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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 Trent Hawkins ( 1093109 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:52AM (#19394945)
    So, like. You can vote republican AND rape little girl like aliens?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      CAN? Hell, isn't that one of the planks of the platform?
    • So, like. You can vote republican AND rape little girl like aliens?

      Come on, this is slashdot here. You should at least get the difference between little girl-like aliens and little girl-like mutants right.
      • by mink ( 266117 )
        They are not mutants (as in natural occuring mutations), they are GMO.
        Sorry no Bioshock for the EU.
  • 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 ShadowsHawk ( 916454 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:08AM (#19395121)
      And how many people will play the game completely oblivious to the political ideology? There's a reason why the masses love summer romantic comedies.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by svendsen ( 1029716 )
        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 mgblst ( 80109 )
        There's a reason why the masses love summer romantic comedies.
        Well lets be fair. half of the masses love the summer romantic comedies, the other half love the action/sci-fi/fantasy extravaganzas. Or is saying somebody who loves Harry Potter is just like the masses not fit into your attack.
        • I certainly was not attacking those that enjoy the fluff movies. There are times when I enjoy completely mindless movies. They have their place the same as sports or action movies. The point is, the masses enjoy the fluff pieces because they can sit down and not have to dwell on the plot. It's fed to them in little bite sized pieces to allow easy consumption.
        • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
          So there's no overlap?

          Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, not everything has to have some deep political meaning just because some things do, sometimes they're just fun, and both republicans and democrats alike are allowed to have fun.

          But why interject politics into a game when you risk alienating nearly 50% of the market? I guess that number is way too high - there's a lot more slashdotters who pay attention to politics than the average teenage gameplayer, who doesn't even know the name of the president.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kelbear ( 870538 )
            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
      • And how many people will play the game completely oblivious to the political ideology?

        Well, the mark of a good game - of any good piece of storytelling really - is that it can be appreciated on more than one level. Those who just want a "kick-ass shooter" will play it as such and hopefully have a good time. Those who like a bit of brain candy with their mindless violence will pick up on the politics

        And yeah, some of them will probably take offence. If no-one is offended, then Levine will have had noth

      • 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 entert
        • 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.

          You seem to be assuming that the political subtext will be dealt with in a one sided manner. I don't think there's really anything from TFA to support that.

          Obviously, it's your choice whether to engage with the ideas behind the setting, or just to shoot stuff, and there's nothing

        • Oh please can I live in your perfect world where entertainment is mindless and blatantly and purposefully sidesteps any issue that might be thought provoking or have anything to do with philosophy or idealism? Oh yeah, we're allready 99% there, Beavis. God, 1 or 2 games come along in a generation without the same tired and derivative storyline and rather than welcome a refreshing change of pace you go crawl under your desk. Go ahead, I just hope theres better reaction to this game as well as the concept
          • My dear Beavis, you seem to assume that there's no middle ground between (A) apathy, and (B) being spoon fed some nerd's bullshit utopias that never worked that way. Here's a thought for you: how about getting your politics and economy information from other places than video games? Dunno, buy/rent a book, go talk to an economist (you'd be surprised how economics make or break politics), study some history (you'd be surprised how it explains some stuff, for example the middle east), etc. Just a thought.

            We h
            • Well having just watched a documentary on how the US spends billions on helicopters to spread herbicide on Columbia instead of treatment for addicts, a plan for the 'drug war' that even the conservative Rand corporation said was the most economically inefficient and in reality the most ineffective, (not to mention very unhealthy for the people we're spraying that crap on) but done anyway for nothing other than military contractor and chemical corporation greed, I resent that remark slightly. I also know a
  • ...welcome our new underwater overlords.

    Anyway, I have been following the development of this looks like it should be quite interesting, especially if the gameplay videos that were released on LIVE are indicative of the general direction of gameplay...yes, it was just a demo and is of footage that is not nearly complete, but still....I think Bioshock will be one of "the games to play" in 2007.

