I've written what seems to me like a great deal about Bioshock
already. I suppose I've stopped just short of anointing it as, well, the Anointed One: the Harbinger and Lodestar of Games' Imminent Profundity. (I imagine that my friend Simon Ferrari would probably disagree that I stopped short of that.) You can find a representative sample of my hyperbolic claims here
, and especially here
I also have a paper set to appear this spring as a chapter in a volume on ethical education and game design—the paper I'm touting, strategically, to my colleagues as my first "real" publication about games, though doing so leaves a terrible taste in my mouth and makes me want to shred my diplomata. I don’t think my quandary in that respect, in which Bioshock
is deeply concerned, is as tangential to the significance of the game as it might seem. Indeed, that facet of the game is the one that I'm most interested in reflecting on now, with my initial flurry of work on the game done, with a sequel coming out, and with VGC-discussions already making me aware of what I've missed. (The initial plasmid injection not being explained has already got me thinking hard--I suspect we'll spend a lot of time on Thursday talking about it.)
I do think, as I've put forward in the Vintage Game Club forum
, that Bioshock
is likely the first mass-market game to engage with an academic discipline, and so, from my perspective, it presented a different kind of opportunity from the one Halo
presented. By explicitly invoking the work of Ayn Rand (I would submit, though one might also say "implicitly"—it's hard to decide what to do with the near anagram of Ayn Rand and Andrew Ryan, let alone the countless allusions), Bioshock
made it possible for me to talk in a new way about games in relation to the ancient world. Because Rand, despite her name's being "mud" in academic philosophy, is nevertheless considered by some significant number of people to be a philosopher, I got to talk about Plato as a game designer.
I suspect that 2K didn't intentionally put anything Platonic into the game, though it's obviously impossible ever to be sure of that sort of thing. By creating the story of Rapture, however, in relation to Rand's philosophical ideas, they made it possible to talk about their game in relation to the fundamental themes of Western philosophy—above all the theme of mimesis
, because it is questions of representation and reproduction (that is, "What sort of person are you going to pretend to be?") around which the mechanics and narrative of the game revolve.
Enough to get discussion started, I suppose. See you on the VGC forums and in the playthrough on Thursday! Don't forget to RSVP in the event section
, and add me on Skype (Roger.Travis), if you're planning on playing along!