This review will contain spoilers for all events in Bioshock: Infinite. If you want to avoid spoilers, please finish the game before reading!
“The girl is the flame that will ignite the world.”
Multiple game reviews have labeled Elizabeth of Bioshock: Infinite only as the damsel that our hero, Booker DeWitt, must save from her tower. But there is good news for gamers who were skeptical of Elizabeth (myself included): despite the impression given by initial marketing and interviews, Elizabeth is a breath of fresh air. Although you begin the story by rescuing Elizabeth from a tower (which plays into the much discussed Damsel in Distress trope), your journey ceases to be about saving her from the minute she repeatedly hits you in the head with a book. Elizabeth may be the “Lamb of Columbia,” but, under the surface, she is anything but a lamb, and Booker DeWitt is anything but her shepherd.
While I am mostly focusing on Elizabeth in this review, there has been a noted critique of the game itself, which should be touched on. Despite the beauty and horror of the world of Columbia, the racism and jingoism that is displayed in its set dressing at many a turn can be a big turn-off to players. While Infinite is obviously not portraying these elements in a positive or supportive light, the existence of the racist government propaganda can prove triggering. After all, a video game that uses racism as a main theme should be looked at with critique by people who have been actual victims of racism.
Bioshock: Infinite‘s use of racism within the context of a narrative by no means absolves it from criticism, nor does it negate triggering situations people might feel about Columbia. This review only seeks to analyze how well Elizabeth was done as a character, as I could never fully understand how triggering Comstock’s propaganda could be to a person of color.
My previous, inital analysis was based on demo gameplay footage and on the interviews done with Ken Levine: namely the interview where he explained how he modeled Elizabeth’s relationship with the Songbird after his ex-girlfriend’s experience with abuse. While it would have been impossible for me to analyze a game that had not yet been released, it was relevant to look at how the character was being marketed. Going into it, I was still looking forward to the game and knew that both the gameplay and character would reveal a lot more, and I’ve not been disappointed. Continue reading