn’t figure out how to deal with the issue of race in Infinite without sidelining it for a rather intricate, in-depth science fiction/time-travel story centered around a white man’s guilt.
Bioshock: Infinite’s failings aren’t in it’s heavy use of violence, or the fact it’s a first person shooter. It’s the perversion of oppression, the creation of a world white people want to get lost and “immersed” in, instead of tearing down, the total lack of decency in regards to the views of people who have and still are the victims of racist oppression in America, and really just a general lack of empathy for the sake of entertainment.
The fact that it inspires games journalists like Kirk Hamilton to write multiple long-form pieces rallying against the violence in Columbia only goes to show that while games journalism may happily take up the mantle of feminism and fighting misogyny, they’ll happily throw people of color under the bus for entertainment.
There’s still so far, so long to go.
You know how you make Bioshock: Infinite a thousand times better? I’m not a person of color, so I’m not the best person to ask, but you want a suggestion? Make it an adaptation of the classic 1997 film Amistad, where in 1839 slaves formed a mutiny and took control over the slaver ship La Amistad. Take your fantastical world and use it to tell a very human, very real story that the majority of society, and apparently the entirety of games journalism, hasn’t heard.
There’s a very beautiful story that could have been told on Columbia, one told in blood and violence and fire and flame. Instead it’s a very gross, disgusting, inappropriate story considering the historical context and the fact we’re still living in a terribly racist, horrific society where a black man is killed every 36 hours by a police officer in America.
To see people like Cliff Bleszinski claim it to be “true art” really goes to show how much the violent, racist oppression of other people sidelined for the sake of white-centric science fiction is nothing but entertainment to the white-dominated games subculture.
There’s a reason I could never get into horror films. And it’s because this reality is too horrific and stomach churning to cope with at times.
If Bioshock: Infinite is what qualifies video games as “art” then quite simply, “art” is too racist and awful that I no longer want to be a part of it. For The Verge to call it “Great Art” is utterly horrifying.
If you would like to read the words of people of color about Bioshock: Infinite, which I would highly recommend you do, here are some links:
edit: Had to remove the first two due to them repeatedly getting death threats and insults. Disgusting.
Oh look, I am now more competent than the vast majority of games journalists currently employed by games journalism establishments. How wonderful.
I thought my hangover was from all the alcohol. But I’ve realized it’s from the shame I’ve felt for the fact that this sort of madness still happens in 2013. As for Mr. Hamilton, and your final words about “I think I’ll just hold off a litlte while longer before I start calling my sister into the room,” I don’t give a damn about your sister, and neither should you in this matter. You should give a damn about whiteness trampling over people of color, time and time again, for the sake of entertainment.