Bioshock: Audio-Visual Immersion and Learning

Posted: February 4, 2013 by thepetergraham in Uncategorized
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The game I chose to play for my weekly game journal analysis is Bioshock. I played the game once through back when it first came out on Xbox 360, but I am now replaying on my PC almost five years later. Throughout the game, I focused on the five elements of play experience that we read about and discussed in class. Those five elements include visual, aural, motor, mental, and learning. The two dominating elements in my first hour and a half of gameplay are definitely visual and aural.


You begin the game during a plane crash into the middle of the ocean at night, and are forced to swim to a small island with a lighthouse atop it, as it is the only visible land out at sea. Upon entering the pitch dark lighthouse, the door behind you shuts and one light turns on, revealing an intimidating statue staring down at you with a tabard that reads “No Gods or Kings. Only Man.” You then proceed down some dimly lit stairs to a small pod, which descends into the ocean upon entering it. Throughout this entire sequence, there is no music whatsoever. This assists in unsettling the player as they realize they are entirely alone out in the middle of the ocean, and also creates a dramatic sense of tension. The tabard with the quote on it also provides the player with thematic material from the moment the game begins.

Once you enter the underwater city of Rapture, the aural and visual combine to make you feel afraid and immersed in the magic circle that the game is building around you. Water pressure causes enormous metal structures to creak, and eerie violin music (Very reminiscent of a horror film) screeches in the background. The hallways and rooms you go through are filled with corpses and looted establishments, with blood and insane graffiti peppering the walls and floor. You also hear the wild babblings of “Splicers,” the primary enemies in the game, who mumble crazy things and scream once they spot you. All of this is combined to build a convincing world that frightens you throughout. Even with another person in the room while I played the game, I found myself nervous before turning corners and jumped multiple times as enemies snuck up on me or I saw a horrifying painting of a mutilated face.


Since I was playing through the start of the game, I spent much of the time learning new mechanics as they are introduced at just the right pace. Through a combination of text and radio chatter from your partner “Atlas,” you are given new abilities, weapons, and knowledge about the world. Since the game is not entirely linear, the designers did a great job designing open ended areas within each level that throw all of your recently acquired items and powers into the fold, and force you to use them in any manner you see fit. Your magic meter (referred to as eve in this game universe) is required to use any of your powers, including hacking. This means that you must weigh out your options to make it through a combat scenario so that you can conserve ammo and eve. The perfect pace at which you are given new abilities and knowledge has me hooked on Bioshock just as much as I was the first time I played it, if not more with my new examination of the game.

ImageHere you see Atlas talking to you while you receive a tutorial message on screen.

  1. Couldn’t get my title so show up for some reason, but here is the rest of the post…

  2. suzannescott says:

    You do a wonderful job of rooting your visual and aural experience of the game in concrete examples, and specifically the moments in which you consider how these elements work in tandem are strong. I would have liked to see you push your discussion of the mechanics through the lens of “learning” a bit more explicitly, or generally analyze the intersection of all of these five elements in the game through one example. Generally, a little more set-up in terms of the concepts you’re employing is necessary. Likewise, for future entries, you want a little less emphasis on whether elements are good/bad, and more analysis of WHY they’re effective or not.

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