May 29 – Bioshock Infinite and a rant about discrimination

The following entry has no BDSM-related content.  It has strong spoilers of the first sections of Bioshock Infinite, which is a computer game I blogged about a month or two ago.

On FetLife recently someone opened a thread about the relation of index and ring finger sizes with dominant or submissive tendencies.  It was not a super-serious thread and one I would just skip but it sort of coincided with something in the computer game Bioshock Infinite which my Princess is now playing (as I watch her play and provide help and encouragement).

Is a generalization relating human beings’ physical characteristics with something non-physical a reasonable topic?  In a blog entry a few weeks ago I stated that I am intolerant to intolerance, meaning that if someone is intolerant of others then I am usually not okay with that.  However, I am finding that I am rather intolerant myself to certain points of view.

Here is where the big game spoilers are.  In Bioshock Infinite the main character you are controlling, named Booker, is sent up to a huge city in the sky.  This city seems quite idyllic, a wonderful early 20th century festival of carnivals and cotton candy.  Families are clearly having a great time and getting prepared for a big raffle, held by the government of the city.  Booker enjoys a few carnival games and generally enjoys the light atmosphere.

The raffle is held in front of a stage where Booker is presented with a baseball which has his raffle number on it.  The host on stage calls out the number and sure enough it matches the Booker’s raffle number, and everyone around is excited that this newcomer to their city gets to throw the first pitch.

This is when one of the most memorable moments in my looong computer game history occurs.  It’s something I didn’t want to mention in my previous blog entry because I didn’t want to spoil it for my Princess.

As Booker is ready for the target of his baseball throw, the stage curtain parts and a pair of people are presented.  They are a married man and woman couple of different races, tied up together as targets for the baseball, begging for mercy.  The host makes an extremely offensive comment about the women’s race which I don’t remember due to my rage at the incident and Booker is expected to begin the baseball stoning to death of this couple which has violated the laws of this city in the sky due to their mixed race marriage.  The game player is given an option, to have Booker throw the ball at the couple as expected or to throw the ball at the event host.

Easy choice, right?  Throw the ball at the host.

It was not as easy for me as I would have thought.  As a computer game player I like the game to flow smoothly without upsetting the apple cart of how a game is designed.  I like to explore all areas, nooks, and crannies, but I don’t like to try to find things a game designer might not have accounted for.  That’s just a general way I play games.  In this game when this unexpected and horrific presentation was made I could feel the weight of all of the characters around Booker as well as the host in what was expected of me/Booker.  Don’t go against what everyone expects and desires.

Fortunately, it only took me about 2 seconds to come to my senses and realize what was going on, and I took great pleasure in the outcome of using one on-looker’s knife to stab in the face another onlooker who blocked my throw.  I don’t at all revel in computer game violence but this time it felt justified, knowing that it was only a computer game character.

The society pressure I felt in those 2 seconds was a tiny bit of what probably others feel in real life, going along with a dynamic they do not like in their heart of hearts.  It was a chilling 2 seconds for me.

It is only a computer game, of course, I’m not delusional even during those 2 seconds of indecision.  But what really has emotional impact is that this sort of dynamic of racial supremacy was extremely real in this very country in the not too distant past.  I had a great aunt, about 70 years older than I am, who used language which offended me even as a 5 year old; she was not a popular person in our family due to that.  I know that there are very strong remnants of that horrifying dynamic with very real consequences today, though it is not generally sponsored by the government in the United States which is what made it stand out so much in the computer game.

In this Bioshock Infinite city in the sky, racial supremacy is very much sponsored by its government and throughout the early parts of the game after the raffle incident, this dynamic becomes evident with talks of forced work, inferiority, and all of that.  It’s horrific, I guess like a terror movie, because I know that it used to be very much real in the United States.  It’s unimaginable to me, I really can’t fathom how that could have been even remotely acceptable.

Pretty heavy stuff for a computer game.  Fortunately, it handles the topic with I believe the sensitivity required and never glorifies that dynamic.  I can imagine a white supremacist playing the game thinking how terrible it is putting his views into such a poor perspective, but to him I would say f off.  Okay, I wouldn’t say it but I would think it.

Not very tolerant of me, I suppose.  But I do not tolerate views like that which I find abhorrent.  In my teens and 20s (over 25 years ago) I would on occasion encounter someone lowering their voice to say something racially offensive to a group, such as a “joke” as if that would only offend the target of the comment, but I am glad that I personally have not encountered that lately because I would almost certainly not react well at all.  I am a non-confrontational person but I believe I would easily confront that person, albeit in a relatively “polite” way.  Ok, enough of that, I need to calm down lol.

The game goes in interesting and unexpected directions later, including talk of a rise of protests and introducing a whole lot of other concepts, but my Princess has not encountered much of those directions yet so I’ll leave it at that.  My Princess had pretty much the same initial hesitation at throwing the baseball as I had, and made the same choice for the same reasons.

That brings me back to the thread on FetLife about finger lengths.  There’s nothing offensive to me about someone saying that certain finger lengths are indicative of dominance or submission but it does make me think of a dynamic in which opportunity and persecution are determined by a physical characteristic, and that is not a dynamic I am tolerant of.

I also don’t really tolerate cauliflower, but that’s just a remnant of last night’s blog entry.

3 thoughts on “May 29 – Bioshock Infinite and a rant about discrimination

  1. What was interesting about the “ratio” thread that you talk about Ted, was, that for the first time (ever that I can remember, lol) I came out of it with the lowest number i.e. the most appealing outcome of all the people that were playing along in the thread.

    And for about 2 seconds, I had the utmost satisfaction of being part of the favored minority but quickly came to my senses when I realized what that implied, per your blogpost!

    I think the reason discrimination takes root so easily is because of how it so insidiously makes us feel better about ourselves (than we really know ourselves to be) by emphasizing a characteristic that is mostly irrelevant. But because we know at heart how really irrelevant that characteristic is, we will go to great lengths to preserve the wool gathered over our eyes and to convince others of the same.

    Interesting where innocuous BDSM threads lead, eh?!

    • @MizNina: I think when I was 6 years old I was involved in a very minor incident involving prejudice based upon an unrelated physical characteristic and realized even at that time how silly it was. Wait, this physical characteristic means what? Prove it! Of course, proof does not exist so to me it really just seemed silly.

      It isn’t silly at all in its effects, though.

      “I think the reason discrimination takes root so easily is because of how it so insidiously makes us feel better about ourselves”

      Yes that makes sense, I think. I personally enjoy when the people around me are enjoying themselves so the idea of stepping on others for my own satisfaction does not make sense to me, but I know that different things drive different people.

      “Interesting where innocuous BDSM threads lead, eh?!”

      Yes it was strange how that innocuous thread clicked into something not innocuous for me.

  2. Anyone who played the original BioShock knows that Irrational’s ability to fully immerse the player in the world and story is possibly their greatest tool. Thanks for sharing with us.

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