Narrative in “Bioshock”

Posted: February 18, 2013 by annieewbank in Uncategorized

Densely plotted video games are the only kind I can play. Angry Birds bores me, and the only reason I bought Marvel vs. Capcom III was because Phoenix freaking Wright was a playable character. Fighting games and iOS games are meant to be played with your friends or while waiting at the DMV, as part of a larger system of social interaction or as a way of avoiding it. These games do not benefit from a narrative, as they are meant to be played with half-focus.

In Rules of Play, the authors brought up Monkey Island as a narrative-driven game series. I played the first three Monkey Island games obsessively as a child. Solving puzzles, answering riddles and collecting objects would lead you to different climactic scenes, making every single action part of the narrative. I would say Monkey Island honed my taste for visual novels instead of RPGs. Grinding for money, levels or items had (and still has) no appeal for me. I rush through games like books, as fast as I can, for the story.

Bioshock has a story. Though I still don’t know anything about our Protag (other than that he’s a rugged white male wearing what appears to be a cable-knit sweater) the game pits you against Andrew Ryan, the enigmatic founder of Rapture, who one blogger I read describes as ” Ayn Rand in Howard Hughes’ body.” You have an (apparent) ally in the for of Atlas, a resistance fighter, and a mysterious scientist Tenenbaum leaves you clues and encourages you along (in my path, at least.)

The game has a fandom, which is a fairly good indicator of a plot that is compelling and characters that are identifiable. Fanworks arise when people who enjoy a narrative want to flesh out the media of it, with fanfiction, fanart, or even more ambitious projects (x). The game’s undeniable style and fabulous setting are inspiring to many fans, to the extent that Bioshock is now a successful franchise.

This is the final blog post I will be making for Bioshock. Will I keep playing the game now that I’m not required to? Yes, I need to know what happens! The plot has drawn me in. Is Protag the son of Andrew Ryan? I hope not, that would be cliche as heck. Does he have some prior connection to Rapture? That’s also debatable. But I’m going to finish the game and find out.

(I couldn’t figure out recording Bioshock on Steam, sorry! A video will come soon.)


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