Showing posts with label bioshock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bioshock. Show all posts

Monday, March 5, 2018

Level With Me, BioShock 1 (2007) complete

Last week I finished playing through all of BioShock 1 for my weekly level design let's play series Level With Me. My playthrough wasn't without its problems -- I was playing lazily and haphazardly, which means I relied on the same combat tactics all the time, and I also actively avoided exploring audio diaries / optional areas / player upgrade systems for the sake of brevity. Playing on easy mode also meant the boss encounters lost their pacing, and side areas remained unexplored instead of desperately scavenged for supplies.

Most people fondly remember BioShock for its narrative and setting, but I was consistently surprised with how much ol' fashioned game design went into it. Lots of classic hub-and-spoke level design, and several chains of fetch quests about looking for parts and materials -- remnants of an abandoned inventory / crafting system according to former BioShock dev JP LeBreton, who occasionally graced the broadcast with his presence and offered interesting trivia or context. I also played through the famous Fort Frolic chapter by BioShock 2 lead Jordan Thomas and felt strangely disappointed -- its scripted sequences and theatrical flourishes were interesting, and it made novel use of BioShock's "camera" mechanic, but the critical path overall felt a bit weightless. Again, I couldn't really play leisurely and explore the other 50% of Fort Frolic that was purely optional, so maybe also take my reactions with a grain of salt.

Monday, January 15, 2018

LEVEL WITH ME, Winter / Spring 2018 schedule: Tuesdays 2 PM EST

I've completed my winter hibernation and I'm gearing up for a new season of Level With Me, my livestream show where I play video games and talk about what I think the level design is doing.

Since I work as a teacher and I get a different schedule each semester, I have to change my broadcasting schedule every few months. Now for this first half of 2018, the new time will be Tuesdays, at around 1 or 2 PM EST (GMT-5). (Sometimes I start late.)

If you can't make it for the live broadcasts, then you can always check out the YouTube archive over here.

Before the hiatus last year, we were a few hours into BioShock 1. In the game, we had just gotten a shiny new camera, and we were taking fun photos of bloodthirsty monsters. My current plans are to try to get as far as Fort Frolic at least, and then re-assess my interest in continuing. See you soon!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ludonarrative dissonance doesn't exist because it isn't dissonant and no one cares anyway.

"I'm a living breathing person... but I'm just going to stand frozen in this spot forever. Also, I'm a tortoise."
I complained about Bioshock Infinite before. Here, I complain some more, because I really can't get over how bad this game is. Hopefully this'll be the last complaint post. I'm sorry.

Clint Hocking famously coined "ludonarrative dissonance" to describe moments when what's happening in a single player action game doesn't fit with what the game is telling you is happening -- maybe it's just plain wrong, maybe the tone doesn't match, or maybe the game thinks this thing is more interesting than it is -- either way, it doesn't quite work.

It's when you realize your sympathetic handsome male player character is a sociopathic mass murderer, or maybe when a character in an RPG "dies" despite having already died and revived dozens of times before, or maybe the brief instance when an elite soldier NPC glitches in the middle of a doorway despite all the boring game lore dumped on you. Sometimes it's intrinsic to making a game about killing people, sometimes you hope fridge logic kicks in, and sometimes it's a technical quirk you forgive.

But I feel like that theory doesn't explain what actually happens out in the field: if Bioshock Infinite was forged entirely, purposefully, from solid ingots of 100% pure ludonarrative dissonance, why didn't this annoy the shit out of everyone? Isn't ludonarrative dissonance supposed to be jarring and horrible? Why was the unusually unified critical response to Binfinite something like, "wow this game is colossally stupid," but the mainstream response was, "this is amazing"?

So I have a new theory -- most players do not find dissonance to be dissonant, and therefore ludonarrative dissonance doesn't really exist.

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Press F to Intervene": a brief history of the Use Key Genre

There are NO *detailed* spoilers for BioShock Infinite in this post, so relax. I try to speak in a really general / vague way about what happens in the last third of the game.

Can a game about picking the right hat to decrease your machine gun recoil by 45.2% -- can that game reasonably do the work of talking about what it's actually about, much less talk about what it thinks it's about?

No, of course not.

But if there's one image from BioShock Infinite that I'm going to remember, it's this:

Friday, February 17, 2012

The shadow of the white cloud: architecture criticism at the 1893 World’s Fair and BioShock Infinite.

I’m taking an architecture criticism class with Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic at the New Yorker. My interest in the class involves its intersection with video game architecture and virtual environments. This is my research, as cross-posted at the Games @ Parsons group research blog too.

While the original BioShock’s diegesis focused on objectivism and the dangers of uncontrolled capitalism, Infinite’s level architecture is more about the dangers of American exceptionalism as exemplified by the 1893 World's Fair.

In my architecture seminar, the story of the World's Fair was a bit more nuanced than that, and it goes something like this:

Monday, December 14, 2009

How to Close Read Video Games

Novels, poems, plays, short stories -- they all communicate meaning through the ways they use language and how the reader perceives the work as a whole. Even though they are fixed, static texts, vastly different readings and experiences are possible.

Is Hamlet sane, or is he secretly crazy even though he thinks he's sane? (After all, crazy people rarely think they're crazy.) Both sides (among others) have been argued, yet it's all focused on the same text. The difference is that you, personally, will find one reading more convincing than the other.

Games, meanwhile, communicate meaning through the ways they use gameplay mechanics and how the player perceives the work as a whole. Even though many of them are fixed, static spaces with only so many choices / branches, vastly different playthroughs and experiences are possible.