Early last week the cover art for Bioshock Infinite was released to decidedly mixed reviews from players. Infinite will be the third Bioshock title in a franchise that’s infamous for combining the gameplay of a first-person shooter with some morality-based RPG elements, all wrapped up in an incredibly detailed and immersive world that is as creepy as it is gorgeous.
In fact, the Bioshock franchise has had a long history of distinctive art deco design, and it’s something that fans of the series heavily associate with the brand. The official cover for Infinite, however, has a hint of retro-cool but for the most part it’s a fairly generic white dude holding a gun while stuff explodes. It’s not, like, terrible, but it’s not good and doesn’t really seem to represent the world of Bioshock that well. My own response was a pretty resounding “Meh.”.
I wasn’t going to give it a second thought until this morning when Azuriel pointed out that Bioshock’s Creative Director Ken Levine had responded to the cover art issue. His explanation included the following:
“We went and did a tour… around to a bunch of, like, frathouses and places like that. People who were gamers. Not people who read IGN. And [we] said, so, have you guys heard of BioShock? not a single one of them had heard of it.
[...] Our gaming world, we sometimes forget, is so important to us, but… there are plenty of products that I buy that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. My salad dressing. If there’s a new salad dressing coming out, I would have no idea. I use salad dressing; I don’t read Salad Dressing Weekly.
[...] I tried to step back and say, if I’m just some guy, some frat guy, I love games but don’t pay attention to them… if I saw the cover of that box, what would I think?”
Well thank god someone in the gaming industry is finally catering to frat boys!
First, way to insult your target audience by implying that they’re idiots who make buying decisions entirely based on how bland and generic the cover art is. Frat boys apparently are too stupid to enjoy immersive worlds and innovative mechanics. They have to be fooled into buying Bioshock Infinite with a cover that doesn’t represent the game.
Second, if Bioshock Infinite is going to pitch itself as a companion to Call of Duty and Halo and other traditional “frat boy” games, then it’s not a game that many previous Bioshock fans will be interested in playing. No slight meant to folks who play the average console FPS, but they’re not a genre I enjoy, and in fact one I usually avoid. Levine’s explanation of that cover says that this game is not intended for me, non-frat-boy and fan of the franchise.
To use the same weird metaphor as Levine, I don’t actually buy the most generic salad dressing on the shelf. I don’t want mass marketed crap. I may not know all the players in the salad dressing market, but if your bottle shows a little flair, some creativity, some unique flavor, chances are good that I’ll pick it up off the shelf and read the back of the bottle.
I don’t really mind the new cover, but man I take issue with that lame excuse for it. Way to take Bioshock’s distinctive element — the unique and powerfully realized art deco world — and strip it away to make the game more palatable to hypothetical idiot whitebread dude masses. I think I’ll pass.