Guest Post: The Ghosts of BioShock

by Brendan Vance

[TW: The following post contains explicit discussion of colonialist state brutality and racist violence.] 

In Sufficiently Human’s first-ever guest post, videogame developer and critic Brendan Vance delivers a stunning spoken-word historicist essay on the many contradictions, creative, moral and otherwise, of BioShock Infinite, and the volatile historical realities of both the Massacre at Wounded Knee (1890) and the Boxer Rebellion (1899) to which the game makes compromised allusions. Vance discusses the demise of the BioShock franchise and with it that of Irrational Games in the context of the West’s centuries-long tradition of colonial imperialism, realized in part by American frontierism and Manifest Destiny;  the many contradictions and illusions of its rhetorics; and the navel-gazing white guilt betrayed by a tendency toward historical whitewashing and appropriation which it produces. Vance discusses how misdeeds, never honestly confronted by those who commit them, continue to relentlessly haunt their victims; how centering the perspective of the aggressor is another act of such dishonesty; and how, eventually, historical truth will catch up with those who try to outrun it.

The voice-over for quotes was provided by me.