Monday, August 27, 2007

Save or Harvest

I am right in the middle of playing one of the more interesting video games I have played in a while. I didn't mention yet on this blog but I bought an Xbox 360 last month. Well, I didn't buy it. The credit union bought it and I am paying them at 14% interest.

The game I am playing is called Bioshock. Since you are reading this on the internet there is a good chance you have come across a reference to this game. It's a pretty big hit. In fact, it has the most active message board on the website Gamefaqs. (Gamefaqs is a great place to get a good impression of how a game actually plays. If I had been paying attention I probably would have bought the NCAA football game put out by EA Sports instead of buying Madden.) If you haven't heard about Bioshock there is a good description of the game at Wikipedia. Long story short: It's 1960 and you are trapped in an undersea dystopia. You have to augment your genetics to get through because the inhabitants of the city have all gone insane. They've gone insane because of the same genetic modifications.

If you have been following the phenomenon that is Bioshock you have probably heard about how you murder little girls in the game. The actual story is that you are given the option to free the little girls or kill them. Freeing them or killing them gives you something called ADAM. ADAM is a substance that allows you to gather more power and abilities to yourself. These increases will allow you to get through the game. I have to assume that, like most games, it gets harder or more complicated as you go on. This requires you to augment your character. Killing them gives you more ADAM than freeing them. I have had to make this choice twice and I have freed the girls each time. I am surprised someone like Drudge hasn't ran with this story. The mishandling of this aspect of the game by a right wing wacko could really have some legs as a fake story about the violence of video games. Thankfully, that hasn't happened yet. By adding this choice to the game I think the designers were really trying to create a game that is more than just shooting bad guys and moving through cleverly designed maps.

The first time I came across one of the "Little Sisters," as they are called in the game, I had one of the most unique moments I've ever experienced in a video game. My character was burnishing a shot gun and this little giant eyed girl screamed in fright, crawled backwards on the ground away from me and begged me not to hurt her. How could I? I freed her, got less ADAM than I probably needed to get through the game. She thanked me effusively, crawled into a drainpipe and left the arena. One character said I did the right thing and the character that had been guiding me through the city on the radio told me I was a fool.

So far the gameplay has not been especially hard. It reminds me of the game based on the movie The Warriors. So far, like the Warriors game, it has not been particularly difficult. It's been challenging but not impossible. It's just a world that has been fun to explore.

What a world it is too. The design of this underseas city is 1960's art deco. The technology is advanced in a way that someone living in 1960 would picture advanced technology. For example, when you hack machines you don't mess with software. You open the guts of the machines and align glass tubing that allows some kind of plasma to flow through them.

I am pleased that this game is garnering a lot of attention from the gaming community. Not only is it receiving attention but it is selling well. I hope this will give more smaller developers a chance to get their games distributed. It seems to me that like most endeavors, quality does get rewarded in the video game market. The cream will rise to the top if it's given a chance.

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