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Friday, August 2, 2013

Toxic Movie-First Philosophies

By RAWKHAWK2010 - Or how BioShock Infinite infinitely wasted my time.

So as y'all may know, I'm not a gameplay-first person and I don't adhere to toxic gameplay-first philosophies. I like art style, music, characters, world-building, and narrative — and believe they should be valued just as much as "gameplay" so that the player can feel like they're truly a part of a game's world. 

However, feeling like you're truly part of something requires at least some sense of control and awareness. Video games are an invaluable medium for story-telling because, barring those Choose Your Own Adventure books no one reads, they're the only one that allows you to venture through the narrative in a way that's from your own perspective. YOU'RE the one responsible for moving through the story and doing all the stuff it entails.

Some games would rather not grant you that liberty, though. A few months ago I bought this game called BioShock Infinite by Irrational Games. Why? I guess I don't really know. Maybe I just wanted to give this "overly-pretentious AAA game" thing that has dominated the past console generation a chance. Or maybe I wanted it because it's rooted in steampunk, the (normally) coolest sci-fi genre ever.

Anyway, right out of the gate BioShock Infinite seems as if its primary motive is to make sure the player never has the slightest clue of what's going on, nor does it present the player with a "hook" to make them want to. In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the game makes you like Zelda so that the player (not only Link) has motivation to want to go on a dozens-hour quest to save her when she gets kidnapped. In Infinite, not even the PROTAGONIST knows why he's doing what he's doing, much less the player. All you have to go on is the message, "Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt." (I don't know who this "girl" is or what this "debt" is; I just wish I could "wipe away the debt" I went into from buying this game!)

And the best part? None of this pretentious crypticness is in any way complemented by the gameplay. The gameplay is as unsophisticated as your typical Call of Duty, with the game's admittedly nice-looking locations acting as nothing more than barren corridors filled with generic infidels you have to...shoot. And shoot. And shoot. (I know I'm not supposed to care about gameplay and all, but surely something more creative than the milked-to-kingdom-come generic FPS cow could have been chosen to take advantage of Infinite's movie sets. In fact, the FPS gameplay really couldn't have resonated any more shittily with the rest of the game. Your weapons are either superpowers basically ripped from the first BioShock or boring guns that don't even look steampunky. (At least they got the zeppelins right. We could have had an early-1900's zeppelin-based racer!))

NeoGAF Shitpost Shitposts Twitter Shawn Elliot BioShock Infinite
Maybe if Shawn Elliot had spent less time retweeting my "shit post" and more time doing his job as Infinite's level designer, the levels could have actually been things beyond glorified shooting galleries.

Despite aimlessly shooting dudes (or when not doing that, digging through trash cans for foodstuffs ala local vagabond Dancing Earl) for eight hours all while being aided by a girl named Elizabeth who viciously yelled at me for saying I was only rescuing her to pay off a debt (even though I told her the exact same thing literally fifteen minutes earlier and she was okay with it), knocked me unconscious, and ran away/went crazy/got kidnapped more times than I can remember, my entire experience was supposed to be redeemed with the gigantic text-dump in the last twenty minutes of the game that explains all of what just happened. Which is, it turns out the villain dude is actually my dude in the future. The future villain dude becomes sterile (which the game never even tries to explain), and so he hires a quantum physicist dude to go back in time and kidnap the child (who turns out to be Elizabeth) of his past self (aka my dude) so that he can raise her to uphold and pass on the ideals of his pseudo-Christian empire. This happens, and Elizabeth's pinky gets sliced off by the dimensional tear leading back to future villain dude's time which grants her these same tear powers she uses over the course of the game, and then the villain dude realizes that the quantum physicist dude actually just traveled back in fucking time and and that that's kind of a big deal, so he kills him. But since the quantum physicist dude had already mastered the secrets of time and space, he simply respawns from one of existence's infinite™ realities and, with aid from a female version of himself that he met somewhere, the quantum physicist duo dudes then decide to extract revenge on my dude's future self dude by getting my present-day dude to seize my daughter back that they stole from me in the first place.

But even with the future villain version of my dude quickly becoming old news after I baptize him in his own blood, apparently him even possibly existing in other universes is still a problem in need of rectifying. So since me and future villain dude are one and the same, the game ends with my own daughter drowning me. You know, to prevent my future self from ever being a thing. Of course, with infinite™ universes there's theoretically still a universe or two where my daughter doesn't drown me so I'm not quite sure how that prevented anything at all. And neither does the game, since there's a post-credits scene of my dude in his house with Elizabeth as a baby — despite me being the literal definition of "non-existence" mere minutes ago. 
(At least the ending of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness had an explanation when it pulled the same stunt.)

When you take a step back and realize that this was basically a Hollywood motion picture with FPS gameplay thrown in at the last minute so that it could actually be sold as a video game, BioShock Infinite is certainly a breath of fresh air for your typical dudebro. Having to analyze the various plotholes that come with time-travel wizardry and dimension-hopping is a few notches above flying cars in Grand Theft Auto and the Zombies mode in Call of Duty, aka things that were once the most fantastical of dudebro experiences. Thusly, the callow and unworldly dudebro will appreciate this game because he'll think he's just been penetrated by the Peter North of video game story-telling. (Just like how someone who knows nothing about comic books, movies or slightly nerdish pop-culture in general will fall in love with the cum stain on the teeth of television that is The Big Bang Theory.)


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