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Political Ideology in BioShock 62

An anonymous reader writes "Julian Murdoch at the usually-excellent Gamers With Jobs has a preview of BioShock up today. Far from being a normal piece on the game's graphics and gameplay, it delves deep into designer Ken Levine's attempts to include some extremely complex and controversial political ideologies as the baseline for the title: 'The point of BioShock, the raison d'etre, is really the story, and the messages and intellectual content that Levine tries to deliver as a payload. "Look at Lord of the Rings," he challenges. "Why is Lord of the Rings more interesting than random RPG story number 507? They're exactly the same thing. They have orcs and goblins and demons and trolls. But Lord of the Rings is a meditation on power. And it's really interesting because of that. It's what gives it it's heart." And with undenied hubris, Levine's trying to do the same thing with BioShock.'"
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Political Ideology in BioShock

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  • by svendsen ( 1029716 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:52AM (#19394949)
    Wonder how many people will get "offended" if the games political ideology is different then theirs? For a 100% fictitious example: Someone plays GTA 37 and kills hookers and has no problems. Burns people and runs them over, again no problems. Their in game girlfriend gets an abortion, or says the like democrat / republican, or says the world is more than 6000 years old...all hell breaks loose.
  • by untaken_name ( 660789 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:55AM (#19394991) Homepage
    CAN? Hell, isn't that one of the planks of the platform?
  • hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:57AM (#19395001)
    does anyone feel that bioshock (for as great as the system shock games were), comparing itself to one of the great stories of the last century kind of like a high school baseball player comparing himself to babe ruth?

    It may be, but Tolkien hated allegory, and any comparison of lotr to ww2, ww1 or Europe at the time of the writing would come up seriously lacking. In fact, he writes about broader, more applicable things, power, nature vs destruction, hobbits, but politics? If lotr was about politics, it wouldn't have been made into movies nearly 45 years after it was published in complete form. The crucible was about politics, but instead of movies, they read it in highschool to explain McCarthyism and to explain why paranoia is bad.

    Summary Recap: LOTR was not about politics, it was not an allegory. Anyone who says different should read the introduction to the book, written by Tolkien himself.
  • by svendsen ( 1029716 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:10AM (#19395131)
    ya good point. Guess I am giving too much credit to those who might play this game. I'm sure the reviews will be all about graphics vs. anything deeper.
  • by untaken_name ( 660789 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:15AM (#19396009) Homepage
    Oh, right. Nonvoluntary Noninteractive Copulative Treatment. I forgot about that! It goes along with Discomfort Creation for Informational Access Initiatives and Voluntary Mandatory Regulatory Compliance.
  • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:08AM (#19396925) Homepage Journal

    Summary Recap: LOTR was not about politics, it was not an allegory. Anyone who says different should read the introduction to the book, written by Tolkien himself.

    First of all, you can't trust everything everyone says/writes. They can be deluding themselves. Even highly intelligent people engage in this particularly self-destructive behavior.

    Second, it might not have been about a particular event, but being written when it was it seems highly likely that real-world events motivated Tolkien, and even influenced his writings, even if it was only at the subconscious level.

  • Re:hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigbigbison ( 104532 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:38AM (#19397427) Homepage
    I don't think that Tolkien should be the ultimate arbiter of what his books mean. To take another situation that is radically different look at Michael Richards' racist tirade. I saw his apology on Letterman and I believe that he was truly sorry and that he really doesn't think he was racist. However, he has yet to convince me that he isn't a racist.
    Tolkien may not think that there is allegory in Lord of the Rings but he has yet to convince me that there isn't.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:48AM (#19397669)
    I rarely post b/c, for the last 5 yrs that I've frequented Slashdot I've been too lazy to get an account and for the most part I just enjoy what you guys say, but I've gotta add some input here. For a split second the summary made me really interested in Bioshock. Then he claimed that the Lord of the Rings was a meaningful story. I like the Lord of the Rings as much as the next geek, but I also know a bit about literature and I understand that there is no hidden message. It is NOT a mediation on power, and this is underscored by the fact that Frodo is so weak. Unlike Bilbo, Frodo rarely used the power of the ring, and when he did he just endangered himself. The most powerful characters in the series were the antagonists, and like any run of the mill adventure tale, it's about the weaker good guys standing together to take on the more powerful evil nemesis. If you think Tolkien had a point other than using writing as a primitive form of World of Warcraft then you gotta be chasing the dragon more than Tolkien himself.

    My question is, if this guy so grossly misinterpreted such a well known trilogy as Lord of the Rings, what makes him capable of crafting a meaningful storyline? If these video games want to compete on an artistic level they're going to have to hire writers such as Michael Crighton, William Gibson, or Alex Garland (first rendition of the Halo movie doesn't count). Anyway, just my 2 as a college kid working on his English degree.

