Note: By the way, Bioshock has been re-released as the Bioshock Collection, available now on Steam! Hell yes!
The last two weeks have been spent working and managing certain crises in my life, so when the chance to play video games by myself came about, I seized upon it like a fat kid attacking a chocolate cake with Cheeto frosting. I selected the first installment of Bioshock for PC, an amazing game. What can I say, I was in the mood for a slightly older game… While I really liked the idea of taking a shotgun to a bunch of spliced out freaks, what really impressed me was the depth of story behind it. It really went into the subject of free will and societal norms, which for me hit a very significant nerve. So, I compiled a list of 4 things we could all learn from “Bioshock”.
BTW, Spoiler city… You’ve been warned.
1. “Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you should.”
I mean, we all learned this from Jurassic Park, when it’s perfectly obvious that cloning a bunch of dinosaurs who do nothing but eat and poop is a piss-poor idea. But, the inventions of plasmids is what essentially what completely screwed the underwater city off Rapture from the beginning. When the power to bend the human machine from the highest heights of physical prowess to incinerating it to a cinder becomes at at-will spell like ability that costs very little, nothing good can come from it, especially given the aggressive nature of humanity. (I could keep this going to follow the gun control argument, but I think the implications are perfectly obvious.)
2. “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
So, the promise of Rapture was it was a city where what you put in, you get out. You put $5 into the system, eventually you get $5 back. It was intended to be a city of freedom. What it degenerated into was essentially a textbook definition of what should NEVER happen in any kind of civilized society. Granted you had to read the book Bioshock: Rapture for the following information to make sense, but when it occurred to Andrew Ryan that the plasmids industry became too much of a security concern, along with Fontaine’s smuggling operation, he held a raid against Fontaine’s Plasmids and imposed a kind of martial law. It was essentially the way Emperor Palpatine seized galactic control at the end of Star Wars: Episode 3. The only difference is that in Revenge of the Sith, the galaxy rejoiced until it was too late. When Ryan took control, the people immediately erupted into civil war with Atlas, Eleanor Lamb and Ryan all puling Rapture in different directions, like a pack of wolves ripping apart a meal.
Ryan’s triumph of consolidation of government (the very thing he did everything to avoid) was his undoing. He at first thought that the market would correct itself and order would be restored through the normal evolution of socio-economic equilibrium, at some point, his faith in the natural order broke and he took matters into his own hands, trying to put all of the responsibility and power into his own hands to save his creation.
Sound familiar? It should.
3. Kids can be creepy as hell.
The opening scene where your character tries a plasmid for the first time and gets a talking to from a Little Sister and a Big Daddy is literally one of the most unnerving scenes I’ve ever seen as a gamer. It reminded me of a story told to me by a friend where her daughter was sleepwalking. When the mother woke up and went past her daughter’s doorway, she was just standing there creepily.
When asked if she were okay, she simply replied with dull and lifeless eyes, “You have to help me, because they won’t…” She was ushered back to bed. I assume a priest was called the next day. Now, she is a semi-normal kid talking in mindless neologisms and web acronyms. The words “swag” and “j/k” are part of her everyday lexicon.
There’s something primal about having a child with habits that make your hair stand on end. Probably because they are the most vulnerable out of all of us, susceptible to just about every single word and influence in their little worlds. When the wrong combination of elements align in a child’s psyche, the results are uniformly frightening.
4. Not everything is as presented.
The vast majority of the game is essentially you going on a wild goose chase at the behest of Atlas, who later reveals himself to be Fontaine. While I personally thought the developers of the game were laughing at me while giving me the finger, it illustrated the differences between perception and reality. Given the circumstances in the game, no one even remotely questions Atlas’ intentions until the rug is pulled out from under them.
I remember the first time I went through the scene where the sub explodes, carrying “Atlas’ wife and son” on board. Atlas goes on with words of sadness and bloodlust that sent my blood boiling and got me ready to hand Andrew Ryan his own ass with a wrench and a smile. Now, when I play through the game again, this scene comes across and I smile with a wry satisfaction that eventually I’ll kill Fontaine as well.
Looking at the game as someone who played through it a few times, I noticed a few inconsistencies and tells that show me that the world as presented was not what was actually existed. Granted, had I known the score ahead of time, it would have spoiled the story and thus my experience.
Not every story is written in the way it is read, and not everyone’s motives are pure. Looking through the mass of B.S. to see what’s really there is a skill that everyone needs to learn, otherwise you know, someone blows up your wife and kid in a sub after you crash-land near an underwater city. So, you know, you might wanna see that coming. Unless, you’re not too attached to either. There’s also that. I’m not here to judge.
Bioshock is an amazing game that I recommend to everyone capable of playing a video game, only because it asks you to question your own beliefs about virtually every aspect of who you are as a person. What would you do given these situations?
Aside from shitting your pants, of course. No shame in that.