Image Gathered From Flickr User: Charlie NZ
I almost didn’t play BioShock.
After having loved this game ever since picking it up in 2007 (has it really been that long?!), the thought of never having played it almost doesn’t seem possible. Yet this is true; Back when it first came out I very nearly passed it over. And the thing is, I almost did so without a second thought.
You see, back in 2007 I was still very wary of violence in the games I played. Since games involve us players directly in the worlds they create and the actions carried out within them, I felt that any game that asked me to carry out violent acts was something to stay away from. It’s not that I thought playing such games would make me a violent person, but I didn’t want to face what enjoying such a game would mean. I suppose at the time I thought that enjoying a truly violent game would have to mean being at least somewhat sadistic at heart; a thought that I wasn’t prepared to stomach. So I was set to pass the game by…at least until I stumbled across this trailer that is:
While the depiction of the twisted and bloody end of a man who was prepared to kill a little girl in cold blood raised an unfavorable eyebrow, the monologue leading up to it caused me to do something that nothing related to video games had ever done before: it made me think. After that, I suppose it was only a matter of time…
BioShock turned out to be everything I had once thought games to be incapable of. It’s story had real moral weight! It’s characters had real identities, with several realized to such a degree that they develop a real sense of tragedy about them! The world was alive and everything the gameplay asked you to do was true to it! The gameplay itself even let the player address the questions posed in the trailer to a certain degree, not to mention one big question that not only called free will into question, but also the nature of the concept of the video game protagonist itself. This was a game that was meant to be smart and truly engaging rather than simply fun to play (which it most definitely was nonetheless)!
Out of all this I suppose the most significant lesson that BioShock taught me about video games was that violent gameplay can actually be necessary to not only bring a game’s world to life, but also to properly involve the player. It was something I’d never thought possible before, but BioShock is a perfect example of such necessity.
Rapture (the underwater city that serves as the game’s setting) is meant to be a metaphor for everything that’s transpired within it’s dank spaces. Its structures are crumbling, rendering much of its spaces unstable and ready to crush anyone unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a “haven” built around “survival of the fittest” ideology and has quite literally become exactly that. With that sort of setting, doing anything but surviving amongst its crazed citizens by any means necessary would have been incredibly thematically dissonant from the crumbling, forsaken setting and would undermine everything the game was trying to present to us. If we the player weren’t made to be part of the system of violent brutality that reigned in Rapture, how much impact could any of the events we witnessed, heard about, and participated in have had any real impact? Living in Rapture was vital to understanding what was happening, and that meant sacrificing almost everything in order to survive: our innocence, our trust, perhaps even our very humanity.
BioShock was a turning point for me as a gamer. In playing it I learned that not only was there was such a thing as a “mature” game, but that there were indeed good reasons for games to include violence. It showed that the medium had grown, and would continue to grow, into something much more than the children’s distraction that it began as. Before BioShock, I was growing tired of gaming; it was fun but probably wasn’t going to be anything more than that. After BioShock, gaming became something more, something worth spending time with, examining, and talking about, not to mention thinking about.
If it weren’t for BioShock, I don’t know if I would have remained a gamer; without it’s experience I might never have played many of my now favorite games, might have moved on to other things, and would probably not be writing about games today.
…And to think that I almost didn’t play it. Crazy.
What about you? What was your experience with BioShock like?