The Good Ol’ Bargain Bin
I have some catching up to do. A lot of it. When Steam was first recommended to me one of the first things I did was browse for older titles I never had a chance to play. Well now I know that G.O.G. is a better source for that, but that’s besides the point. With limited funds and a thirst to experience as many games as possible, the Steam sales have enabled a bloke like myself to stay at least relatively up to date with what’s been coming out over the past few years. This however has lead to my first world problem: I have too many games I haven’t finished yet.
About one year after purchasing it for next to nothing, I have finally got around to finishing BioShock. After reflecting a bit on it I’ve come to realize that I have not really talked a great deal with enthusiasts of the series (side note: I don’t like to use the word “fan” liberally, as it has connotations of fanaticism.) My eyes on BioShock were relatively fresh and mostly oblivious to the praises and criticisms of the series.
Those of us who are about to die…
I won’t go into great detail about my thoughts on the gameplay. To put it simply, I had mixed feelings about. My one major gripe was the checkpoint system which consisted of being miraculously revived at a station. In theory, with this system players could throw themselves at enemies like suicide bombers and still progress forward. Which is what I sometimes found myself doing. A lot. Every so often when there was a particularly taxing fight I would find myself using up the majority of my first aid kits only to realize that whether or not my health dropped to zero I was the only thing in Rapture that was truly immortal. Each time I died they would still be crippled and I could simply rush in again and finish them off. Perhaps this was meant to be a fail safe to prevent the player from being stuck in a no-win situation due to lack of resources.
The gameplay itself is not what held my attention the most. In fact more often than naught, I was hoping the game would slow down and let me look at the pretty fishies on the other side of the glass walls of Rapture. What truly lingered with me was the bond between the featured antagonists synonymous with BioShock: the Big Daddies and the Little Sisters. This probably won’t be a huge spoiler as their nature is mostly explained early on in the game. Little Sisters are genetically altered human girls guarded by deep sea diving Prometheans called Big Daddies. The player is given the option to obtain ADAM, the miracle substance of the series which is needed to help the player survive, by either rescuing Little Sisters from their mutated state (a long term investment) or harvesting them (a violent solution with short term benefits.) After my first slaying of a Big Daddy I held the child in my hands as she rebuked my pseudo-paedophile advances. As I watched the animation play out, I asked myself, “Can’t I just let them be?”
You sure smell good.
I started feeling a great deal of sympathy for the relationship between Little Sister and Big Daddy. Yes, the game makes it clear that in their current state they are essentially mutant slaves that don’t know right from wrong. And yet, they seemed so content to simply go about their business. With each successful defeat of a Big Daddy, I genuinely felt I had broken up a family unit. Despite the fact that father and daughter are acting in a way contrary to their normal human state, the game also mentions to us that the bond is created as a result of pheromones, conditioning, and sound signatures. Which brings me to ask the game, “Is that not how relationships, in their most basic biological sense, evolve from the moment we are born?” A baby slowly adapts to recognize its mother’s voice. Birds select their mates based on calls and plumage. A skunk warns aggressors with its own personal stink.
While the purpose of the bond between Big Daddy and Little Sister was to suit the needs of Rapture and those that oversee it, that artificial bond may not be so different from our natural behavior. All our lives we are subject to having to fulfill biological needs such as eating, drinking, breeding, and dispensing of bodily waste. These things govern our lives. One might say they dictate our lives. If we did not have such needs, how we spend our time would probably be vastly different. For instance, imagine how much time and money would be saved if we didn’t have to eat or drink. I don’t bring these thoughts up to point out how gross and imperfect our biology is, but rather to pose a question that the Big Daddy and Little Sister dynamic may have accidentally asked us. How natural is natural? Where is the line between purity and perversion drawn?
I was once told to never end these writings with a question, but it is something I don’t think we’ll find an answer or agreement to in the near future. I myself am undecided. What I do know is I’ll have a little trouble killing Big Daddies in BioShock 2 without remorse.