Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bioshock Infinite, Irrational Games and Powerful Storytelling

A few years back a good friend and a fellow professor showed me the opening sequence of a video game called "Bioshock." He knew I didn't play games, but he also knew that I love storytelling in any form if it is quality. For the next several minutes I was taken through the opening ten minutes or so of a beautiful sequence that immersed me in an experience that was truly an act of "participation mystique."

It was immediately apparent to me and in interviews that these artists were connoisseurs of great storytelling, and both knew the genre and were pushing it's boundaries. The game creates a bold storytelling experience by referencing classic moments from Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining,"... well as using visual imagery from genius Fritz Lang's "Metropolis."

The auteurs behind this experience are currently developing a follow-up to the game called "Bioshock Infinite".

Let no one doubt that these artists are storytellers with aspirations in the tradition of those artists I've mentioned above, and that they are truly aspiring to "tell forward."

1 comment:

  1. Hi Shanth, it's Sophia.

    As a fan of Bioshock, I was happy to see that you take an interest in it. Bioshock is a very immersive game with great atmosphere and setting. Its political and psychological themes are quite well developed, and are considered groundbreaking for the medium.

    May I recommend checking out the opening to another videogame, Ico:

    It's one of my personal favorites. The storyline is very subtle and concise, there are only a handful of characters and next to no dialogue.

    You play as a young boy who is stigmatized by his people and left to die in a forbidden temple. Soon into the game you find a girl, similarly trapped, who speaks a different language and can't communicate with you. You spend the rest of the game exploring the temple with her, communicating with her nonverbally, and trying to escape.

    The game is filled with intensely powerful architecture and natural vistas, which, as you know, appeal to me strongly... I hope you'll give it a look, it is one of the most innovative games I've ever played in terms of storytelling, character design, music, gameplay... a real treasure.

    The company behind Ico also made a great game called Shadow of the Colossus, and are currently working on a new game called The Last Guardian, if you'd like to do more research. All of these games have similar designs in a cultural sense - costume design, architecture, et cetera. The language spoken by the characters in these games is completely invented; they're subtitled wherever they are released.

    Take care!