So a few weeks after posting a post about never finishing or "beating" video games, I... completed one. Go me.
That game was Bioshock Infinite, and I feel in many ways that this might be the best game I've ever played. (According to the Internet, I'm... not alone in this, lol.)
I won't bore you with my fangirling over this several-year-old game.
But there's a part of the game that has really stuck with me, and gave me feels like no other game has ever managed to.
It's probably not the bit you're expecting, either.
So, I got Bioshock Infinite on sale on Steam, and I didn't really know what it was about. I'd played the first two Bioshocks, and figured this was just more of the same.
Now, Bioshock and Bioshock 2 take place in a crumbling, decaying underwater utopian city that's pretty much entirely populated by strung-out junkies. Junkies who attack you on sight.
They're not good people. They're not at all sympathetic. And they don't really have any, like, redeeming features. If you empathize closely with the splicers, you... might want to seek professional help, methinks.
Well, it turns out Bioshock Infinite doesn't take place in the waterlogged remains of an underwater Eden, but in the apparently thriving, superficially vibrant floating utopian city in the clouds, Columbia.
So at the beginning of the game, I get dumped into this city, having no idea what to do or what to expect. And the player character, Booker, doesn't, either. So we wander the city and learn how the game world and mechanics work. The tutorial part of the beginning of the game is one of the best I've ever seen, quite honestly. One of the least intrusive, most natural executions. I loved it.
Then, suddenly, the plot kicks off. In front of a crowd you're arrested and accused of being the false prophet foretold to come to destroy Columbia. It doesn't seem to be true. It's a preposterous idea. You're just there to do a job, however reluctantly. The player character would surely know if they were a false prophet... right?
And more to the point, this whole prophet/false prophet thing is clearly bunk. Right?
So, police grab you, and are about to take you away and execute you. You fight free. Panic and mayhem ensue. The crowd of innocents flee...
And more cops show up. They don't want to negotiate. They don't want to talk. They don't want you to surrender. They just want you to die, False Prophet that (they think) you are.
Spare me the inevitable diatribes. I generally like the police. Yes there are bad apples. There were probably many more bad apples back in 1912. I know. I know.
You can't really hide, or run away. You have to fight. I did. I killed the first group of cops that responded. I felt bad about it. Like, really bad. They were just doing their jobs. They had no idea what was going on. They're been brainwashed into thinking I was some sort of false prophet bent upon the destruction of everything they'd been taught to love.
One of the police officers was a woman. I... shot her in the face, reflexively.
And I don't really know why, exactly, but that for some reason was the single most gut-wrenching, feeling-inducing moment I've ever experienced in a video game. I don't think it was just because the character was a woman, some sort of neo-Victorian sexist prudery. Half the splicers in Rapture are women, and I felt no compulsions about burning, electrocuting, or shooting them. But, like I said, they're unsympathetic strung-out drug addicts.
But a cute woman in uniform, doing her job, acting over what I was sure was some sort of insane misunderstanding... killing her affected me more deeply than however many hundreds of splicers I must have killed in the first two games.
A couple weeks later, I've finished the game. A lot more virtual woman have died at my hands. None affected me anything like how the first one did.
Maybe I'm just a sap. Maybe I have some sort of weird subconscious sexist ideas that male cops are pigs but women ones aren't. I don't really know.
Whatever the cause, whatever the combination of factors that conspired to cause it, the whole experience has been kind of oddly unsettling. More than anything else, it's made me think a lot about the weird ways, and the extent to which, video games can evoke emotions.
And for that reason, if nothing else, I recommend you play Bioshock Infinite, if you haven't already. I don't play a lot of games, so I'm not really an expert on how many spontaneous provoke hardcore feels, but I'm pretty confident that games which make you think about more than weird things like "how big are coins in this world if ten of them weigh a pound?!" are very rare indeed.
back up to the main page