The Implicit Nature of Bioshock

Posted: February 11, 2013 by phinnthehuman in Uncategorized
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My second hour of Bioshock passed quite differently from the first one. After exploring the basic nature of the game, I was now being presented with my first set of choices. Specifically, I fought a Big Daddy, and had to decide what to do with the Little Sister he was guarding. I was told by the game that killing her would grant me immediate bonuses, whereas saving her would grant less immediate bonuses but would include a later, unspecified reward as well. I chose to save the Little Sister (pictured below).


This is an example of all three types of rules. The operational rule of this situation is that I had to fight the Big Daddy to exit the room – I didn’t really have a choice. The constitutive portion of this situation was the girl’s outcome. I don’t think I actually had to choose an outcome for her, and could have left her untouched and exited the room. However, it was in my best interest to choose something, so I chose to save her. I could not, for example, have shot her and denied myself access to the bonuses, which is an example of how the game limited my play. Lastly, the implicit nature of this situation. By choosing to save her, I essentially imposed my own set of rules on myself for the future. To maximize benefits (and achievements post-game) I will now need to save every single Little Sister I encounter. This is part of the “human” factor of games that Snyder talks about – the game isn’t forcing me to choose either outcome, but my sense of morality bound me to saving the Little Sisters.

The other aspect of rules that I explored during this play through was the journal system. Throughout the levels in Bioshock, there are journal entries I could pick up to discover more about the backstory in Rapture. For example, one journal entry had a spoken account of a surgery where the insane doctor had chosen to continue operating on a patient because he thought her face sagged. These journals did not alter the gameplay in any way, but heightened the experience for me as I went along. I made it my goal to collect every single one I could find, and to always listen to them. This is an example of following my own set of implicit rules, since I wanted to discover and listen to the journals simply because it made the game feel more rich and rewarding to experience.


(Journal pictured in bottom right of screenshot)

Lastly, Bioshock demonstrated what it means to enable players to learn the game in an elegant and interesting way. By giving me powerups in the form on genetic enhancements but limiting the number and types I could use, I be gently prevented from drowning myself in upgrades I wouldn’t be able to use. By the time I have unlocked more slots for them and more weapons to use, I will be adept at the game, capable of using them all effectively, and that much more appreciative of unlocking them as they come along.



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