Tragic Possibilities: A Conversation About Bioshock Infinite

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Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    Hmmm doesn’t sound very appealing frankly. And I say that as an enormous fan of Bioshock one and two.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
      Ignored
      says:

      At least listen to the song.

      The videogame, just as a straight-up videogame, never gets worse than “competent” and manages, at times, to be quite fun.

      It’s the message of the game that makes me say “well… I hope that Bioshock Aleph does a better job of saying what it wants to say.”Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        it’s a lot better than 2, and the combat is a lot better than one. the rails are a lot of fun to use in particular. and hard is really the only mode to play on.

        though nothing will ever top the first game’s intro, and the forest speech. after the forest speech i had my own “i wish we didn’t have to shoot people in shooters” moment because andrew ryan had hella style.

        i do think there’s a bit of silliness to the general theme of “why does a shooter have to involve shooting” that’s been coming through in essays across los internetos. i kind of understand where it’s coming from (the environments in this game are its biggest strength) but i also feel like there’s a certain amount of world-weariness that’s only aimed at the fps genre. you never see anyone asking why platformers don’t have more branching dialogue trees. and i’m presuming most of them have played dear esther? or amnesia?

        the plot of bioshock infinite is not really that good, though the experience of it certainly is, and i thought it’s seemingly stuck-on explanation of why these worlds exist was actually pretty decent. i would defend it as being pretty clever, and the idea of branching realities only connected because of the weird time tear quirks of a few mutants was fairly easy to swallow. and the post-credits end was suitably up in the air. second chances are rare, after all.

        i do wish they hadn’t tried to scientize it. and crazed ghosts was a bit much.

        comstock was not sinister enough for a floating sky war machine hyperchristian hitler, though. that much is true. perhaps his resignation came from knowing his reality was merely one of so very many realities, and in this one he was merely a foil rather than a savior.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to dhex
          Ignored
          says:

          “[T]he plot of bioshock infinite is not really that good, though the experience of it certainly is,” is pretty close to how I feel.

          I think that the tears could have provided a mechanic that would have helped balance out the shooty elements to make the experience feel more balanced, and help overall to compliment the story the game tried to tell, and the environment it tried to tell it in.

          Is there anything wrong with making a shooter? No. And we should critique the game that was made, not the one we would have wanted–but in this case I think Bioshock Infinite is itself split on how much it wanted to embrace its nature as a shooter (re: Booker) and comes off as schizophrenic to me as a result, and not in a good way.Report

          • Avatar dhex in reply to Ethan Gach
            Ignored
            says:

            “Is there anything wrong with making a shooter? No. And we should critique the game that was made, not the one we would have wanted–but in this case I think Bioshock Infinite is itself split on how much it wanted to embrace its nature as a shooter (re: Booker) and comes off as schizophrenic to me as a result, and not in a good way.”

            i can see that a bit but i think some of this (in the larger sphere) is driven by notions of what a “shooter” is i.e. it’s call of duty, not call of pripyat. a shooter is not supposed to have a compelling story, etc, though we can find dozens of uses of the format to claim otherwise – deus ex, thief, crysis, etc etc and so on.

            heck even the first modern warfare at least tried, and i can defend no russian kinda sorta maybe.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to dhex
              Ignored
              says:

              If a shooter doesn’t have a compelling story, I’m probably not going to play it.
              I’ve played one shooter without a decent story, and that was because it did wonderful architecture.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to dhex
          Ignored
          says:

          i do think there’s a bit of silliness to the general theme of “why does a shooter have to involve shooting” that’s been coming through in essays across los internetos.

          I think that most of this is due to the quality/experience of a lot of the stories being told by these first person shooters. I have a friend who is all thumbs. He can’t really play shooters on any level except the easy ones (and even *THAT* is frustrating). He really, really wanted to play Bioshock but… well, it was a mess for him. He ended up watching most of the big scenes on the youtube.

          Give him a Rogue-like? He’s a genius.

          Personally, I think that Fallout 3/NV did a great job with this. The addition of adding VATS turned an FPS into a Turn-Based Strategy Shooter. To *EVERYBODY’S* benefit.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            ROFL.
            A friend of mine designs games. His friends build games that he quite simply cannot play (bit of a klutz). Then they promise him awesome things that he really, really wants if he can win.

            I think i’d like a turnbased strategy shooter better, myself.Report

          • Avatar dhex in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            “I think that most of this is due to the quality/experience of a lot of the stories being told by these first person shooters.”

            i kinda wonder, though, because most of these stories are really terrible. they’re certainly not literature. the play’s the thing, ya know? it’s what makes “my story” different from “the story”, though with something like b:i i guess it’s both moot and kind of the point.

            i feel his pain, as i suck at strategy games. i’m missing out, but no matter how hard i try crusader kings 2 eludes me.

            vats was an ok sort of solution (i really liked new vegas because obsidian are macks; fallblivion not so much) but it wasn’t particularly strategic, just slow.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to dhex
              Ignored
              says:

              Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Thief/Thief 2/Thief 3
              all tell fantastic stories, in the realm of first person shooter/sneaker games.Report

              • Avatar dhex in reply to Kimmi
                Ignored
                says:

                i feel “fantastic” is pushing it if you take the plot divorced from the experience of it. a book version of deus ex is basically a terrible story. the experience of deus ex is, however, something else entirely. a good experience is vastly more important than the narrative elements.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to dhex
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah. Gameplay first, as the devs say. But part of the strength of a video game is it puts you /right there/, inside the narrative.

                School Days, Eidelweiss, heck, Hatoful Boyfriend, all do better as actual stories. But that’s no surprise, they’re basically textual games.Report

  2. Avatar NewDealer
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t have the brain for video game plots. It all sounds very convoluted and disjointed to me.

    The same reaction happened when someone was trying to describe the plot of Injustice League as being dark, wicked awesome, and complex. It just sounded silly.Report

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