Grzegorz Maziarczyk: Playable Dystopia? Interactivity and Narrativity in BioShock and BioShock Infinite
Playable Dystopia? Interactivity and Narrativity in BioShock and BioShock Infinite
Contemporary culture, both high-brow and popular, abounds in dystopian tropes, as attested by numerous books and films which place the protagonist in a society considerably worse than ours. It thus should not come as a surprise that this dystopian strand, if not turn, can also be observed in a cultural form that has become immensely popular in recent decades, that is video games. The dystopian convention provides an especially fitting fictional framework for the genre called first-person shooter. The first-person in the term refers to the perspective adopted by the player: he/she perceives the fictional universe through the eyes of the character he/she is playing; the shooter points to his/her basic task, which is to kill an endless supply of nameless enemies. By definition the player is thus pitted against an adverse environment, though, naturally, this basic set-up is not in itself a sign of a particular game’s dystopian nature. For a video game to become a dystopia, its setting must be developed to an extent that allows reconstruction of its social dimension. This is precisely what happens in the acclaimed BioShock and BioShock Infinite video games, developed under the creative direction of Ken Levine. They are set in complex fictional universes and the player’s experience of the game involves his/her exploration of the dystopian characteristics of the world they depict. Released in 2007, BioShock is set in the post-apocalyptic underwater city of Rapture,...
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