Thursday, November 14, 2013

My New Computer vs. BioShock Infinite

I really enjoy Steam. I think it's a wonderful service, and many would go so far as to say that it is single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of PC gaming. I might say that these people are being a bit reductive and are therefore ignoring the complex interplay between a number of contributing factors, but then I'd be missing my own point. Earlier this year, I noticed how big my library of games on Steam had grown, thanks to Steam sales and Humble Bundles. Yet, many of games had gone unplayed, often because I just didn't have a powerful enough machine.

I was filled with shame.

When my collection finally topped 300, I decided it was time to build a new computer. Thankfully, I was able to justify this by claiming—perhaps somewhat erroneously—that my laptop was reaching its age of retirement. Last week I ordered a bunch of parts from NewEgg and put together my very own, brand new, mid-tier (I think) gaming computer. And it was if the heavens themselves opened up and granted me access to the promised land within my Steam library.

It took me a couple of days to decide what game I would play first with my wonderful new joybox, but I eventually settled upon BioShock Infinite. I'm really, really glad that I did. It's possible that the reason I became so quickly enamored by the game is that it was my inaugural experience on a brand new machine, but that would make the airborne city of Columbia the perfect setting to experience in blissful high fidelity. The experience seems like a far cry from where I was three years ago, when I could *barely* struggle through Dragon Age: Origins on my laptop. Some experiences live or die by the technological constraints within which they operate. I guess this is one of those experiences.

The easiest thing to praise in BioShock Infinite is the setting itself. Much of the game takes place in Columbia which has a really colorful late-19th century motif, but there is plenty of technology that far outpaces what you would expect to see in 1912, which plays into the mystery of the floating city and its inhabitants. That's not to say that there aren't oppressive spaces like what I remember from the original BioShock, but the game certainly benefits from variation.

The setting plays really nicely into the thematic elements that are present in BioShock Infinite. After just a few minutes of wandering around and marveling at the city, I came to the infamous "negro wedding" scene. I think Irrational Games (the developer) had probably hoped that this scene would evoke some strong emotion, and I was absolutely stunned. In that single moment, I got a glimpse of the true evil of this cloudborn utopia, which gave some context to the brutal judgement that I enacted upon the local constabulary.

What ended up intriguing me the most about Columbia was the religious establishment that dominated the place. The city was dominated by this odd pseudo-Christian sect, propagated by a prophet named Father Comstock. Being a Christian myself, I was just a little creeped out by how plausible the whole scenario seemed (aside from the floating city bit). All it would take to pervert what is a positive force in my life is one charismatic figure with an agenda.

For the most part, I don't enjoy first person shooters. I usually find myself avoiding games that feature killing as the primary means of driving the narrative, so I'm still somewhat surprised that a game like BioShock Infinite could have me so hooked that I played though the entire game in one weekend. It is every bit as brutal as a something like Call of Duty or perhaps even Grand Theft Auto, but perhaps, the distinction is simply a matter of expectation. I can't imagine that there are many people who pick those games up because they're looking for an interesting narrative, at least no more than the primary draw of BioShock Infinite is the shooting (even though that part is really well executed). Honestly, I don't think I've ever played though a more well-paced and interesting narrative in a video game.


  1. Any chance you could go into your new PC a bit? I'm interested in building one myself and I'd like to see the guts!

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