Few game franchises excite political nerds quite like Bioshock. The first game was set in the 50′s, in a city under the sea called Rapture, owned and run by a man called Andrew Ryan… Andrew Ryan.. which is sort of an anagram of Ayn Rand, you see? And that’s relevant, because the opening lines of the game tell the player about the political motivations for escaping the confines of dry land – and their Governments.
The result? Well, liberated from ethical or legislative constraints devastating biological technology is created which, whoops, accidentally sends its users a bit mental. Well, a lot mental. Try psychotic, in fact (it’s a computer game, you have to have meat to hit with things otherwise people feel they’re denied the ‘game’ part of a game… pity really). Add to this a ban on immigration, emigration and trade with the outside world, aiding the inadvertent creation of very powerful and rich smugglers, and the beautiful and courageous Objectivist paradise quickly descends into hell. Oh, and this technology that’s sent everyone mad? It depends on exploiting little girls. Oh yes. Moral compass THAT!
Now, this is still a video game, yet it has a compelling and absorbing story, and appears to have been written by people who’ve read books and the result was… brilliant. It’s my favourite game of all time. Except for Rock Band 2. And Tetris. And Flight Controller. It’s ONE of my favourite games of all time. Ahem.
Happily Irrational Games, the creators of this fine work, have announced a new game in the series which they call Bioshock Infinite, set on 4th July 1906 and, quote, it’s about “American Exceptionalism”. Be still my beating heart! For reals? First Objectivism and now a study on Nationalism? Yay! And I can shoot things in this world and unlock XBOX achievements while I’m playing, too? I can? YAY!
And yes, it’s for real. They’ve released a “Gameplay trailer” which is nothing of the sort really, but the opening moments feature a mural of George Washington clutching the Liberty Bell and Moses’ Ten Commandments tablets, with the slogan, “It is our Holy Duty to Guard against the Foreign Hordes”.
And this is real? And we’re going to be able to buy this? Like, whoa. Bring it on! A minute or so later you come across a politician giving a racist speech. You can pop a steampunk cap in his Victorian ass. Seriously, I’m in love already.
The only game I could possibly get more excited about would be one set in Philip K Dick’s counterfactual world of “The Man in the High Castle” where the Nazis have won and America is split between their control and that of the Japanese. That… that would be great. Games like Bioshock seem to make the chance of that sort of game existing seem more likely than ever. It’s just a pity that the vast majority of games are so horrendously dull by comparison.
Sadly games take forever to make and Bioshock Infinite is due, I believe, in 2012 if we’re lucky. Arse. What am I supposed to do until then?