Bioshock Infinite The Gamer’s Guide to Baader-Meinhof

The Gamer's Guide to Baader-Meinhof for Bioshock Infinite Players

Bioshock Infinite, one of the most hotly anticipated video games of all times, uses the Baader-Meinhof Group as a source inspiration for parts of it’s storyline, according to the game’s Creative Director Ken Levine. This is a one-stop guide to the Baader-Meinhof Group for gamers hoping to learn more.

The Game

Set for a 2013 release, only snippets of information have come out about the game. What we know right now is that Bioshock Infinite takes place in an alternate universe in the year 1812; high up in the floating city of Columbia. The magic hour look of the game seems to channel both steampunk and Meet Me in St. Louis. The city is overwhelmed by ultranationalist American Exceptionalism; flags, streamers, and red-white-and-blue bunting dominate the city. A left-leaning radical group, called the Vox Populi (Voice of the People), wages a guerrilla war against the power structure of Columbia. In several interviews, creative Director Ken Levine has made it clear that the Vox Populi was inspired in part by the Baader-Meinhof group.

Previously Levine was the Creative Director of the original Bioshock, considered by many to be the best video game of all time. Bioshock told the story of a failed Ayn Rand-style underwater utopia undone by the excesses of its own philosophy. Indications are that Bioshock infinite will similarly explore the how movements like the Baader-Meinhof Group as well as American Exceptionalism can corrupt when taken to an extreme.

Who was the Baader-Meinhof Group?

The Baader-Meinhof Group was the popular name for the Red Army Faction, a leftist terrorist group active in Germany from the early 1970s through the early 1990s. The name “Baader-Meinhof” came from two of the leaders of the organization: Andreas Baader, a radical convicted arsonist, and Ulrike Meinhof, a prominent journalist who helped break Baader from police custody.

Who was in the Baader-Meinof Group/Red Army Faction?

The group was almost exclusively made up of young Germans, who were generally middle class. Many of the members were former students. One of the defining characteristics of the organization that has been rarely replicated by other terrorist organizations is the almost equal distribution of men and women among both the leadership and the ranks. At it’s height, the group might have had as many as 50 active members.

What was their driving philosophy?

The Baader-Meinhof Group wanted to usher in a socialist revolution in Germany. They further believed that German society and government had strong yet hidden fascist elements. They were appalled that the West German government and industries were dominated by former Nazis who were not held accountable for their crimes in World War II.

How did they plan to bring about their Revolution?

The Baader-Meinhof Group knew that their tiny organization had no chance at bringing about the Revolution on their own. Their strategy was to attack the state through bombings, and prod the government into a massive and out-of-proportion response. They believed that when working class Germans saw this response–this exposure of the “hidden fascist elements” in German society–the Germans would be inspired to attack the state themselves and ultimately usher in the Revolution.

Were they successful?

By almost every single metric, the Baader-Meinhof Group could be described as an abject failure. They did not usher in a Revolution, and in their wake they left a much stronger German state (which had been built up in response to the challenge of the Baader-Meinhof Group).

What kind of popular support did they receive?

Initially, the Baader-Meinhof Group received a level of popular support that is almost stunning. A German poll conducted in the spring of 1971 found that fully 14 percent of Germans would either be willing to provide shelter for a Baader-Meinhof member for the night, or would consider it. This corresponds to 8.5 million West Germans who were willing to consider providing material support to an organization who’s avowed goals were to bring about violent Revolution.

In retrospect it is clear that this level of support was mostly theoretical in nature. At the time of the poll, the group had not really began any bombing campaign. Mostly they had robbed banks and issued communiques. The following May, when the group began their bombing campaign in earnest, the popular support shrank to essentially nothing. The Baader-Meinhof plan to engender support among the working class actually had the exact opposite effect.

How deadly was the Baader-Meinhof Group?

In total, the Baader-Meinhof Group/Red Army Faction killed 34 people over 20 or so years. Many of these were police officers, body guards of prominent Germans, and American soldiers. Among their most prominent victims were Juergen Ponto (the head of the Germany’s most prominent bank), Siegfriend Buback (the chief Federal German Prosecutor; essentially the Attorney General of Germany), and Hanns Martin Schleyer (one of Germany’s most prominent industrialists).

How does the world of Bioshock Infinite relate to the Baader-Meinhof Era?

Unknown at this time. I assume that the game will show a group (the Vox Populi) that is able to generate a measure of public support, and wage a guerrilla campaign for control of the city. This would differ, of course, from the actual experiences of the Baader-Meinhof Group. Essentially it is sort of like the story of the Baader-Meinhof Group had they began their campaign in a very unstable German state where calls for violence and societal change might have found a more receptive audience.