BioShock Infinite: Why is Religious Stuff Considered Taboo For Gaming?

Near the beginning of BioShock Infinite, the protagonist and all-around bad ass, Booker DeWitt, is forced to undergo a bit of a forced baptism to continue his mission into the depths of Columbia. The player is at that moment tasked with a button press to save Booker from death and continue forward in the game. If anything, it is an interesting plot device and keeps players on their toes during that early part of the game. Of course, as with all things in popular culture that reference religion in some form or another, this ended up being offensive to someone. In this case, some devout Christians have taken umbrage with forcing players to deal with an interactive baptism in BioShock Infinite. On the other side of the coin, some non-religious were irritated with forced Christian imagery in BioShock Infinite.

This begs the question, though; why is the topic of religion seen as something off-limits in videogames?

Like I mentioned before, there are many sides to this. The first one being the devout Christians who found the act to be sacrilegious. The whole forced baptism thing is apparently the line too far for some Christians, where it is a sin above others to go through an emulated Baptism. Of course, that excuse feels a bit suspect in a game like BioShock Infinite that requires the user to pull a trigger literally thousands upon thousands of times to end lives, something which is in reality a mortal sin as well. Why is emulated killing alright but an emulated baptism isn’t? The contradiction reminds me a lot of some of the contradictions found within a lot of organized religions across the globe, but there is sometimes no convincing people that art is simply a form of expression, not intended to be blasphemy.

Then there are those that quite simply want nothing to do with religion and consider being forced to deal with religious imagery like this is obnoxious. As someone who grew up in a Catholic household and born into the whole thing, I can understand where this is coming from, as for a long time I simply wanted nothing to do with religion at all. Over the years that sort of angst towards organized religion has washed away, though, and there are simply a lot of people in the world who believe in a higher power and do so with all of their being. That is alright, it is their choice. It is also a valid topic to bring up in both a critical and positive light in entertainment mediums such as games.

It just comes across as odd that the gaming industry deals out death on a wholesale basis and that once in a while there will be an ongoing conversation about that bloodlust, but it subsides after a while. Yet the topic of religion is one that the industry still seems to veer away from — for reasons much like this — because of the fear of alienating both believers and nonbelievers alike. For gaming to be taken seriously as not only an entertainment medium but an artform, it needs to not be afraid to bring up topics like religion and sexuality and maybe tone down on the life-or-death stuff a bit, something that BioShock Infinite had a lot of.

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3 comments

  • Perfect article which sums up exactly what I have been thinking for quite some time. It is very hypocritical for christian gamers to be fine with killing people wholesale in videogames but they object to the act of a person being temporarily submerged in water. I personally like games like Dishonored which gives you the option to complete the game without killing anyone but I don’t look down on those like Call of Duty which do not. At the end of the day people need to just realize that it is a game which is just one form of creative expression. If your delicate sensibilities can’t handle a little prodding then you should just ignore those games, movies, books, and music. All of those other forms have this kind of thing going on as well but for some reason it seems that only games come under this level of scrutiny.

  • Not ChristianS. Christian. Singular. One guy named Breen Malmberg went on the record as being a Christian who found the baptism sacreligious, while most Christians who have played BioShock Infinite weren’t offended or at least haven’t gone on the record about it. As for the atheists, what I’m gathering from their comments is they weren’t offended by the religious imagery in Columbia, just the scene where they were forced to go through a religious ritual themselves.

    • True, although I did ask a few people that I know that are hardcore Christians how they’d feel about a game that forced them to interact during a baptism scene and they kind of just got angry at me. Take that for what it is.