First up: Yay, week off! I spent it mostly lying in bed, watching movies, reading books and just generally melting out of reality. It was fabulous, and needed although I did not anything that I truly wanted. I did not get a tattoo, nor was I called for any job interviews. I simply existed, and it was great. I did get my first ever facial done, which amped up the relaxing aspects of my staycation. I have plans to visit (and possibly move) to Montreal within the next little while, so fingers crossed that something actually comes up!
But I need to talk about this. Over the course of my life, I have had a deep connection to four things: literature, tattoos, music, and video games. I indulged three of those things this week (and have had Gaslight Anthem on repeat for awhile) but nothing hit me harder than diving into the world of Bioshock.
For the uninitiated: the first game is an Ayn Rand-inspired dystopiawithin an underwater steampunk city named Rapture, run by capitalists and corrupted scientists. The abandoned halls are filled with rabid drug addicts (addicted to a substance called ADAM; these addicts are called Splicers), Big Daddies and Little Sisters. Big Daddies are brainwashed and bioengineered dudes who repair the city and assist the also-bioengineered Little Sisters in collecting ADAM from dead splicers. Why? I can’t write it without basically spoiling the end of the first game and I refuse to spoil anything.
The only thing I wish to convey is the absolute depth of vision and execution of an eternally complex plot that this game did. I have waxed about the benefits of video games to the Millenial generation before, and I will continue to do it for a long time. The Bioshock series is essentially a FPS game (first-person shooter) but the combat is not the outstanding aspect of the series. In fact, the combat aspects detract from the awesome story and I felt frustrated in a few instances where I had to fight a particularly difficult enemy, just because it diverted my attention away from what was happening. The whole series has a gritty noirish aura about it and is only heightened by the steampunk elements thrown in. Although the steampunk style is mostly just through the machinations about Rapture, it heightens the sense of mystery and otherworldliness without it even being another world, per se.
Of the three games though, Bioshock Infinite is my favourite. Although the setting is not the most wonderful (floating city named Columbia, built as a religious extremist’s paradise), the story is, ahem, infinitely more complex. The first Bioshock game had an amazing and fresh story, but Infinite expanded on it in a way that makes many more games possible without losing any of the charm that is inherent in the series. It loops back in on itself and, though there is not much dialogue, the plot is found largely through audiophones scattered throughout the game which contain anecdotes from supporting characters. It’s a fantastic way of furthering an amazing plot in such an action-packed and fast-paced game.
But what is truly remarkable about each iteration within the Bioshock universe is how relatable and heart-shattering each story is, even within the fantastical settings of Rapture and Columbia. There is a magic that reflects certain aspects of the human condition which we are sometimes better off ignoring: the pull of twisted ambition, the quest for immortality, the pursuit of science beyond the means of morality, and the respect for fellow humans. These themes are so relevant and pertinent for future generations to experience and dissect: how simple ambition and good intentions can become a twisted, dystopic mess that affects far more than they could ever have imagined. My favourite character was the Luteces: they introduced the concept of alternate realities and how deeply science (especially misguided science) can leave the greatest impact. Although they did redeem themselves for the most part, there was still the knowledge within the gamer of this ache and heartbreak towards their actions. And there is so much brainwashing in this series, I seriously cannot write about one instance without delving into the mother of all tangents. Play this game; you absolutely need to.
Once again, I must push that video games should not simply be regarded as mindless escapism. There is a deep and very human aspect of them which deserves to resonate, far beyond the more stylized reimagining of cowboys and Indians that is Call of Duty, but more attention needs to be paid to games with these fantastic stories. It’s pure story-telling and it’s an absolutely undervalued form of art that is wildly overlooked. I felt the same way about comic books for so long, and now suddenly they’re popping up everywhere. However, the story-telling got lost in transition and it’s all about the big explosions or special effects now. That should not be the case with mediums like video games; they have near-infinite length to tell their story and it’s always beautiful when done appropriately.
So…would you kindly give Bioshock a try?