Friday, January 11, 2008

How Much I Love Bioshock, or, How Much I Hate Objectivism

A couple of weeks ago I rented Bioshock, and, since I was ill at the time, I got to play a pretty sizable chunk of the game. For those of you who aren't in the know, Bioshock is an FPS taking you through Rapture, an underwater kingdom gone awry through genetic experimentation. It's ambient, atmospheric, terrifying. It's also one of (if not the) best game of the past year.
Understand, I'm not here to review the game, far from it. No, if you want to read how well-constructed it is, from its sheer entertainment value to its exquisite controls and graphics engine, be my guest. For some, it would be enough to say it utilizes the Unreal Engine superbly, but that is neither here nor there. No, today I'm going to reflect on why I enjoyed the game on a personal level. Oh, this is going to be fun.
See, back around the 40's there was this author name of Ayn Rand. Having emigrated from Soviet Russia to the States, she had a very particular view of economics. She developed her theories in her novels and sundry writings and called it Objectivism. You can research it for yourself at the Ayn Rand Institute website . It's a blast. For a summary, you can also check out The Simpsons episode "A Streetcar Named Marge". It's in the forth season. Look it up. For our purposes here, I'll just say I don't agree with such extreme and atheistic capitalism and have been an anti-Objectivist for quite some time now.
Which brings me back to Bioshock.
Bioshock takes place in a Randian Utopia at the bottom of the Atlantic. Brought to fruition by Andrew Ryan, Rapture was to be a place where man and man alone would individually reap the rewards of his own work. What he had belonged to him, and him alone. He was to strive for perfection in all things, including appearance, because that is moral. As a matter of fact, in Rapture, one could change anything about one's looks, which makes me wonder at everyone (save a scientist or two) being white. It was a celebration of "all for me" living. It was everything Rand would have wanted in the world.
Problem was, unchecked capitalistic abandon led to a few hitches: smugglers, cruel experimentation, mutation through genetic-enhancement abuse. The list goes on and on. By the time your character arrives, it is hell on earth, with monstrosities of all types running around eviscerating each other and, if you aren't careful, you. The upside is, it's the end of a world, and you have a wrench.
See, this is what I truly love about Bioshock: it puts right in the thick of everything wrong with lasseiz-faire economics and tells me to beat it to death with a wrench (and a wrench I upgraded to do cold damage, no less). I love it! Seeing how Socialist many of my views lean, what more could I ask of a game than to be unleashed upon evil capitalists with a shotgun? Answer: nothing.
This game eloquently, disturbingly, and powerfully comments on what would happen if any society chooses to leave each other to die for the good of the individual. Folks, we need to care about each other, and this is the heart of Bioshock. It's why you are rewarded for saving the Little Sisters (young girls turned into ghouls). It's why you need to help Atlas to save his family and himself. It's why we cannot allow ourselves to become too reflexive.
To me, that's the beauty of Bioshock. It points out how much we need to care about one another, politically and economically, lest we fall into decadent decay. And, to make its point, the game showcases masturbatory philosophy in all its sick grandeur and gives you one simple command, "Shoot it."

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