RE:Play Bioshock

RE:Play Bioshock

Okay, how many of you would inject yourself with a random bottle of Glowing Red Shit just because some guy on a radio, who you have never seen before, said you should? — Cataline Sergius

This is an oldie I decided to brush the dust off of and tack up here.

Bioshock is now ten years old.  Wow, think about that for a second. That much time has crept up on us since the first Bioshock game came out.

2007 was a different world.  Twitter existed but no one was polluting the world with it.  America had not yet endured the misery of a single day of Obama in the White House. You could still play Captain Kirk with a clamshell cell phone.  And PC gaming was on life support.

PC gaming was over back then.  Everybody knew it.  Consoles ruled the electronic highway with an iron hand. Game devs regarded the PC market as a backwater that was clearly dying out.  You can’t really say they were wrong either.

At that time PCs constituted about fifteen percent of the gaming market.  Enough that it was still worth porting games from consoles but not enough to pour resources into making games specifically for them. About the only original game, I can think of that was a PC only release that year was Command & Conquer 3. My point is that everyone was convinced that PC games were dying out.  Given what they knew at the time, it wasn’t a bad bet.

Games were designed and built with consoles and only with consoles in mind.  PC ports were apparently something that were deeply resented and performed only grudgingly.  When they were done at all.

Enter Bioshock.  A Game of the Year that no one on Earth plays anymore. There is more than one reason for that.

The 2007 PC port of Bioshock was a disaster.  While PC graphics were better than on consoles, who the fuck cared? Because it was almost impossible to make the bitch run.  Your only real hope for getting Bioshock to run reliably on a PC was to install it on a brand new computer and never do any updates…on anything.   I spent many an hour on gaming forums trying to find out what reconfiguration would finally do the trick. I got to go through the usual infuriating ritual of seeing an exact description of my problem, a few suggestions offered, and then the original poster saying, “nevermind, I fixed it.” THREAD LOCKED

I eventually did get it to run by the way.  And played it through to the end a couple of times just to unlock the various endings.

Time passed and my disk copy of the game got damaged.  The next time I switched computers I didn’t bother to replace it. It wasn’t worth it to me.

So about three years ago (2014) I picked up Bioshock for a song on a Steam Sale.  Once again I couldn’t get it to run and this time I said, “fuck it.” Uninstalled and walked away a little annoyed about wasting five bucks.

However, last week I saw a new sticker on my old Bioshock tab that said Bioshock Remastered.  It was free, so on a whim, I hit Install.

This time it actually loaded and ran without any trouble at all.  Which was a refreshing change.

What was not refreshing was the game itself.

Back in 2007, the Doom Clone had morphed into the much more console friendly FPS game.  Speed and precision were replaced by cover tactics, due to the clunky, inaccurate, and slow console controller. Every game was intrinsically stuck on easy mode if you were PC gamers.

Fans of the Doom Clones got bored fast.

Gaming had other problems as well.  

Gamer Gate got it’s start in the 1990s.  Gaming mags were taking off but had a major problem.  A typical review usually read something like, “This is a good game. I like it very much.”  There would follow two or three pages of technical prattle and that would be it. 

Editors decided that they could either teach gamers how to write or teach writers to play games.  They made the wrong call.

Writers could learn to play games no problem but it would never be their passion.  Writers care about characters, plotting and story structure.  They find game mechanics dull and tedious. They liked good graphics though.  They were super keen on those.

Oh and left wing politics, so you had better have those too.

Consequently, they started reliably giving good reviews to games  with a good story line that leaned left and looked pretty. 

Bioshock passed these tests with flying colors.  I will grant that at the time I actually enjoyed the game.  The Anti-Randite politics were annoying but I so used to being bombarded by lefty messages I barely objected to them back in 2007.  

And the producers had clearly studied up on Rand.  It was a Cliff’s Notes version of Objectivism by someone who clearly hated Objectivism but they got a lot of it right.  You can even make the argument (weak as it is) that Andrew Ryan’s betrayal of Objectivist philosophy was what lead to the Fall of Rapture.    

There were attempts at making characters that were multi-dimensional.  Like the insane Sander Cohen who ruled Fort Frolic and would have made the Joker envious with his dedication to “Art.” There was Ryan’s close friend Bill McDonagh who eventually tries to kill Ryan to save Rapture and is executed for it.  Then there was Brigid Tenenbaum an Aspie-Russian-Jewish-Nazi-War Criminal, (trying a bit hard there guys) who eventually discovers her humanity through her maternal instinct.  

The second levels is in some ways the most interesting part of the story.  As it traces the rejection of Ryan’s atheism by the common workers for Christianity.  However, this is not, and was never meant to be a Christian story.  The underground Christians are clearly to be viewed as desperate, ignorant, and pitiable.  And you never hear about them or Christianity again for the rest of the game.

The interesting thing about this game and indeed about all of the Bioshock games is that they are all about paternal relationships.  

And about Nihilism.  Let’s not forget about that.  Atlas turned out to be a conman who just wanted to take over the joint.  “Never believe in anything,” is the battle cry of this series.

Bioshock isn’t that a good game and that is the truth of it.  It’s an FPS built with consoles in mind. The action is slow and clunky. The automatic regeneration feature makes the combat pretty much pointless.  The Adam/Plasmids thing may as well be magic.  The mini-games are just annoying.

But then it was never really meant to be a game, now was it?

Bioshock was always an interactive movie.  The game part just came along for the ride.

As for the Remaster itself.  They honestly didn’t need to put the work into it that they did. So, I suppose that was kind of nice of them. Just making the game actually playable would have been enough. However, they have sharpened up the graphics quite a bit. They added little things here and there, like starfishes on the walkways and a school of jellyfish that I don’t remember being there.  And a walkthrough Museum of stuff that was cut in development. Also, a director’s commentary that I refuse to listen to on general principle.  None of this adds to or improves the gaming experience because it can’t.  Bioshock is at its core a weak game.

2007 will be a decade ago in about 30 days. Obama is about to vanish off the stage never to be heard from again. Almost every cell phone is now a computer.  And Computer Gaming not only isn’t extinct it will have exceeded console game sales by a billion dollars this year.  Now everyone is murmuring about the looming death of the console, (I got that one wrong).

 Steam has rebuilt the entire PC gaming market. There are independent games all over the place.  Tales from the Borderlands have drawn a deeper line between games and interactive movies. And you can find actual Doom Clones again. YAY!!!

I had to ask myself.  Is this why the rebuild of Andrew Ryan’s world feels so unsatisfying?  And I decided, no, that wasn’t it.  The reason I don’t like it is much simpler.

Bioshock was never that good in the first place.  It was overrated because of its Left-wing politics.  That was what it really brought to the party.  That is what the media truly loved about it.  It was a simple, very easy game with hard-left politics as it’s core belief.

Okay, I’m done here.

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