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.