Tag Archives: bioshock

Playing with Limitations

I’ve linked to Ken Levine’s piece on Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor before, but now that I’ve begun to play the game, an observation struck me.

Levine’s piece revolves around choice in video games, explaining the genesis of the “Would you kindly” moment:

When it comes to story in video games, at best there’s an illusion of choice. At worst, there’s no choice at all. In our work, we tried to say, Well, pal, you really don’t have a choice. So let’s see if we can use that concept to mess with your head. And hence was born the “Would you kindly” moment in BioShock, a moment in video game history primarily remembered for reminding us that, when it comes to player choice in narrative, our medium is limited indeed.

This moment is an iconic take on agency in video games. When playing through Bioshock: Infinite, I took to sniffing out additional commentary on the medium: Does “Booker DeWitt” really mean “Booker, do it,” a nod to “Would you kindly?” Are infinite paths a commentary on respawning? I enjoy the idea of playing with a medium’s limitations rather than ignoring them. SHARP’s Quattron qual pixel technology was a gimmick, but I thoroughly enjoyed the marketing campaign.

In the case of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the protagonist, Talion, is merged with the wraith of Elf Lord Celebrimbor, imbuing Talion with immortality. When killed, Talion respawns and the of Orc rankings are stirred, starting with the Orc who slain Talion last. This justifies respawning and retains a consequence for death.

Video games are inherently fantastic. Meta-rules to mask limitations are not necessary, but with increasingly realistic worlds, they certainly make the experience feel tighter.

Naughty Dog better have a good explanation for Nathan Drake’s resistance to bullets.

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‘The first “open narrative” game’

Ken Levine, creator of Bioshock, writing for Matter’s New York Review of Video Games feature:

There are two games that really kicked off what we think of as the modern “open world” game: Super Mario 64 and Grand Theft Auto III. These games unshackled the player from linear progression through a game’s levels. I think Shadow of Mordor is the first “open narrative” game. You’re not just checking off missions in a variable sequence. You’re changing the dramatis personae. Whenever you succeed or fail, the characters in the story respond to your actions, and not in the manner of a branching “choose your own adventure.” It is an excessively simple, yet impressively flexible, crime story.

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Juxtaposition in Video Game Commercials

Textbook Tarantino or tired trope?

I recently re-entered the world of BioShock’s Rapture by means of BioShock: Infinite’s Burial At Sea DLC. As I moved about the underwater city, full of the Gatsby-esque architectural stylings of Frank Lloyd Wright, I heard familiar sounds from the 20s-40s cascade through the setting.

At first, these genuinely warm pieces lulled me into a comfort juxtaposed against what eventually becomes a dark and grotesque atmosphere. Though, after roughly an hour, the presence of the pieces became more noticeable than they had seemed in my first play-through of the original BioShock. I pawned this off to the Billie Holiday Pandora station I’ve practically had on loop since that original play-through.

However, I began to wonder if the use of happy/soothing/serene/moving music juxtaposed against aggressive and bleak circumstances may be overstaying it’s welcome. Just as quickly as I had decided to push this notion out of my mind, I heard news of the new Wolfenstein: The New Order trailer making use of Martha and The Vandellas hit “Nowhere to Run.” While the song my not be strewn throughout the entirety of the trailer, it made me wonder if my initial inkling was correct.

I have decided to compile a list of many video game commercials that take advantage of this marketing approach, starting with Super Smash Bros. in 1999. This is likely nowhere near a complete list, merely an example of a marketing technique that is becoming less and less subtle.

Is this approach still effective or tired?

Super Smash Bros. (1999)

Song: The Turtles – Happy Together
iTunes | Amazon MP3

Black (2005)
Song: Giuseppe Verdi – La Traviata: Noi Siamo Zingarelle
iTunes | Amazon MP3

Gears of War (2006)
Song: Gary Jules – Mad World (feat. Michael Andrews)
iTunes | Amazon MP3

BioShock (2007)
Song: Bobby Darin – Beyond the Sea
iTunes | Amazon Mp3

Dante’s Inferno (2010)
Song: Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine
iTunes | Amazon MP3

Playstation 4: Perfect Day (2013)
Song: Lou Reed – Perfect Day
iTunes | Amazon Mp3

Titanfall: Life is Better With a Titan (2014)
Song: Robbie Williams & Jonathan Wilkes – Me and My Shadow
iTunes | Amazon Mp3

PS4: Sharing Means Caring (Destiny) (2014)
Song: Josh Daughtery – Sharing Means Caring

PS4: Sharing Means Caring (Watch Dogs) (2014)
Song: Josh Daughtery – Sharing Means Caring

Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014)
Song (Original): Martha and The Vandellas – Nowhere to Run
iTunes | Amazon Mp3

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UPDATE: Thanks to Bob Mackey of Retronauts for the “Sharing Means Caring” recommendations.


 

Originally published on TheStarrList.com

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