Would you kindly… recognize the continued legacy of Irrational Games’ BioShock? Ha, that’s a trick question. You’ve actually had your free will stripped by Andrew Ryan, mastermind of the utopian-cum-dystopian underwater city Rapture, so yes, you certainly will recognize the greatness of BioShock. This is a very exciting day, for you. Released in 2007, BioShock reoriented the conversation of whether games could achieve a higher purpose beyond headshots, warlocks, and Italian plumbers.
The game did so through its repurposing of Ayn Rand’s objectivist allegory, Atlas Shrugged. However, whereas Rand’s diatribe against socialism leads to a perfect world built by the perfect man, game director Ken Levine unspooled a tale that lays bare the hubris of Man. Andrew Ryan, in believing that he had found The Way, in actuality created a society fueled by hedonistic vanity, unchecked ambition, and extreme moral ambiguity. It was delicious in its depravity, and the utter corruption of the city was revealed beautifully through innovative narrative devices, such as the audio-logs strewn about levels. Yes, BioShock’s ending felt too predictable, but the game’s ultimate contribution to game stories cannot be denied.