The Bioshock Effect: From Ideas to Implementation

07 Apr

I think it was about two weeks ago that I finally went and finished the Bioshock Infinite DLCs. I had played the main game last year, but held off venturing back into Rapture. I am sort of a scaredy-cat when it comes to video games. The only Resident Evil game I’ve played is the first, which I never finished. I’ve never finished Doom 3 or Alan Wake either, and struggled to finish the first Bioshock. I only made it through my first journey through Rapture because of the game’s amazing narrative – and also because I gave in and switched the difficulty to Easy.

My feeling now that it’s over is that… well, I’m sad that it’s over. Not sad at the outcome–I can accept it and live with it–but sad that I have to say my goodbyes to these wonderful characters I’ve shared a part of my life with; sad that I have finally turned the last page of this amazing story. I fell in love with the captivating voice-acting of Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth), especially toward the dramatic final moments of Burial at Sea, and then again with her singing. I watched several interviews of her on YouTube, which led me to watch interviews with Ken Levine, the writer and director of the series.

Several weeks later, I am still watching, reading, and listening to Bioshock related content. But, more importantly, I am becoming more and more drawn to this whole world of narrative game-development. Ken Levine’s talk and interview at BAFTA was fascinating. So was his talk at the 2014 Game Developer’s Conference. Also, this interview with GameSpot.


It was very eye-opening to hear over three hours of insights and perspectives from the mind behind one of the most well-crafted, emotionally satisfying game franchises I’ve ever played. What really got to me is the fact that he is first, a writer, who had to take his “ideas” and execute them in an effective way–not just to create an enjoyable gameplay experience, but to also create a fully immersive world the players can “live” in; to also create a relationship between the players and these walking, talking, bundles of code; and to ultimately leave the players speechless, jaws dropped, by the time the end credits roll.

That is a lot to ask of yourself and your team. But he did it, and I’m so grateful that he did.

I enjoy masterfully crafted works, from books to movies, songs to video games. The end-effect of these masterpieces are that they transport me to a moment of wonder, a moment of awe, a moment where something shifts inside of me and my life is changed somehow. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite certainly did that for me.

This has me thinking. Can I create a similar kind of experience for others? Would it be through writing? Music? A video game? How can I create an environment where someone, who is not me, can experience all the nuances of a complex emotional state that I once experienced?

In a couple of those interviews, Ken said something interesting. He said that ideas alone are worthless without proper execution. That hit me as well, because that’s the whole reason I started to write. Because I had things inside of me that I wanted to convey to others; these formless, ethereal -somethings- floating within our minds. There’s no real way for me to know whether I am succeeding or not, but I can only try, and then keep trying, until it clicks in somebody else’s mind. There is a craft in conveying ideas, and I certainly have a lot more crafting to do.

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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Gaming


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