BioShock Infinite prequel novella examines the psychology of dissent

Your first official dip into the fiction of Bioshock Infinite won't come with gameplay, but rather through a psychological examination of one of the game's central characters.

Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt, which hits on Feb. 12 for $2.99 for Amazon Kindle or free to those who pre-order the game through Amazon, is described as an eBook prequel to the March 26 title from Irrational Games. But the work of fiction might not be what you're expecting.

The 40-page novella is meant to be a book within a book, a replica of a publication printed within the bounds of the floating city of Columbia. In the fiction of Irrational Games' universe, the book isn't called Mind in Revolt, but rather The Psychology of Dissent: Interview with the Anarchist.

"It is presented as research," said Irrational Games' Joe Fielder, who wrote the book with Ken Levine. "It is a case study."

In the back story of the research paper, readers learn that Daisy Fitzroy, founder of the Vox Populi resistance group, is captured by Columbia's ruling class, the Founders, a few years before the game's 1912 opening. The book is presented as a series of journal entries by Dr. Francis Pinchot, documenting, Fielder says, the battle of the wills between Pinchot and Fitzroy.

The hope is that the novella will add a bit of context to the game and that in turn the game will provide a bit more insight into the novella, all without delivering any spoilers.

The point of Pinchot's research is to try and establish the "rebellious roots of mankind," said Fielder, who also helped write the game's story with Levine.

"The story is written in such a way that it should give the reader further insight into the characters and factions without revealing any of the game's secrets," he said. "That said, once the reader plays through the game, certain implications of the game and Pinchot's research resonate more."

The hope, Fielder says, is that the novella will add a bit of context to the game and that in turn the game will provide a bit more insight into the novella, all without delivering any spoilers. Through the entries, readers will gain insight into what Fielder describes as a "key moment" in the city's recent history.

"Pinchot's research has a direct bearing into parts of the main game story," he said. "Part of the fun is the reveal, and readers piecing together the stories."

The book was driven in part by the research conducted into the time period, Fitzroy's character and the emergence of a new sort of psychology.

"I'm fascinated with that time period and the psychological testing that was emerging at the time," Fielder said. "This is kind of rooted in the early 1900's psychology, the things that came out at the time like IQ testing, word association, lobotomies and even phrenology in the early 1900s.

"I think that area of psychology is a back story, it's rooted in the beliefs of the Founders and their cultural biases."

"I would love to come back to writing for Daisy Fitzroy and the time period before the game ... so stay tuned."

The book delves into the psychology of the struggle between Founders and Vox Populi, an important subtext to the game, Fielder said.

"It's really a battle of wills of these two different ways of thinking."

Bioshock Infinite's Columbia is a floating city launched in 1900 by the American government as a symbol of the country's exceptionalism. Over time, a civil war breaks out within the city. The Founders, who rule Columbia, worship the country's founding fathers as gods, while the Vox Populi are a group of rebels that oppose the ultranationalists.

Fielder said they decided to deliver the fiction in this particular way because it was the best fit for the story they wanted to tell, but that doesn't mean it's the only Bioshock Infinite fiction coming from outside the bounds of the game.

"I would love to come back to writing for Daisy Fitzroy and the time period before the game," Fielder said. "And we have had discussions about telling those stories in different formats, so stay tuned."

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