| Posted 07/06/10 at 04:47 PM||Reply with quote #1 |
|See this link if this post reads like Greek:|
I'm very critical of Bioshock. Not because it's bad - if it were simply a bad work, it wouldn't be worth the effort. The thing that gets me riled up about Bioshock is that it comes so close to greatness but turns around and walks away. It's not even that it tries and fails - it makes the conscious design to NOT push then envelope, in order to appeal to a wider audience.
Then everybody hails it for pushing the envelope.
The FPS bits are sub-standard to average, but that's ok. It's not fantastic, but it gets the job done well enough to (mostly) not distract from was almost the most daring and incredible setting in videogame history.
But it's not. There's no cohesion between game and setting. Everything in the game harps on how Rapture is this terrible place where you have to do terrible things to survive, but it's quite easy to waltz through and bash things to death with the wrench to your heart's content. And if you decide you do want to shoot things, well, the kind citizens of rapture have seen fit to provide you with far more ammo then you could possibly shoot.
So when it comes to the little sisters, the choice becomes
a) Save the cute little girl
b) Harvest her for Adam
Which would be a compelling choice if, you know, you needed Adam at all. Unfortunately, really you only have to harvest if you want more Plasmids to play with. Even then, Tenenbaum turns around and rewards you for being the good guy.
Meaningful choice requires meaningful consequences. There is no motivation for harvesting the Little Sisters other than for kicks or because you're "being bad."
Now image that the game was hard. Imagine that resources were limited, that every single fight held a good chance that you would end up dead (and NOT auto-revived at your friendly neighborhood Vita-Chamber.) Now, you NEED something you give you that edge. You NEED that adam. And now that non-choice turns into a genuine conundrum - survival or your humanity?
Ideally, everyone would have to harvest at least one sister. Some would feel awful. Some would write it off as being just a game. Some would find that, once they did it once, it would be much easier to do it again and again.
Which brings us to point number 2 - Would you Kindly? What was almost the most brilliant moment in videogame history flops big time. Now imagine that, after deactivating the killswitch, you could ignore Tenenbaum, fight your way to a sub pen, and leave Rapture. Just leave. Screw the last third of the game, and get the hell out of dodge. Now that whole meta-narrative observation about the player being controlled by the game designer and doing his whims transcends cute insight and becomes genuine commentary on the nature of videogames.
Hopefully, though, some players would feel remorse for what they did to the little sisters. And staying and freeing them would be a chance for redemption - something which falls flat currently because there's no free will involved. But having the option of killing Fontaine and taking control, or freeing the little sisters, or just leaving everyone to their miserable little city in the sea and going back to the surface - having that option means the player has a choice. "A man chooses," and all that. Cohesion achieved, Game becomes Art, etc. etc.
Bioshock was heading in that direction. But then it turns out that profound isn't nearly as popular as fun. So it walked up to the edge of the envelope, turned around, and marched right back to the lowest common denominator.
Bioshock is fun. It's well-done. It's a great videogame. But that doesn't change the fact that it threw away the chance to be so much more in order push more copies, which is an unfortunate trend. Especially if we ever want this medium to transcend its pretty low standards and become more than mere entertainment.
| Posted 10/04/10 at 11:16 PM||Reply with quote #2 |
|Late reply, I've been away from the VGC for some time now. I wonder how you would respond to my reaction to the idea of upping the difficulty to the point where the destruction of others is a necessity. I see the logic behind it but I myself would just stop playing if the game became that hard. Losing one person, not a huge problem. Losing a good percentage of the people who play the game in a medium that already has a significantly high percentage of works left unfinished/unexperienced, feels exclusionary to a fault.|
I also find myself at odds with everyone who feels the post reveal is somehow a betrayal of the game's point. I've always seen it as merely acknowledging the limitations of the medium. To me, the game never suggested that there was someway around them. You express dismay about the potential for freedom left unrealized but mention only one other possible action, leaving Rapture. You could have sided with Fontaine, you could have shot yourself, you could have done any number of things but the game is not able to allow anyone that level of freedom. What you argue for is another binary choice which is just another illusion of freedom. The game is wiser than we know. It acknowledges the finite ability of human endeavour and realizes that no one could code in all the possibilities of true life. It makes a pointed statement that we have no agency in games and never will so as long as we remain the consumers and not the producers. That is how I have always seen it.
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| Posted 10/05/10 at 01:21 AM||Reply with quote #3 |
|The idea is that the game would be a cakewalk...if you harvest the little sisters, then you will have plenty of Adam. So you have a sliding scale of difficulty, only the level is determined by your own moral boundaries. |
Clearly, this is not something that would be nearly as popular, and not something I would expect a company like Irrational to put out because they do have a keen business sense. I can't fault them for any of their design decisions, and I don't. My ire is aimed at the people who blindly spout off that Bioshock was a "shooter 2.0" because it had a great atmosphere and some basic RPG mechanics.
Tying difficulty to morality would have been something that pushed the medium forward - after all, most of the moral decisions that we face on a daily basis are not "Do I fight the terrible monster or not?" but things like "My roomate has some cheese and I don't. He'll never notice if I take a slice..." Take that kind of morality (your own sense of right and wrong as a barrier to your goals) and put it in a suitably over-the-top videogame setting (taking some cheese becomes harvesting little girlmonsters) and you have something new.
Also, I would buy the "end of Bioshock represents the linearity of games" more if the whole ending didn't feel rushed. It features some of the least inspiring level design of the game, is full of incomplete ideas (Turn into a Big Daddy! By...spraying perfume on? Then turning normal again during an elevator ride?) I also envisioned the "Leave Rapture" option as something that would never be broadcast or telegraphed, but just...there. Not part of the story, just a way to end the narrative early and still finish the game.
Also, there's a bunch of fridge logic going on (My enemy can control my actions by talking to me. Over this radio. I really should break the damn thing, no? Or if I can't, Tenenbaum should ask if I would kindly put it down and put a bullet in it, or at least change the frequency or something.) Which makes it come off more as "awesome idea without proper followup" than "scathing commentary."
I do like your interpretation, though. Totally changes the ending for me, in fact, and even makes the poor design of the ending seem much more poignant. After all, if the ending is about futility of choice in videogames, what better way to end it than with an escort mission and a boss fight, two of the oldest and most despised clichés in videogame history?