Speculative Politics

So, the presidential debates were Wednesday night, and after that I’m not sure I want to venture into further weighty matters such as world crafting this week.  So, let’s diverge a little into some nostalgia of what the last four years has brought us mixed with a healthy dose of fanboy anticipation that this next year will bring more of the same.

Of course, I’m talking politics.  Politics as rendered in the beautiful vintage science-fiction worlds of Bioshock, that is!  I mean, why watch two presidential candidates spar as avatars for competing ideologies when you can actually fight the extremes of each ideology yourself, with genetically engineered mutant powers!

Really.  Which sounds more fun?

Let’s take a trip down youtube lane.  Yes, this is a somewhat lazy post this week.  Sheesh.

Bioshock 1 came in 2007, at the end of Bush’s presidency.  I had not yet read Atlas Shrugged or been at all exposed to Ayn Rand.  I enjoyed the heck out of its Art Deco underwater city of Rapture, but in hindsight the nods to Rand are obvious.  Instead of the typical trailer or smattering of action sequences, here is the first four minutes of the game… the Atlas Shrugged imagery is obvious.

“Is man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow?  No, says the man in Washington–it belongs to the poor.  No, says the Vatican–it belongs to God.  No, says the man in Moscow–it belongs to everyone…”–Andrew Ryan

Good stuff:

It’s an example of a city that was originally built on Randian principles gone horribly wrong.  There’s a difference between Rand’s rational self-interest which is reciprocal (an Objectivist would not take advantage of someone else–nothing is for free) and real-world selfishness.  In Bioshock, the people became addicted to genetic enhancement (by use of the substance called Adam, packaged in cocktails called plasmids) and improvement until they couldn’t stop.  They went insane, modifying themselves until they mutated into monsters, known as “splicers” (re. genetic splicing).  (SPOILER) In the end, Andrew Ryan is not really the antagonist.  His expectations for human virtue was too high.  And your benefactor, Atlas, wasn’t really your friend.

The game started with a high-suspense terror feel to it, and there were creepy moments throughout.  As it turns out, little girls, called “little sisters”, are the harvesters of what Adam remains in the city, protected by the Big Daddies.  When you kill a Big Daddy, you have the moral choice of freeing the girl and getting less Adam, or harvesting her because you need the Adam to survive.  Yep, this game lets you kill little kids.  I picked the moral route, but in the end it didn’t really make all that difference to how the story ends.  Having saved the little sisters, the interlude teaser to the second game follows:

So, if you want to go survive and fight against a horror world based on rampant capitalism, Bioshock is the game for you.

If, however, you would rather survive and face off with the horrors of rampant collectivism, the second one of the series should scratch the itch.

Bioshock 2 came under Obama’s presidency.  Ironically enough, we find that after Andrew Ryan is gone, one of the other higher-ups in the city was a closet communist, a collectivist of the worst sort.  She (Dr. Lam) has forced a communist society on the remaining mutants in the city, and the player comes back as a different character this time:  A Big Daddy.

I’m still working on this game.  It was a casualty of deployment time when it came out.  I got back into it recently in light of the current political election time, but then Borderland’s 2 came out.  I watched my wife play it, and it reveals more of Rapture’s back story, including the social life they had before things went horribly wrong (prior to Bioshock 1).  Dr. Lam’s collectivist propaganda reminds me a bit of the Rand book Anthem.

Most exciting, next year we’ll see the 3rd of the series, Bioshock Infinite.  Apparently we’re moving to a city in the clouds, leaving the underwater city of Rapture behind.

And to close, an interview discussing the vertical, roller-coaster based combat to come.  Looks neat!

And with that, folks, see y’all next week!

Cheers,
Kyle

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