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How I Do Go On: Bioshock (Part 1)

Saturday, April 5, 2008
Also available with featherduster, egg beater, and wet/dry mop attachments.

Part 2

April 1st: It’s surprising that I waited this long to start Bioshock. Its elements seem tailor-made to fit me: it’s science-fiction, and said to be of the “smart” variety; it’s story-based and single-player only; it’s a first-person shooter, certainly my favorite video game form, and the one I find best suited to immersive storytelling as well as intense action. And it’s pretty much universally held as one of the top games of 2007, and it’s no secret that I have a fondness for things that are top.

But there’s something else that’s kept me so intrigued by this one. From what I’ve heard, Bioshock may be the world’s first video-game-as-philosophical-retort.

There is a secret underwater city called Rapture. This vast construction was once a glorious testament to the genius of its creator, business magnate Andrew Ryan; now it’s an empty shell, and the cause of its decay is the mystery that propels the plot of Bioshock. The player character inadvertently discovers the abandoned Rapture out in the Atlantic and finds himself trapped there. Of course, it’s not entirely abandoned. Because it’d be boring if it were.

Atlas' shoulders ain't the only thing shrugging today, if you know what I mean.Why this isn’t just another video game setup: the fictional Rapture was designed, essentially, to follow the social philosophies of Ayn Rand — this city undersea was built on a foundation of Objectivism. Rand’s most famous tome, Atlas Shrugged, ends with its heroes just beginning to form their own destined-to-be-utopian society, which they’ve hidden away from the world in a deep Colorado valley. Is the equally-isolated Rapture meant to represent the future of Rand’s Objectivist dream city? Will Bioshock then argue for why such a society is doomed to fail? (Hopefully not a coincidence: the Atlas Shrugged chapter where its hidden paradise is introduced is called “Atlantis”.)

I played the Bioshock demo in August; I’ve owned the game since November or so. But I haven’t touched it. There were practical reasons for this — I’ve had Resident Evil 4 and the original Halo on the go for a long while now, and I didn’t really want to introduce a third big game that would stretch the length out for all of them. (And then there’s all that time shamefully not spent playing videogames.) But I’ll admit there’s a bit of fear in me that Bioshock won’t live up to the intriguing promise I’ve assigned it — truthfully, I don’t know just how serious it takes its debate. Maybe all its praise is targeted at kickass weaponry and badass monsters, and the Objectivism is just glossed over.

I’ll find out soon enough, because I’m starting it tonight. I’ll update this page, turn it into something of a journal as I go along, and I’ll break it into manageable chunks for better ease of managing. Yes, there’ll be spoilers, but what do you care? None of you are ever gonna play it. laebmada

No Gods or Kings. Only Man.

April 2nd: The opening is something great. You’re in the plane, then you’re in the water. You rise to the surface, surrounded by flames. The tail section sticks up from the water, and it sinks as you swim past. There’s a staircase, here, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. At the top, a door. Inside, an elevator. An elevator that goes down. But what am I doing, trying to be colourful with description? This is the Internet, here we don’t talk, we show.

So, I don’t have to worry about the art design of this game, and I don’t need to concern myself with the designers’ dramatic skills. They clearly know what they’re doing in those departments. And they’re off to a good start with the substance, the Rand-meat of it. That simple little welcoming film is a perfect slice of Objectivism, both in its philosophy and its arrogance. I read Atlas Shrugged some three-and-a-half years ago, and found it a good mix of stuff I agreed with, stuff I’d never considered, and stuff I agreed with but spoken by characters who were complete and utter assholes. This Andrew Ryan guy sounds like a dick. I wonder if I’ll get to kill him.

Altruism is the Root of All Wickedness

April 4th: Flaws in the storytelling are appearing. First, I’ve got a radio buddy telling me what to do, which is an objective-delivery mechanism that can work in less-serious fare (FarCry used it well enough) but in something meant to be serious, it feels forced. It makes the world of the game feel like the world of a game. Maybe they’ll do something with it, though, to make it worth it the concession.

But a bigger plausibility-stretcher is my acquiring of the plasmids. The plasmids themselves are very cool; they’re a bioscience-created weapon, giving man some cool powers — the power to zap motherfuckers is the first received, but there will be more as the game progresses. Plasmids come in a liquid called ADAM (that’s right), which a person must inject into their vein to obtain its associated abilities.

Ain't never been a pusher better at his game than the Kool-Aid Man.

Fair enough. But when I find my first vial of ADAM, what do I do? Without any prompting, not even from radio buddy, I inject this shit into my wrist. Plane crash or no, undersea art deco city or no, freedom from socialism or no, there just ain’t no way any human on this planet is shooting up with a strange, glowing liquid they have absolutely no information about. That’s not just unlikely, that’s unpossible.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, April 1, 2008 10:38 pm

    It’s true.

  2. Wednesday, April 2, 2008 8:56 am

    I’ll live vicariously through you, as you live vicariously through the game.