    I also predict that it will become another Okami. Beautiful, fantastic, unknown.
  • 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 Gryle ( 933382 )
      Actually The Crucible was made into a movie: []
    • Did not RTFA, but I don't think the summary is saying the LOTR necessarily has anything to do with politics or allegory. It is just saying that LOTR is popular because it has more interesting thematic elements. I'm not sure I buy that argument though; I think LOTR is popular because it was a well told story. I don't know if thematically it was particulary unique or interesting.
    • Yes, but Peter Jackson said his movies are an allegory about technology with a healthy dose of thinly veiled racism. Who is right?
    • he said that LOTR was a "meditation" on power, which is actually different from a direct allegory. Reading Tolkien's comments on elves, magic, and art in his collected correspondence it becomes clear that this does reflect certain aspects of LOTR. not being allegorical does not remove themes, concepts, familiar aspects of human living. tolkien is more directly referring to the attempt by some to correlate his work to the WWII, as well as attempting to draw any allegorical, one to one relation with the re
    • by Nitack ( 1046362 )
      Actually, Tolkien himself said that LOTR was rooted in Catholicism. He was a devout Catholic and the story started to reflect those beliefs. The two most poignant examples are the three forms of Jesus and the healing done by Arragon.

      Three forms:
      1. Jesus the Teacher - Gandalf
      2. Jesus the Kind - Arragon
      3. Jesus the Sacrifice - Frodo

      Remember the line from Return of the King, "The hands of the king are the hands of a healer"... think of just a couple bible stories...

      I am not in any way religious so this is
    • A story which is intended as a meditation on power would be an example of allegory, if you go by the dictionary definition: "The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form."

      I don't think many people directly take their opinions on WWII from the Lord of the Rings, nor are the books a primer for a broader understanding of the war. At the same time, it's hard not to notice a certain correlation with the World Wars, just as it's h

      • I think "one ring = power" is so explicit that I would be reluctant to call it allegory. "One ring = atomic bomb" would be an example of allegory, though not one Tolkien intended.

        The "meditation on power" is more about ideas and themes than allegory, like "does power or the desire for power lead to evil?" From the story perspective, I believe that the ring was fundamentally evil to begin with (it tried to return to its master, etc...) so I am not sure how much Tolkien intended it to be a "meditation on powe
    • LOTR was not about politics, it was not an allegory.
      Neither is Bioshock, as I understand it. Politics and political ideology are two different things. Example: Politics - Democrat vs. Republican Political ideology - Anarchist vs. Fascist
    • Just because the author insists that his work is "just a good yarn" doesn't mean that people can't re-interpret it. Take Fahrenheit 451-- Ray Bradbury always insisted that his book was about TV's destructive effects on reading, though everyone else on the planet interprets it as a dig at state censorship.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      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 influ

    • 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.
    • any comparison of lotr to ww2, ww1 or Europe at the time of the writing would come up seriously lacking

      Tolkien was a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought in the Battle of the Somme in WW1. He started writing some of the Middle Earth backstories (the fall of Gondolin for example) while recovering from trench fever. His experience in trench warfare in WW1 definitely had an impact on his writing - that's the sort of trauma which stays with people for life.
  • by LarsWestergren ( 9033 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:07AM (#19395115) Homepage Journal
    If you have missed is, this game is made by many of the people behind horror classics System Shock/System Shock 2. It is my most anticipated game this year. I've actually stopped reading about it though, articles contain too many spoilers these days. However, if you liked the 40s-50s vibe of Fallout artwork, check out the great art deco posters in the game [].
    • After seeing the screen shots, I'm a little worried about how the game will perform on my system. I understand that the PC has always been about pushing the graphical envelope, but some of these games (Supreme commander, Stalker, etc)are rediculous.
      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        They should look at the steam hardware poll results to figure out the average system, then aim lower... much lower.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Supreme Commander is primarily CPU-limited, due to all the projectile trajectory and unit AI calculations.
  • More Importantly (Score:2, Interesting)

    by paleo2002 ( 1079697 )

    . . . will it run on my computer!?!

    The article mentions use of the Quake 3 graphics engine. Are there any games currently out that use this system? They might help estimate the sytem reqs for BioShock.

    By the way, people keep comparing this game to System Shock. I don't know much about that, but BioShock does remind me of Deus Ex. Different background themes certainly, but Deus Ex gameplay was driven by character customization choices and those plasmids sound similar.

    • They refer to System Shock since it's the same team behind it, but they weren't allowed to make another System Shock since they didn't own the rights to the franchise.

