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It has been about five and a half years since the first man took a step into the world of BioShock, falling from the sky into the ocean, swimming to a strange lighthouse and diving deep into the sea in a bathysphere. And while no one could be quite sure from those opening scenes what Rapture would hold, after the journey of BioShock was over, it was clear it would never be forgotten. Now that BioShock Infinite is on the near horizon, it's interesting to reflect on exactly what BioShock meant to this generation of gamers.
After its release in 2007, BioShock exploded into the popular culture, but why did it make such a huge impact? A large part of it was centered in the story. It isn't too often that a game, if a player gives themselves up to a world, can captivate them to such an extreme. I surrendered myself to BioShock, and what I got from it was a story that was on-par with great films, books, and other media. In the right conditions by pushing ideals to their extremes, BioShock shows that games can absorb you for more than just gameplay mechanics, and doesn't need to have a novel contained within to be strong. It had a strong atmosphere, and intuitive gameplay mechanics, which only enabled the story to be a driving force, which so many games set on the back burner. Nothing felt sacrificed to make a game which, while being a first-person-shooter, still was at its core a game about stories.
Atmosphere played a huge role in BioShock's landmark debut. Often games will establish an atmosphere, and let it thrive, but put in things like Easter eggs to be found, which can break suspension of disbelief. However to me, Rapture's integrity as a world was never compromised. Things that could be consider “Easter eggs” were still in BioShock, such as if the player never killed Sander Cohen after his section of the game. Later in the game, Sander Cohen can be found in an apartment, and when entering, there are two splicers dancing together that will not attack you. This was a treat to those who spared Cohen, but didn't feel forced; it made perfect sense in the story and yet was there for those who made a certain choice and followed it up. Irrational Games' treatment of a world is brilliant. They understand that when a world is created, it is almost out of their control, and even the developer must play by the rules they had previously created.
Here is where the soon to be released BioShock Infinite gets to prepare for the stage. We are no longer trapped under the ocean, where there is no escape but through the bathysphere. Soon we will be flying high in Columbia as Booker DeWitt, searching for a woman named Elizabeth who is imprisoned by a monster called “Songbird.” This radical new environment gives up the inherent darkness that the ocean's depths emit, and brings the story closer to the sun. Here they let ideals run free again, just like the original BioShock, and, until it is released, presumably to the same end. Much like Icarus flying too close to the sun, Columbia will show how certain ideals can destroy all that we call human. if they can push boundaries again, and let players see how some ideals, ideals that may be close to home for American players, can destroy all that is held dear, this game may be just as important as Ken Levine, the creative director of Irrational Games, believes it is, as well as possibly matching BioShock in terms of influence.
The expectations are high for Infinite, as new releases always are from brilliant companies. This game has the chance to truly make players think critically, which seems to be lost on most large releases in the video game world these days. The world is excited, and now we must wait. However of every game I've heard of to be released in the near future, this one holds the most value to me. While other releases may do things in a very cool way, this release may redefine how I view parts of the world, or possibly cement my views even farther. And if they are able to bring about philosophical discussions again and make the player feel, just as they did with BioShock, I have no doubt that this game will be incredibly important to the future of gaming.