In 2008, my family was on the move again. We’d already made a rather significant move 300 miles away from my parents’ hometown and extended family, but I was only 6 at that time and hadn’t really built any strong friendships (because I was homeschooled duh). This time though, we moved over 550 miles south, where we knew absolutely no one. You have to understand at this time I was 15, going through many different changes in my body and emotions, only to have everything uprooted and moved to a new land. So, I responded the only way I knew how: I threw a fucking month long tantrum. I was the biggest hellion on the face of the earth. I blared Simple Plan in my bedroom until my dad broke down the door, I argued with my mom about every single thing under the sun, and I bullied my younger siblings until they cried. I was a complete mess. Finally, my parents sat me down and begged me to stop, asking what I wanted out of all of this. To be honest, I really didn’t know. I was just so angry, depressed, and lonely all the time and I didn’t know how to make it stop. But something popped into my head in that sit down, and I blurted out “I want my own Xbox 360”. I was met with an instant “absolutely not”, but after about a week more of hellish behavior, my parents finally caved. I mean what else were they gonna do? Ground me? I already had no friends and barely anything to entertain myself. So I saved up and bought a used Xbox 360 on Craigslist for $80 that came with two controllers, a Wi-Fi adapter, Halo 3, and a game I’d never heard of called:
Numbuh 3: BioShock
I still remember the night that I started BioShock for the first time. It was a Friday; everyone else had already gone to bed and I was in the bonus room playing Halo 3 on an old 18″ TV I found on Craigslist for $30. And when I mean old, I mean this thing wasn’t even flat-screen; it still looked like a cube and weighed like 50 lbs. I think it must have been around 10:30pm, and I decided “you know what, let’s try out this BioShock game”. Holy. Fuck. I’d watched horror movies before, but damn, I’d never played a horror game in a pitch black room at 11pm. When I say that game changed me, I mean it fucking changed me as a human being. After I got over the initial shock, I was addicted. I literally thought I’d stumbled upon the greatest game of all time. It took all the elements of typical shooters like the Halo 3 campaign, but added RPG elements like what I’d learned in A Link to the Past. I’d never played anything like it before.
I’m not over-exaggerating when I say BioShock is one of the most complete games ever made. We have to begin with the setting and narrative. From the moment you start the game, it immerses you (literally) into the world of Rapture. You float by the neon lit exteriors of a beautiful underwater city as 50s music plays through a record player. Then, when you reach your destination, you realize how fucked you are as you encounter your first splicer. This momentum is constantly building as you move through the game, and everything around it supports the narrative. From the design of each area to the voice lines and memos found, I’ve never played a title that engages you in its world like BioShock. Even the small moments are still ingrained in my memory, like the hall where where you see the shadow of a splicer pushing a stroller just to turn the corner and the splicer disappeared. And there’s tons of little moments like that throughout the game. Hell, I even enjoyed looking for the voice memos because I was so interested in the backstory of Rapture’s downfall. But as anyone will tell you, the main narrative is the highlight of this game. Atlas, Andrew Ryan, Frank Fontaine, “Would you kindly…”; man, what a fucking trip. The twist is one of the best in all of gaming history, and the writers build up to it so well that you feel personally betrayed as the player. Pair all of the above with excellent gameplay and RPG elements, and you now understand why this game is a complete masterpiece.
As many have said, BioShock is one of the first games to demonstrate how video games can be a work of art. The latter entries aren’t any slouch either, and you can find all of them in the collection available for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.