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Rowan

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Registered: 04/23/10
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Reply with quote  #1 
I was reading the Salon interview with the author of Extra Lives, who claimed that Bioshock, along with GTA: Vice City and Portal are three games that he thought really upped the ante in terms of games-as-narrative, and inspired him to write his book. I've barely played Vice City and haven't yet played Portal, but I can't quite agree with the case for Bioshock.

Now, don't get me wrong. I liked Bioshock. At times, I really liked Bioshock. But I just don't understand this. It did wonderful things with atmosphere, but so did Doom, 13 years prior. The twist in the middle is a clever within the story and a very clever bit of meta-game, but then the game kind of ruins its effect by having the player continue following orders as he had before, just with Tennenbaum instead of Atlas.

So I guess my question is - do you all see Bioshock as such an important piece of video game history? And if so, why?

JoeTortuga

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Reply with quote  #2 
My personal take on BioShock was that it's entirely derivative of System Shock. Although the world of Rapture is an interesting place, I was never entranced by it.

I'm reading Extra Lives, and he talks some about his reaction to BioShock, to game stories, and about his gamer-history.  Bissell says he's a console gamer, that he never got into PC games. He has a long history of playing console games, back to the NES, at least, which is some gamer history we don't share, since I was predominantly a PC Gamer until the current generation of consoles.

I think this is relevant, as a lot of BioShock's relevance comes not from what it has to say or how it does it -- as much of that has been said before, I think, -- but rather from the audience that heard it. There is a legion of gamers who had never seen gameplay like this, or anything similar to it, and there's BioShock showing it to them.

But that calls into question of whether it was a change of fashion and style or if it really revolutionized what we're doing.  Certainly all those games he mentioned had affect on the game-playing and game-making populace, and they pointed out things that can be done better, or at least differently. But is this causing a real sea-change or just a change in fashion? I'm not sure.



Rowan

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Reply with quote  #3 
Perhaps Bioshock is comparable to Halo in its impact? Both are PC-style games which got a lot of play on consoles and perhaps introduced console gamers to certain benefits of PC-style gaming: Halo with LAN and internet multiplayer, and Bioshock with an atmospheric shooter with emergent narrative? As a PC gamer, I'd say they're evolution not revolution, but to a console gamer, they might have been a revolution. Hmm.
Bobbicus

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Reply with quote  #4 
Bah. Bioshock is "defining" in the sense that it truly shows how little critical analysis exists in games journalism.

Bioshock is not "shooter 2.0." It's a average FPS with outstanding production values, no more. All of the elements commonly pointed at as pushing the FPS envelope are extraneous at best at detrimental at worst.

I find it kinda ironic that Crysis came out around the same time and was widely panned for being formulaic, despite it adding new dimensions to the FPS standard with suit powers and open environments; meanwhile a derivative shooter like Bioshock is hailed as "Shooter 2.0."







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Rowan

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Reply with quote  #5 
Well, I think that's a little harsh. Those "outstanding production values" aren't so easily dismissed. Yes, as first-person shooter it might not be an envelope-pushing game, but it's a game as much as it is a piece of genre work. I do agree with the core of what you're saying - the post here and in the Psychonauts forum indicate that - but I'm not prepared to simply dismiss everything else about the game as "production values."

It would be like judging a film based entirely on the storyline, completely ignoring whatever the director has to offer.

Bobbicus

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Reply with quote  #6 
Whenever I talk about Bioshock, people get the idea that I hate it - which couldn't be further from the truth. Bioshock is great. It's fun. In places it's fantastic.

But as a "work"? It suffers from death by focus testing.

You're point about the "would you kindly" twist is dead on. That moment in the game was brilliant. In fact, played correctly that could have made Bioshock as defining as Half-Life.

But they didn't play it correctly. Like you said, the moment is robbed of its power because the player is then, after having this weird, wonderful meta-game critique of games in general, forced back on the rails.

You brought up "emergent narrative." What do you mean by that?

Also, I'd love to hear from anyone else about what, specifically, Bioshock does that makes it defining - because I don't really see it. I think the point about console gamers being exposed to a more sophisticated work is a good one - but there were plenty of predominately PC focused gamers and publications that also hailed it.




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Rowan

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Reply with quote  #7 
"Emergent narrative," as I understand it from context, is a narrative that emerges from the game itself, as opposed to through cutscenes or narration or exposition. Much of the storyline of Bioshock comes from the setting. Half-Life is a better example of that, I think.

Bobbicus

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Reply with quote  #8 
To me neither of those games demonstrate emergent narrative. Bioshock is about as on-rails as you can get, and everything in Half-Life is pre-scripted. The narrative is integrated with the game, but certainly not caused or effected by it.

X-Com or Dwarf Fortress are better examples. In X-com, pretty much the entire narrative is emergent - to the point where you feel genuine emotion for your little blond dudes and dudettes, reveling when they pull off some stellar shot and mourning when they die (or reloading, depending on your playstyle.)

You want emergent narrative? Read the epic tale of Boatmurdered.



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