  3. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:53 pm

    I am curious, though, how a city simply built upon Objectivist principles was able to produce some kind of giant, homicidal reptile/insect type creature in a giant suit with drill-bit.

    Guess I’ll find out when you do (well, a little after you do).

  4. Wednesday, April 2, 2008 4:50 pm

    What about that thing (which is called a Big Daddy, by the way) makes you say it’s a reptile/insect variety of creature? It’s got five fingers on its non-drill hand, after all.

    And why do you assume it’s homicidal? Is it doing anything violent at all in that picture? Prejudice doesn’t suit you, old boy.

    Furthermore, if it in indeed a reptile/insect thing and not a human thing, well then it can’t be homicidal, as homicide requires both killer and victim be human.

    It’s a good thing I’m the one tackling this article.

  5. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, April 2, 2008 10:45 pm

    Sorry — I forget to check the dictionary before commenting.

  6. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, April 6, 2008 7:11 am

    Are you recording yourself playing, or are the clips you’re going to use just ones you’ve found from others?

  7. Sunday, April 6, 2008 8:28 am

    I don’t have the ability to record myself playing. I can’t even take screenshots, because I’m playing it via Xbox. I’d prefer this kind of game on my PC, but my PC can’t handle Bioshock.

  8. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, April 6, 2008 11:14 am

    That’s too bad.

  9. Sunday, April 6, 2008 8:38 pm

    Thank you for your sympathy. I’ll likely address what I’ve had to do to better simulate the PC FPS experience on my Xbox in a future entry. Now that will be an exciting read.

  10. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, April 6, 2008 11:19 pm

    I can’t wait!

  11. Saturday, April 12, 2008 10:00 am

    I for one think it’s time the definition of homicide was updated. You don’t have to be another king, a queen, or any kind of monarch to commit regicide. You don’t have to have fathered any children to commit patricide. You don’t have to be an infant to commit infanticide. Familicide does not need to be committed by an entire family. Uxoricide is not a term limited to lesbian marriages. One need not be a god, though it might make the job somewhat easier, or even the King of Nepal, to commit deicide…

  12. James17930 permalink
    Saturday, April 12, 2008 10:29 am

    Someone’s been snooping around the dictionary again! :)

  13. Tuesday, April 15, 2008 11:06 pm

    Actually, the hom of homicide doesn’t refer to homo sapiens, it refers to the hom of homosexual, that is to say, “the same.” So, killing anything of your own species should be considered homicide. A Big Daddy killing another Big Daddy would be homicide, be a Big Daddy of human or reptile/insect decent.

    Though there’s a part of me wanting to say that the -cide suffix refers only to acts perpetrated or set in motion by humans. I can’t back this up with any evidence, however.

  14. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, April 16, 2008 5:19 am

    I think that’s what Drew was pointing out, though — the whole ‘the same’ aspect.

  15. Sunday, April 20, 2008 7:35 am

    Actually, Mr. Beal, the hom in homicide, comes from the Latin homo, “man” or “human”, and not from the Greek homos, “same”.  In fact the word itself comes from Latin, homocidium, but for some reason we define it to strictly mean both.

  16. Sunday, April 20, 2008 9:17 am

    But…but…I looked it up before I wrote that! I looked it up! And yet now, when I look it up, I see that it does refer to the human homo. This can only mean one thing: the etymology of the word changed sometime between Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 11:06 pm and now, and the entirety of the Internet has updated to reflect as such.

  17. Sunday, April 20, 2008 10:55 am

    It’s those damn etymology hackers at it again, changing word meanings willy-nilly. They need to be stopped before they do even more damage.

  18. Sunday, April 20, 2008 1:19 pm

    Not word meanings, graeme. Word origins. Unless the meaning of origin has been changed to meaning! Good lord!

  19. Sarah P permalink
    Sunday, April 20, 2008 9:44 pm

    Etymology is from the Greek, meaning “true meaning.” The true meanings of words tend to come from their origins. Homicide, as a legal term, means one person killing another – nothing saying it’s exclusive to men killing other men. It’s all in how we use it. But when there’s a discrepancy and we turn to the etymology behind a word, it’s implicit that we will accept that the origin will dictate the meaning (the use).

    The “true meaning” of homicide is “man who kills.” Yet we use it as a verb, an act, that means one human has killed another.

    Basically, we’re all very silly. Especially me. And yes, there is a mass conspiracy attempting to mislead Beal from the true meanings and into a real web of lies.

  20. Sunday, April 20, 2008 9:50 pm

    That’s it. I’ve had enough of this damn language. From now on, I only communicate via hand gesture. And since the only hand gestures I know are dirty ones, the scope of my discourse will go basically unchanged.

  21. James17930 permalink
    Monday, April 21, 2008 12:44 am

    I hear semaphore is fun.

  22. Monday, April 21, 2008 8:59 am

    I heard it wasn’t.

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