      I for one am looking forward to this game :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Think you mean Unreal 3. AFAIK the only release is the xBox360 only Gears of War which obviously doesn't help; UT3 should be about the same release dates as BioShock.

      Unreal 3 supports DirectX 10, so turning everything up to 11 is likely to max out any current box. More optimistically the engine also supports Linux (any word on BioShock?) and is likely to still give great graphics on more modest hardware.
      • by Kelbear ( 870538 )
        I believe R6:Vegas also runs on PC, but that is still a rough comparison since R6:Vegas is much less ambitious in terms of graphics and is also a crappy PC port
      • Huzah for modest hardware!

        My Intel iMac runs HL2 well with medium graphics settings, but it can't handle HD lighting. So . . . maybe BioShock might run . . . maybe? I swore I'd never touch an XBox and I cry a little every time I boot into Windows, but I may be willing to make some small sacrifice.

  • Frankly I'm sick and tired of shooting Germans or aliens but I'm not tired of playing FPS games. I really hope that there are more games that are more adventurous and take on more imaginative themes. For example instead of having yet another game about a group of white soldiers in WWII, why not take one step outside and make it about one of the groups of African-American soldiers? Why not make it that you are a French citizen (maybe even a woman!) in occupied France? How about making the movie Glory int
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Jesus dude why are you so obsessed with playing a black person? Just go sleep with one and get it over with.
    • Why not make it that you are a French citizen (maybe even a woman!) in occupied France?
      You're being ironic, right? []
      • ummmm yes... absolutely...
        [either that or there are so many Medal of Honor games I never even heard of that one. I might have to hunt it down]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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
    • by roystgnr ( 4015 )
      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.

      The themes include the corrupting allure of power, the value of mercy and sacrifice, the natural but dangerous fear of death, the conflict between industry and nature, the development of maturity through struggle, the inevitability of loss and change... I'm sure there are others, but it's been years since I read the books. I don't know how many of those messages cou
    • Wow, what a steaming pile of intelectual douche-baggery. First you come off like your snobby ideal of what an interpretation of Tolkien 'should be' must be applied to have any credibility, and then piss away all credibility, "If these video games want to compete on an artistic level they're going to have to hire writers such as Michael Crighton" You mean like "Timeline," that all time classic? Or I guess you never heard of it since it was pure sheite. Your concept of what great story telling should be p
  • I'm really not sure if this is going to be awesome or awesomely overhyped.

    Generally, I don't like it when games intend a 'message' with their mechanics. I understand that the settings are incredibly beautiful and detailed, but having an artist spend 4 hours texturing a model for a future-retro art deco faucet doesn't have anything, really, to do with it being a good GAME.

    I'd be interested to hear less about the physics and setting (ho-hum), and more about whatever sort of faction-system architecture that w
  • by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:22PM (#19399623)
    Soooo, basically the game rants against capitalism, but in order to do so it sets artificial limits on said capitalism and than shows what in all honesty would probably be a relatively realistic portrayal of said artificially constricted capitalist system. Without room for expansion(what, they could make the original city but making multiple cities in various areas didn't occur to them?) and with the obvious limiting of resources within the unexpandable boundaries created by eventual population pressure, of course any capitalist system will go to hell, but that's true of any system that includes beings which are allowed to think for themselves. Now, a bee colony might be able to make it work in such conditions, but last time I checked, the entirety of the human race weren't a bunch of worker bees.

    I found this really funny:

    These plasmids let you modify and slowly build your character in a way not-dissimilar to an RPG. But don't tell Ken that. "This is not an RPG," he demands. "It's not about stats. This is about huge amounts of dynamic exciting player expression ... thousands of ways to exploit the environment, take control of things and use the world to your advantage." He's passionate about this to the point of hyperbole and hand-waving.
    What exactly does he think the best RPGs aspire to acheive. Hell, what does he think any good DM with a couple of imaginative players can actually do in an actual PnP RPG?
    • RTFA and then get it straight, just because it says the word 'capitalism,' and touches on the perils of unchecked greed, this game is a big rant against capitalism? If anything its about taking social darwinism too far, but I guess since thats conservatism's most cherished concept you have to flip out into reactionary mode. And I'm sure that in your mind ranting about the evils of greed is just for commie pinko bastards. Like that bearded guy, what was his name?

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"