Posts Tagged ‘Rapture’

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).

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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.

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(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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The Bioshock Game Experience

Posted: February 8, 2013 by neumann2013 in Uncategorized
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I decided to play Bioshock for my game journal because back when it was released in 2007 I never got a chance to sit down and play through the whole story, so I figured this would be a good time to do it.  Bioshock is a game that rewards the player who really immerses oneself in the story and underwater artistic utopia of Rapture.  It is a beautifully designed first person shooter that not only submerges the player into an eerie underwater metropolis, but also sends you back time to early stages of the cold war.  The reason it was so well received is can be related to Brian Sutton-Smith’s philological process by which games are experienced.  Bioshock is a game that hits all of the marks when it comes to the five elements of a game experience.

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The world of Rapture is as creepy as it is visually stunning.  From the moment you crash land into the Atlanic and begin exploring Rapture, it is impossible to stop scanning the game world, because everywhere you turn there are interesting details and locations.  The combination of artificially light, and a world engulfed by water makes for a beautiful game that is a pleasure to play and explore.

One aspect that really stood out during my short play through was the audio component.  The games sound, does an excellent job of bringing the under water world to life.  Whether it is the sound of gushing water, echoes or the clanking of a big daddy, they all contribute to the sense that the player is in an underwater world full of evil creatures.

Although the game world is beautiful and fun to just explore the player actually has to fight the creepers dwelling in the deep.  Sutton-Smith’s third element is motor response.  The combat in Bioshock is intuitive.  There are two ways to kill an enemy.  Right trigger fires traditional weapons like a wrench, handgun or machine gun, while the left trigger is for plasmids.  Plasmids are genetic enhancements that give the player a wide range of special abilities that like lightening and fire.  These combat options give the player a variety of attacks and keep the combat interesting.

Concentration is the next important element of the game experience.  In the depths of rapture there is no telling what creature lurks in the deep.  As the visuals and audio suck the player in, it is easy to get lost in the world of Rapture.  Whether you’re concentrated on killing the big daddy in the next room or tracking down Andrew Ryan and discovering his secrets, it is difficult to not concentrate on the game.

The final component is Perceptual Patterns of Learning.  As the number of plasmids in your arsenal increases, so does your ability to interact with the game world and deal different death blows to enemies.  The player is simultaneously learning the structure of Rapture itself and how different combinations of attacks can eliminate the enemy quicker.

Horror and Tension in Bioshock

Posted: February 3, 2013 by phinnthehuman in Uncategorized
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This is the first time I’ve played through Bioshock. Like many of my peers, I am familiar with the premise of the game, and I’ve seen people play it before. That said, the game exceeded my expectations completely and in light of our readings and discussions in class, sucking me in and messing with my mind after barely an hour of play.

At the beginning of the game, I was given very limited information about what was going on. The first moment I felt “trapped” in an elevator, with a mutant human cutting its way in and screaming at me, I felt a very human emotion of despair. As I would continue to play, this would happen multiple times. In terms of Johan Huzinga’s “magic circle,” I believed in the “magic” of this game after just 10 minutes. I felt powerless, but in the best kind of way and only for a brief moment. That brief moment set the tone for the next hour, and started off my experience on a strong, ominous note.

The horror elements of this game are pervasive and relentless. As soon as I had the freedom to move around as I wished, I was practically forced to notice the seedy and demented nature of the areas I moved through. The climax of this experience was during the Medical Pavilion level. I entered a room (pictured below) with three portraits of women on the wall, a bloody table with roses on it, and a cursive note on the ground reading “ABOVE ALL, DO NO HARM – J-Steinman.” From then on, I found notes, journal entries, and ex-patients of the doctor who would attack me. His writings compared the mingling of ugly people amongst the beautiful with the mingling of the criminal amongst the lawful. This kind of perverse and fascinating logic served to improve my experience playing the game, adding another dimension of insanity and terror to the already-horrific level.

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The musings of a demented Doctor Steinman

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The beauty of Bioshock is in the nature of the gameplay. Roger Caillois writes that “An outcome known in advance, with no possibility of error or surprise, clearly leading to an inescapable result, is incompatible with the nature of play. Constant and unpredictable definitions of the situation are necessary…” which Bioshock captures perfectly. In the scene where I was trapped in the elevator, I felt afraid and believed the mutant would break in and attack me, but it ran away at the last second. Later, a Big Daddy walked past my semiconscious body, and I knew that I could not stop it. By teasing the player with the knowledge that they could die during these scenes but NOT killing them, the game establishes a level of tension that increases as gameplay develops. The game stay fresh and unpredictable, and I was unable to keep my wits about me as I continued to survive the psychological horrors of Rapture. The Ilinx elements of the game kept me unstabilized and panicked during the conflict scenes, and I died multiple times to not being able to think clearly. I can’t wait to keep playing.