Wounded Knee, Or Why It's Fine to Not Know Things

Posted on April 19, 2013 - 7:00pm by gear12


The Wounded Knee reference in BioShock Infinite was misunderstood as a Skyrim reference. And you know what? That's perfectly fine.

*sigh* You people do realize that I don't like having to do this right? I love gaming and its community, so whenever something like this pops up it makes me genuinely sad. I don't like getting mad at people over things as ultimately trivial as this, but so many people are making fun of something that frankly, does not deserve to be made fun of. I am of course talking about the Wounded Knee confusion based around BioShock Infinite.

For those of you who haven't played it, early on in BioShock Infinite one of the characters mentions the Wounded Knee massacre. Then there were a number of people on the internet who asked if this was a reference to the ever-popular “Arrow to the knee” joke from Skyrim. The response to this was... less than ideal. I have here an example from Twitter to represent what I'm talking about:

Here's the thing though. The negative reaction to this is completely unfair. In order to fully get my point across, I'm going to need to get a bit personal, so bare with me.

I have an interest in psychology. I've taken some courses in it, but I am by no means an expert. But I can tell you about a little thing called schema theory. Schema theory, in basic terms, is a filing system for your brain. The system is created by your experiences and memories, and it creates categories which your brain processes information through. The way this works is that whenever you receive new sensory input, it looks though the schemas it does have stored and checks if it can connect any of those to the new information so that it can understand it easier.

You may be wondering what this has to do with BioShock. That's a legitimate question hypothetical reader. A question which I'm about to answer. I would argue that the BioShock situation is directly related to this theory for two reasons. The first is the matter of education. Chances are that if you didn't go to school in the US, then you probably didn't learn American history in great detail. I know I sure didn't. I learned general world history in middle school and European history in high school, so I never learned much beyond thing like the Revolutionary War and the Civil war. I don't know most of the Presidents, and I can't recite the Gettysburg Address. But this goes both ways. If I made a game that references European or Asian history then I guarantee that there would be people who wouldn't understand the references. It all becomes relative to what people learned in school when they were growing up, and the fact of the matter is that not everyone will get it.

So where does schema theory fit into this? Well, taking it, and the education issue into account, I can think of a reason as to why people thought it was a Skyrim reference. I think it's fair to say that Skyrim was a pretty big deal when it came out, partially thanks to the viral nature of the “Arrow to the Knee” joke. We didn't see a gaming joke go this viral since that one delightful phrase from Portal. It hit the front page of Reddit. YouTube comments were full of jokes for months after the game's release. Compare that to the much smaller amount of people that were exposed to the Wounded Knee and it starts to become obvious why people would assume that it would be a Skyrim reference.

The conclusion to draw from all of this is to not lose your shit whenever something happens that you don't agree with. The Wounded Knee incident was an awful time in history that deserves more attention. But getting upset at people for not knowing something that isn't internationally known in the first place is counterproductive. There's nothing wrong with correcting someone, but laughing at or getting angry at someone for not knowing something you assume everyone should know is frankly... silly.

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