Bioshock: Shocking Advances Through the World of Rapture Part 5

“Games do not need to make sense to be fun.”  In the video game I have been playing this quarter, a man travels down to an underwater city, gains super powers (like the ability to shoot swarms of bees out of his hand), and harvests mutated sea slugs out of little girls.  It is, without a doubt, one of the most engaging, interesting, and fun video games I have played.  Granted, my video game experience is limited, but the nonsensical plot line of the game adds to my enjoyment.

However, there is more to Bioshock then a slightly bizarre plotline that contributes to the game ‘not making sense.’  This week’s focus was on time in the video game.  Juul claims that time in a video game is chronological; his argument for this is that:
A) flash forwards presume a player’s actions to be predetermined and thus irrelevant to the narrative
B) flashbacks  only work if they are not interactive, thus avoiding an instance where the player altered the events of the future whilst back in time.
This argument is valid and applicable to Bioshock; when Ryan explains to Jack that he has been conditioned by Atlas, there is a flashback to all of the instances when the phrase “would you kindly” was used.  This is shown via a cutscene.  If the player was able to manipulate Jack during the flashbacks, it would alter the continuity of the game.

While the timeline of a game is fairly chronological, there are many instances in a game in which the game time in manipulated.  One instance that I was very familiar with was that of the save game.  A player may choose to save mid-game and continue, or the player can access a saved game at the main menu.  The save game interrupts the game play, and allows the player to traverse backwards through time.  Unlike interactivity during a flashback, a save game doe s not alter a previously created game future.  It deletes that future and creates a new one.   This is certainly something that I was thankful for in the playing of Bioshock.  Yes, going back and starting over at a previous saved point does  work against the idea of a game providing a complete immersive experience; while I am reminded that I am indeed playing a video game, I am a lot happier with this reminder compared to the alternative: dying (which I did a lot of) and being forced to start over an entire level from the beginning. A second instance of the manipulation of game time is when the player pauses a game.  Pausing can allow the player to access different menus, and gives the player the power to stop time completely.  This can be utilized by the player here as an example of emergent play; while playing Bioshock, I would frequently pause the game in order to access the map, game hints, and the game help screen.  Again, the non-diegetic operator act of the pausing of the game further deteriorates the immersive quality of the video game.  However, there are diegetic operator acts that alter the flow of time in the video game.  One such act is the transition from one game state to another, facilitated by an event trigger.  In Bioshock, actionable objects lead to the transition from the exploration state (wandering around Rapture) to the hacking state.  When the player is hacking one of the security bots or vending machines, time functions in a completely different way.  The player has a time limit that is irrelevant to the exploration state; time in the exploration state has come to a standstill and is only resumed when the player has finished in the hacking state.  Juul concludes his article by stating, “Many of the games mentioned… work against the idea of immersion, because their discontinuous times and worlds point strongly to themselves as being games rather than fictional environments.  This, however, does not make them any less enjoyable.”  In agreement, I say that the goal of the video game is not to produce an entirely accurate simulation of real life; the manipulation of time in the video game can be acknowledged without claiming that this manipulation detracts from the fun factor of the game


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