BioShock Infinite tackles themes of racism in American history because to not do so would be dishonest, according to creative director Ken Levine.
In an interview with PC Gamer, Levine explains why the game's setting, Columbia, lays bare some of the worst of American history, explaining that the game contains more ethnic diversity than the first BioShock not for the sake of diversity, but to present a certain reality that is foreign to most people.
"It's important to us that we diversify, not because I'm like 'Oh, we have to have diversity because it was unrepresentative of reality, and I want to be representative of reality.' I wanted to be representative of reality, but that reality was a particular reality to a level that most people don't even understand."
"I wanted to be representative of reality, but that reality was a particular reality to a level that most people don't even understand."
Levine says that most people don't know how Catholics or the Irish were once viewed in America — they were considered "subhuman" — so much so that when America had its first Catholic president in 1960 he had to publicly proclaim that he wasn't an operative of the Pope.
"We're fortunate to grow up in a time where a lot of that is behind us," he says. "But this game wouldn't be honest if we didn't have that."
As such, BioShock Infinite contains characters and attitudes that Levine explains are simply products of their time, as abhorrent as they may seem. He says it's not about casting a cynical or negative view of American history or about attacking a single idea. It's about representing the people of their time and being honest about it.
PC Gamer's full interview with Ken Levine where he talks about how people have perceived the game and his faith in gamers can be read here.