Bioshock Analysis

Posted: September 2, 2013 in Post-game

I have killed Andrew Ryan and, because of my decision to rescue all Little Sisters, have been helped to escape from Fontaine. Now my task is to find some doctor and de-program Jack from his conditioning. I will stop playing now, or I will never be able to get any work done! I believe, however, that my experience with the game thus far has given me enough material to proceed from and playing until the end will not be necessary.

Narrative Transmission in Bioshock

Bioshock in many ways effectively brings together play and story. There are numerous diegetic elements and cues, such as radio transmissions, recorded diaries, and writings on walls or signs, which all foster immersion into the world and advance story as well as help to achieve goals in gameplay.

The really interesting issue to be discussed here is the level of player interaction involved in gameplay to determine story. As a player I have no control over the radio transmissions. They are activated at some point and are unable to be shut off. As these are key diegetic elements to understanding the story and obtaining objectives, this was a smart development decision. I was always careful to listen to broadcasts and pay close attention. Knowing my mission and what to achieve therefore was quite simple.

The other diegetic elements, such as listening to diaries and reading the writings on signs and walls, are completely optional and dependent on my level of interactivity. I purposefully did not listen to the diaries in some levels and only played to advance my mission. I was able to advance in the game successfully, but my understanding of the story was none for the better. Also, by failing to read the signs on the walls in one level, I missed key information that would have led to achieving my objective much quicker. (It was the Hints menu that finally informed me of my oversight.) Listening to the diaries and reading signs in other levels, my understanding of the background of Rapture was more complete and fullfilling, but it did little to help complete my mission.

Internal focalization as a way of perceiving the world of Rapture was also very effective as a means of understanding and furthering story. Seeing only from the perspective of Jack, in-depth exploration of the game space for me was necessary. And it was this intense exploration which led to the most enlightening story. Had I been able to play from an external focalization, I believe the experience would have been very different. In this case exploration would not have been as necessary, andĀ  I would have rather tried to obtain my mission goals more quickly.

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