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How I Do Go On: Bioshock (Part 2) — UPDATED

Sunday, April 27, 2008
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The redesigned Kool-Aid Man was too extreme even for today's youth.Part 1

April 16: Imagine it. A week so busy you find absolutely no time to play video games. It sounds too horrible to be true, but this is exactly the week I just experienced. It’s over though, things have calmed down, and now I’m free to return to my more important work. And I better get on it, because I gotta get this game finished before Grand Theft Auto IV comes out. Sure, GTA may not contain any philosophio-economic analyses, but it does let you hang from the undercarriage of a helicopter, and there ain’t a philosopher out there, dead or alive, who wouldn’t trade all their smarts for the chance to do that. Also, you can blow up hookers with rocket launchers.

The Great Will Not Be Constrained by the Small.

Met my first Big Daddy today. Not as tough to kill as I’d anticipated, but very cool nonetheless. How they fit into the big picture, I don’t yet know. But I can be sure they will, because each one has a special little buddy.

Bioshock has a fairly well done moral choice element to it, in that once you kill a Big Daddy (and I’m not completely sure you have to in order to progress), you’re then left alone with their companion — a fucked-up little girl called a Little Sister. They’re the product of some kind of experimentation done back in Rapture’s good ol’ days, vicious creatures that take delight in torture and gore, so long as they’ve got Big Daddy to protect them. Kill their Big Daddy and the Little Sister is all yours; then you get to make a choice — Harvest or Rescue.

Zombie Shirley Temple's Good Ship Lollipop travelled to a candy shop ..

Your reward either way is a supply of ADAM, which you use to upgrade your own abilities. (I’ve realized my earlier description of plasmids and ADAM and all that wasn’t quite correct, but since I’m still not entirely sure how it all works, I won’t bother trying again just yet. The main point is this: ADAM is good. Truer words were never spoken.) Rescue the Little Sister and you get a bit of ADAM, and she turns back into a normal little girl, before slipping away into an air duct; Harvest her and you get a lot more ADAM, but the girl dies.

It’s a nice choice to force upon a player, and I don’t doubt that these choices will have some impact later on, hopefully one that isn’t superficial. But there’s a bit of a problem with this. If you wanna play all Mr. Moral (and who are you kidding, you carnage-hungry, violence-desensitized, future-school-shooting video gamer, you) and rescue the li’l chicks, the punishment isn’t really being given less ADAM and thus being able to upgrade less frequently — they wouldn’t dare force you to make a choice where, if you make the “right” one, the game becomes so challenging it loses the fun. The punishment for rescuing is missing the chance to see what happens when you harvest. Only this punishment doesn’t work, because I just saved the game before I made my choice, then reloaded after watching a harvest. Both conscience and bloodlust are satisfied.

And furthermore, the punishment for those who do choose to harvest isn’t severe enough: you don’t actually get to see the harvesting, it fades out and then comes back to show some big, weird slug creature in your hand. The Little Sister is just gone. A graphic, disturbing visual of the little girl suffering would’ve driven the point home, though I suppose it also would’ve caused all sorts of problems with ratings and censors and Jack Thompson’s Holy Brigade of the Pure.

Without you, there would be no Way.

Smuggler

April 26: Still been too busy lately to make much progress on the game. But then, being productive rather than playing silly games is exactly how Ayn Rand would’ve wanted it.

Nothing much new has happened in the game; I’m just plodding along, doing what Mr. Radio tells me to do. I’ve basically been on a quest to get to his wife and child since I started, but I don’t really know why I, as the character in this game, would give a fuck about his wife and child. He’s just some voice on a radio, albeit a charming voice. He’s gonna be a good looking guy when I finally meet him face-to-face, that’s for sure. I wonder if I’ll get to kill him.

I've seen this pose before.  But where?

The biggest Objectivist shout-out in this segment of play was the well-bloodied guy strapped up to the wall in a district of Rapture called Neptune’s Bounty. This area was once a secret den of smugglers, and Andrew Ryan most certainly did not take kindly to them. One automated loudspeaker message proclaimed them to be “vultures”, another defended Ryan’s introduction of the death penalty as a means to defeat their vulturous scourge.

The number one item on their sneak-it-in list: Bibles. That Jesus, always mucking shit up.

But this does suggest one of the problem’s with Ryan/Rand’s little utopia — everyone’s gotta agree 100% on everything. The heroes of Atlas Shrugged were all geniuses living absolutely without doubt, at least once they had ascended to proper understanding of Ryandian “good.” Everyone knows their place, no one has ambition of any more (or less) than exactly their capabilities.

Those living to their full abilities desire not to waste their time on trifles such as frolicking.

Here’s an Atlas Shrugged spoiler for you: the main character, a rail tycoon named Dagny Taggert, falls in love with the man who has created a phenomenal new kind of super steel, and they have a passionate affair. But then she meets the book’s Andrew Ryan, a man named John Galt, and realizes he’s better. And the first guy just steps aside. He knows Galt is the better man, and thus accepts the situation, and without any fuss at all.

An Objectivist city has no room for dissent, no room for uncertainty. It cannot survive under the weight of even the slightest variety of opinion. But people, no matter how super-awesome they may be, don’t work that way. And if they think they are working that way, then really they’re just arrogant, elitist dickholes. So that’s a point for you, Bioshock. laebmada

I'm not so sure that the ceiling is a productive place to be.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, April 17, 2008 9:46 am

    I think if you choose to let all the girls live, it should actually make the game a lot harder, like you’re really paying a price for your morality, but . . . then it gives you something really, really, kick-ass at the end.

  2. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, April 29, 2008 4:01 am

    That whole smuggler thing doesn’t make sense to me.

    From the Wiki on Objectivism:

    ” . . .the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or “rational self-interest”; that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in pure, consensual laissez-faire capitalism.”

    So shouldn’t people like smugglers actually be lauded in this type of society? They are merely pursuing their own ‘rational self-interest;’ they should be regarded as entrepreneurs, no?

  3. Friday, May 2, 2008 7:37 am

    Could be. They haven’t specified if the bible-smugglers were charging for their good books, which would be vital to get it the Rand stamp-of-approval. No free rides, not even from God.

    But there’s an arrogance that always seems to be associated with Objectivism — though I’m not so sure it’s really a part of the philosophy — that says “our way is the only way” with a much stronger tone than most other ways do (ergo my bolding and italicizing). Could be that it’s this side of the Objectivist movement they’re jabbing at in Bioshock — Andrew Ryan give Rapture a perfect, true set of laws (including atheism), and anyone trying to subvert them deserves a kick in the pants.

    But yeah, an Objectivist society would apparently be more-or-less law-free, so any laws against religion or importing certain items or any kind of death penalty shouldn’t really be. Andrew Ryan, you’ve strayed from the path!

  4. tgjkennedy permalink
    Friday, May 9, 2008 5:38 pm

    Gore Verbinkski will make this into a film.

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/080509/tecnology/tech_bioshock_col

  5. Saturday, May 10, 2008 2:45 am

    A decision made after reading my posts, no doubt.

  6. Thursday, March 25, 2010 5:24 pm

    Objectivism holds that the initiation of force and fraud is about the only thing that’s really wrong, and the only proper role of Government is to prevent it. Which I gather the notional objectivist political leader in the game has failed to do, somewhat spectacularly.

    You make an interesting point about ambitions exactly matching abilities, but then again having ambitions to achieve more than you are able is a form of evasion – the basic vice – you are evading an accurate appraisal of your own skills.

    Have a look at his video

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