A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that BioShock Infinite is an extremely violent game that contains several mature ideas and themes intended for adult consumption. Action sequences see player avatars dismembering enemies in gruesome fashion, drinking and smoking to restore health and special abilities, and occasionally encountering citizens discussing matters of sexuality. Challenging narrative scenes, meanwhile, involve depictions of racially charged situations, such as a crowd of white people cheering the torture and humiliation of a black woman, and two non-player characters chatting about buying black convicts from a corrupt politician in Georgia. The racial imagery (and religious criticism) are not intended to offend, but instead to provoke thought and discussion. Mature players should be able to discern the criticism and gall inherent in these scenes, but younger players may get the wrong message.
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What's it about?
The setting is the sky above the United States circa 1912, where a mechanical floating city called Columbia is inhabited by citizens overcome with religious devotion to an enigmatic man known as the Prophet. Welcome to BIOSHOCK INFINITE, a game that tackles cultural issues and ideologies of the past and present, ranging from racism to religious extremism. Players take on the role of Booker DeWitt, a man who unexpectedly finds himself in this strange dystopia on a mission to rescue a woman. The city's inhabitants see him as a long-prophesized antithetical figure come to destroy their community and attempt to kill him. Employing both traditional firearms and a selection of chemically induced abilities known as \"vigors\" -- think fiery grenades and blasts of electricity -- DeWitt does his best to fend off his attackers while learning more about the bizarre world in which he finds himself.
Is it any good?
Few games are bold enough to take on the controversial subjects that BioShock Infinite tackles head first, and fewer still are those that manage to do so with maturity, intelligence, and even a bit of wit. Alternating with impressive agility between thought-provoking ideas and visceral action sequences, the game engages players on emotional, intellectual, and gut levels, resulting in a heady experience difficult to compare to anything else (save perhaps the original BioShock, which managed a similar feat back in 2007).
Even the presentation is something unique. The world of Columbia is a clearly fantastical -- yet weirdly believable -- mechanical marvel. Early 20th century architecture is covered in old-fashioned posters and billboards as traditional music -- such as the classic folk hymn "Down to the River to Pray" -- emanates from phonograph horns throughout the streets. It's a full and beautifully realized environment, the likes of which have not been seen before. Every last brick and stone simply begs to be explored. Its graphic violence and decidedly mature themes may make this game unsuitable for kids, but BioShock Infinite will prove a rare and satisfying treat for grown-up gamers looking for a shooter with substance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the depiction of racism in games. Are games, as a medium, ready to thoughtfully tackle this difficult subject? Do you think games can affect change in players' thinking on controversial subjects, for good or for ill?
Families can also discuss religion in games. Would you play a game that calls your faith into question? How about one that creates a fictional religion to serve as an analog for real-world faiths?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
- Subjects: Social Studies: cultural understanding, government, history
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: strategy, thinking critically
- Price: $59.99
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: 2K Games
- Release date: March 26, 2013
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.