(Originally posted September 21st, 2016)
My first experience with the BioShock franchise came years before I actually found the games. Instead, I learned the lore from random quotes, videos, and audio clips. Rapture: a city run on a variant of Objectivism. And back then, being a kid with a bit of an unchecked ego, I found the idea appealing. What if, like Rapture attempted, humanity took the best and brightest and let them do whatever they wanted away from scrutiny and restriction and censorship? What a world could we make?
But then, after a while, the appeal faded away. Not a workable philosophy in my day-to-day life, so discarded. Objectivism I “objected” to–if you’ll forgive the wordplay.
But the game came back around. In a store, there BioShock Infinite sat. I wasn’t the one who bought it either, a friend did. And I traded off The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for it. It was a temporary trade.
A month or so later, I bought my own copy of BioShock Infinite.
Let me tell you that my experiences playing the BioShock games were…intense. Crying at a scream intense. It changed some of my most basic preferences in storytelling. From one game sparked new wants. Now, I’ve loved Dystopian Fiction since a young age. Brave New World I digested. And forgive me for sounding hipster-like, but I was reading The Hunger Games way before it became a movie series. I’ve read many books in this subgenre of science fiction. And, to this day, I am still a sucker for a good story about a town, city, or world gone wrong.
So when it all showed up in one game—the Brave New World of games–not only did it spark that flame, it found new heights of heat.
Those new wants I mentioned? They were and are for deconstruction and meta ideas. Suddenly, in my head, stories could be about stories. They could not only tell the tales of characters and plots; they could bend the very idea of what we consider storytelling. Snap and twist the fabric of it all. Force us to look at ourselves, and not in a philosophical way, but in a “what are you taking for granted right now?” sort of way.
The BioShock franchise is sprawling, multi-layered, and brilliant. And also re-released at the moment (hence why it is at the forefront of my mind). And I wanted to just explain, in however small a way, that I consider it one of the driving inspirations for my own work. I took away these things as lessons:
- That a story does not need to just be about the plot.
- That a good plot twist is hinted at in the first moments of a story, even if the actual reveal comes toward the end.
- That the best world building is told through people’s connections and day-to-day lives, not through blind narration.
- That nothing we hold as standard in a medium should ever be taken for granted.
I know, from what I’ve seen, that a lot of you who read this blog may not be gamers. I understand that. You may not have heard of this, but you should. This is not just a video game. This is perhaps one of the greatest creations in a medium. It should be more culturally relevant than it already is—despite the flaws it has. And it has flaws. But so does even the greatest things. And I can love it in spite of flaws.
I wanted to share this with you. Explore, perhaps, my personal central theme. I am a believer that when a person has written enough words, created enough things, they develop not only a preference but a few ideas they always are chasing. A few constants they, as artists, bring to the table.
Their “voice,” as we writers like to call it. And, though, I am still—in the grand scheme of things—a young creator with more growing to do, I think my “voice” includes talking about the nature of stories and how people fit into them. And how they can create, enrich, and destroy lives—sometimes all at once.
I love to deconstruct art and mediums and genre. I adore people who make the effort to peel at the artistic curtains we don’t even know are there. And BioShock let me look at my own layers and showed me something I want to explore—and for that I am truly grateful.
And I can’t wait to see what other creations might do the same down the road.