Prior to its release, commentators on the Right including this author anticipated that Bioshock Infinite would attack conservative and libertarian ideals by using Comstock and his cult of Founders as a caricature of the Tea Party. That presumption was founded in part upon the abuse of Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy perpetrated in the original Bioshock, which was also developed by Irrational Games. However, while the early hours of gameplay in Infinite do little to assuage that concern, the full game proves to be less about politics than about how we deal with our own evil.
Bioshock Infinite begins boldly and ramps up a steep narrative curve. As DeWitt, the player arrives at a small island lighthouse intent upon retrieving a girl named Elizabeth from her confinement in the floating city of Columbia. She is to be delivered to unknown benefactors willing to wipe away DeWitt’s large debt. Within moments, the player rockets from the top of the lighthouse to the sprawling city in the sky. Once there, it becomes immediately clear that the society housed in this unique metropolis adheres to a cultish religion steeped in a mythological view of America’s founding fathers and absolute devotion to “prophet” Zachary Comstock.
An early scene portrays white-robed worshipers in fervent prayer to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. These founding fathers are revered as saints and ascribed attributes of divinity. It’s difficult not to imagine this as how many leftists perceive the Tea Party, as a cult of fanatic founder worshipers who confuse the Constitution with scripture. One friendly character encountered while fleeing Columbia’s fascistic troops encourages this comparison when he exclaims, “Hey, it’s okay! I’m not like the rest. I’m a progressive.”
Many other experiences encountered throughout the game’s early hours encourage the impression that Irrational Games has an axe to grind. In the hall of a secret society from which Columbia’s leaders emerge groomed, a memorial to John Wilkes Booth holds prominence. Elsewhere, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appears canonized in portrait opposite a demonized Abraham Lincoln. The latter is portrayed with devilish red horns and a pointy tail. Racism and xenophobia intermingle indiscriminately with the trappings of American patriotism. As the leftist Vox Populi rebels are introduced, complete with their red communist decor, they seem immediately sympathetic in light of Columbia’s tendency to publicly stone interracial couples.