Shocked, I tell you!

This game has forever secured it’s place in my heart directly below Planescape: Torment, and slightly above other long-time favorites such as Fallout 1 & 2 and the Thief series.

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I just completed BioShock. When the end arrived, I found myself crying a bit in relief that the ordeal was finally over.

No, not the ordeal of playing BioShock, but the ordeal that my character had gone through. My character was thrust into a gigantic horror show in the form of the underwater city of Rapture, and was then forced to fight his way through it. This has been the “plot” of many games, and I’ve more or less enjoyed the theme elsewhere.

However, BioShock did something that I’ve rarely experienced elsewhere in gaming. It made me care about the characters.

What it did that I have never seen before in a game was that it made me care more about the nameless characters than I did about the ones with names. Among the nameless were, of course, my character himself. However, toward the end, I wasn’t fighting through the horror for myself, but to save the Little Sisters from their collapsing city and the few remaining insane inhabitants.

Some games make you “care” about those you must save by giving you no choice. The only two actions you can take at critical junctures: act as though you care (by saving them) or exit the game. Progress, and often even your characters movements and other actions, are locked until you conform to the linear plot.

In contrast, BioShock got me to save the Little Sisters by actually making me care about them. It still had a linear plot, but the plot was what I wanted to do anyway.
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I spent the entire game, plot-wise, spiralling in towards one enemy. When I finally came face to face with him and took him down, he backhanded me across the room and triggered a cut scene. During the cut scene, Little Sisters swarmed over him and shanked him repeatedly with their Adam-harvesting syringes. When the first one leapt onto his back, I found myself reaching toward the screen and murmuring something about “no, don’t” and “be careful!” This was a cut scene. In a video game. Arguably a first person shooter. I was really worried about the Little Sisters getting hurt while trying to help me.

There were early warning signs that I had been fully immersed in the game. During the course of the game, the Little Sisters are nigh indestructible, but after I took out their protectors and rescued each one from the parasite that had been placed within, I escorted them to the nearest hidey hole. I even caught myself saying things like, “run, kid.” As I stood there, shotgun ready to take down anyone who thought a Daddy-less Little Sister would make a good target, practically chewing my fingernails while I waited for them to scramble awkwardly into the hidey holes.

When I say I “caught myself” doing these things, it implies that I stopped doing them. Not so much. Better to say that I observed myself doing these things and gave the game a big, mental thumbs up for providing such an experience.

And yes, when I finished watching the cut scene at the end, there were tears running down my face. I’m going to go ahead and say that those tears were proof that this game was fifty dollars well spent.

EDIT : The game offers a choice with each Little Sister you come to; you can either harvest them (killing them, but getting a bigger chunk of a valuable substance called Adam) or rescue them (removing the Adam producing parasite from them and saving their life.) If you’re one of the folks who harvests them, this is your one warning: I’ve already begun construction on a giant drill prosthesis to replace one of my arms. Don’t let me catch you harvesting.