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A Videogame Post - Some Don't Like BioShock's Forced Baptism. Enough To Ask

Warning: Video Is from the beginning of the game, but might be considered a spoiler.

Before you can step into Columbia—before you can find out about Elizabeth and Comstock, before you know about "tears" and the Vox Populi, BioShock Infinite requires the player to do one thing: accept a baptism. There is no way around the religious sacrament which uses water as a means of ritual purification. The only way to get into Columbia is to appease a preacher who demands that Booker, the protagonist of BioShock Infinite, be baptized.

"Brother, the only way to Columbia is through rebirth in the sweet waters of baptism. Will you be cleansed, brother?" he exclaims.

And so in order to actually play BioShock Infinite, one has to press a button to be digitally baptized (if not nearly drowned!)

Baptism, thematically, is important to some of the questions Infinite poses: can a person find redemption? Can we atone for our sins? Can someone who has committed grave atrocities be forgiven? Traditionally in a work of art we understand baptism as a means of undergoing a rebirth, something which the game also touches on. And finally, Columbia wouldn't quite be the awful place that it is without espousing white supremacy and religious zealotry.

What I'm saying is, one could argue that the game has justifiable reasons for forcing players to accept baptism…but that doesn't make the scene any less uncomfortable for some, like Breen Malmberg—a gamer and a Christian.

"As baptism of the Holy spirit is at the center of Christianity - of which I am a devout believer - I am basically being forced to make a choice between committing extreme blasphemy by my actions in choosing to accept this 'choice' or forced to quit playing the game before it even really starts," Malmberg explained to Kotaku.

"Of course I cannot hold true to my beliefs and also commit this act, so I am therefor[e] forced to not play the game."

The choice was clear for Malmberg, but there was one problem: he had already purchased the game. It would be one thing to boycott the game for your beliefs, it's another thing to find out mid-game that you no longer feel comfortable playing it. Judging from Malmberg's exchanges with Kotaku, it sounds as if he would have been fine with the inclusion of baptism had it not been forced onto the player.

"I suspect that it is indeed entertaining and well-done (except for the content in question) and have already purchased and enjoyed the first 2 bioshock games immensely," Malmberg explained.

Malmberg did the only thing he could do, given that he was a PC player that purchased the game on Steam: he sent Valve a letter explaining the situation, and he demanded a refund:

I wish to return/exchange this game (Bioshock Infinite) for steam credit or refund on the grounds that I cannot play it.

I cannot play it because at the very beginning of the game there is a section of the game that is so offensive to my religious beliefs that I cannot proceed with it any further. I did not know this section of the game was there and had no way of knowing it was there before-hand as it was not shown in any trailers, previews, screenshots or other marketing material.

The player is forced to make a choice which amounts to extreme blasphemy in my religion (Christianity) in order to proceed any further - and am therefor forced (in good conscience) to quit playing and not able to experience approx. 99% of the content in the game.

There is no option to turn this particular content off or to bypass or skip it in any way. In Modern Warfare 2, they at least allowed you to skip a particularly offensive level (http://www.destructoid.com/modern-warfare...). This is the same sort of thing for me, but there is no way to skip it in this case.

Please issue a full refund or store credit in the amount of the price of the game (Bioshock Infinite) as I had no idea that I would not be able to play this game before I bought it.

If you need further convincing, I will use the analogy that if you were a muslem, it would be like forcing the player into an in-game action of "press x to spit on the face of allah" in order to proceed any further with the game and with no choice or way around doing so.

I apologize for the potentially misleading choice of category for this request, but you do not have a category I can choose that accurately fits my needs.

Thank you

According to Malmberg, Valve gave him a full refund.

While there are no shortage of games that go against religious beliefs, this was different for Malmberg. "The difference here," Malmberg explained to Kotaku, "is that you are forced to make a decision that violates those beliefs in order to continue with the game - which is not something I have run into very often."

Some people might feel inclined to dismiss Malmberg's concerns because he is religious, but the non-religious might feel conflicted about the scene too. "That was one of the few scenes in Infinite that I didn't necessarily enjoy. I'm not a religious person, so I didn't like being forced to think that baptism is a significant event. I filed it away as a storytelling mechanism and moved on," Kotaku's Tina Amini told me while discussing the scene.

OP NOTE: Side-eying his "muslem" spelling/analogy.


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