    Oh, and after reading the article, expressing political ideas through a negative utopia was outdated when Orwell did it. . . Furthermore, I'll believe the game translates objectivist ideas when I see it. Just because the creator has this in mind while he creates the game doesn't mean that it's commnunicated within the story. To me, this guy sounds very Molyneuxish - impractical big ideas. Lets hope he proves me wrong, but considering that I'm at odds with objectivism and I don't understand how it could be coherently examined within a video game, my pessimism persists.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @12:03PM (#19398001)
    Jesus dude why are you so obsessed with playing a black person? Just go sleep with one and get it over with.
  • by Kelbear ( 870538 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:04PM (#19399247)
    I think American History X did a good job of presenting controversial material in a balanced manner.

    American History X overall message was put forward in an Abraham Lincoln quote, 'We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.'

    But the movie doesn't try to bullshit you that there aren't reasons for hating minorities and immigrants. It's trying to say that you shouldn't let those reasons outweigh the reasons against hating minorities and immigrants. The Neo-Nazi main character is portrayed in a positive light and as being justified in many portions of the movie. His arguments are not contradicted within the film, it's just that in the latter half of the movie they present opposing arguments.

    They don't argue that black criminals don't kill whites often. Instead they showed an innocent black guy saving the nazi, and also a black guy killing his little brother.

    So even if the game settles on one side of an issue, it can at least portray pros and cons from both sides fairly so that it can minimize the negative impact on audiences that disagree.
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:18PM (#19399553) Journal
    Well, let's put it this way: it also tells you that people are looking for _entertainment_, not for a lopsided lecture in why you should vote for the republicans in the next elections.

    I'll even go ahead and say that I'm one of those who _will_ choose to ignore the ideology bullshit, because the alternative would be to actually get annoyed that some idiot lectures me in his half-baked misunderstood ideology. And I'll even tell you why.

    1. Because, as I was saying, I'm looking for some simple, sanitized entertainment. I use my brains enough at for other stuff, I have plenty of _real_ stuff to worry about, I don't want games too to be a stress factor and a guilt trip. When I play a game, I want my decisions to be simple no-RL-consequences stuff like "do I look for the princess in the blue castle or the red castle first", not stuff like "damn, should I vote for the left or the right in the next RL election."

    And when I'm done with the game, I want to be done with it, to have no more worries following me to bed. Sure, I might still have to find that princess in another castle, or I might have chosen to join the evil empire instead of the rebels, but that's game-only stuff that doesn't carry any consequences or lessons to the real world. It's just a game, it's just a meaningless scenario invented just for that quest, it can be quickly forgotten when I turn the computer off. The _last_ thing I'd want when I turn the computer off is to be followed by some moralizing bullshit or guilt, like, "damn, the game just told me that I should be ashamed for working for this company/country/party and that people like me are to blame for the global warming."

    2. There are already plenty of PR hacks and politicians and journos peddling their ideology to me. In fact, there are entirely too many.

    I need some time off from all that lopsided reporting and outright PR bullshit. I _don't_ need yet another wannabe Goebbels trying to peddle his ideology to me even when I'm just playing a computer game. Fuck off already, really. If I wanted more dogma, I'd have bought a party's newspapers, not bought a computer game.

    3. Just because every barber and taxi driver can talk at length about "what should the government" do, it doesn't mean that they actually have any fucking clue what they're talking about. Most of their "common sense" solutions wouldn't even work. Most are based on pure ignorance of how things really work, and/or on mis-conceptions and false assumptions. And the same applies to game designers. Unless you're an economist or have a degree in political science, don't kid yourself, chances are that you don't know jack about how it really works.

    Real politics are a damn complex thing, and the economics that underpins some of those decisions and issues are even more complex and problematic. There is almost _never_ a free meal, and no real win-win scenario. To get X you pay with Y, and the best you can hope for is the least crappy compromise where the costs doesn't out-weigh the gains. There is no easy "just push this button to win" strategy, or someone would have done it already.

    Some things can't even be solved at the same time (but politicians will promise to anyway), because they're interdependent and pushing one down will automatically cause the other to rise. E.g., inflation and unemployment [].

    Basically: stick to what you know, really. If you're a game designer, stick to making games, not to politics lectures. Unless you have a degree in either economics or politics, chances are you don't even know what you're talking about.

    And _especially_ I don't want to see another retarded economic "solution" from someone who hasn't even heard of keynesian economics []. (Which is how the economy of all countries has worked ever since the Great Depression, and why we don't have the crisis and bankruptcy cycles that were the _norm_ in the 19'th century.) Even you don't

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler