I recently played Irrational Games’ Bioshock released in 2007. It was my first time ever playing the game, even if it was thirteen years later. Bioshock has aged quite while although there are some quirky fps mechanics. I didn’t mind that though, what kept me in the city of Rapture were the overall themes of the game and the world in which the game was built. Rapture is one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen in a video game. Bioshock deals with how the player’s choices define the in game protagonist Jack and in turn how our own choices define who we are as people I believe. The ending is absolutely reliant on the choices I made and how I treated others throughout the game. Big Daddies don’t attack the player on sight, only try to scare them away. Another theme I thought was strong was the criticism of the aspects of the American identity. Andrew Ryan wanted to create a utopia for the best and brightest of society only to run into the same problems he left behind. Without law or government, Rapture was supposed to be the answer for millions of people who just felt oppressed by the world. A giant middle finger to Uncle Sam. A city of “true freedom.” Everyone wants to have success in life. Make a lot of money, have a nice house, a nice car, and to just live life to the fullest. To make the most of each day and each opportunity given. Bioshock uses the American identity and deconstructs the concept as a whole. American identity doesn’t have a specific form, it comes in many different forms. Bioshock made me invest in the themes of the game and care for the message behind it. Mary Flanagan has a quote from Michel Foucult in her book, Critical Play-Radical Game Design that I believe applies to Bioshock perfectly: “By the madness which interrupts it, a work of art opens a void, a moment of silence, a question without answer, provokes a breach without reconciliation where the world is forced to question itself.(1)” Rapture is flawed. Deeply flawed. Even in the great “utopia” of Rapture, there’s still a societal ladder. There are still people doing measly jobs like waiting tables or washing dishes while others are living among the elite of Rapture. If Rapture is where the best of the best are and on equal footing, even the people doing such insignificant work are bound to be upset. They’ve risen to the top only to fall from grace. Rapture is beautiful yes, but there are also signs of decay. The city undergoes a war for ADAM, a substance that gives the protaginist Jack his abilities. (ADAM is what powers Vigors.) Rapture collapses in on itself. The citizens started to question the ideology of the underwater utopia. It didn’t seem as great as it looked. Bioshock pleasantly surprised me with how deep the themes run in the game and how well it ties the lore together. The American Identity is whatever we make of it.
GameArmy, July 6th 2016.
Flanagan, Mary. “Critical Play-Radical Game Design.” The MIT Press. 2009. https://webcourses.ucf.edu/courses/1373982/files/85592617?module_item_id=14442107. Web. Accessed March 23rd.