08 April 2013

Finding Art Where Others Find None

I wrote this piece for the Geek Guide that's coming out in a few weeks for the PSU Vanguard.  I was particularly proud of it and I think it explains a lot.



I never thought that I would call myself a gamer.  The word ‘gamer’ just holds so many connotations that, especially through my high school years enduring countless hours of listening in on various conversations about World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI, gave me the impression that gamers were none more than pimply males who sat in front of their computers for days at a time while all but forgetting what the outside world looked like.  Boy, was I wrong.

While I am not myself a computer gamer, I was lost on next gen console gaming when these innovations first hit stores.  I was a purist, focused only on the classics.  The first game I ever owned was Galaga for my giant red brick of a Game Boy.  I eventually moved on to a Super Nintendo, a Sega Genesis, and finally in 1996—a Sony Playstation.  Sure, we had a Playstation 2 when it first came out.  But something just felt lost.  No game held the same magic for me as the first time I turned on Resident Evil or Silent Hill.  Innumerable sequels emerged as I was stuck on these first few handfuls of games.  Crash Bandicoot was great, but it was no Sonic the Hedgehog.  I felt, at this point, that no other games could satisfy my appetites.

Fast forward to 2012.  My boyfriend and I finally accepted an Xbox 360 into our home and my previous convictions about gaming were entirely erased.  We got a great deal on the console itself—free—and we were able to pick up a handful of games for right around 30 bucks, BioShock being one of those introductory games.  After my first trip in the Bathysphere and an opening glance at the underwater city of Rapture’s skyline, it became abundantly clear that there was something big that I was missing out on. 

I have never had a game pull on my heartstrings quite as much as the first BioShock.  After delving into the secrets of Rapture, fighting off Big Daddies, and rescuing Little Sisters; I found myself looking for more.  Shortly after the completion of that game, I was on to Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, my first real attempt at modern day RPGs.  I never tired of scouring the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Washington DC and Las Vegas for bobble heads and new weapons, meeting ghouls and innumerable super mutants along the way.  Their stories, their lives—it was all emanated as if I were watching a movie, emotionally invested every step of the way.  I was introduced to Borderlands and grew excited each and every time I had the opportunity to meet a new Claptrap or find new elemental weapons in the crates of the planet Pandora to add to my arsenal.  And then something else happened.

On March 26 a game came out that ruined games for me forever.  BioShock: Infinite, the long awaited follow-up to BioShock changed everything.  Through story, the most interactive artificial intelligence introduced in gaming to date, and concepts like quantum physics that I am still trying to wrap my head around—BioShock: Infinite is truly a triumph in gaming. 

Taking place in 1912 in the floating sky city of Columbia, BioShock: Infinite courses the player through ideas based around American Exceptionalism, racism, religion, rebellion, quantum physics, and anarchy.  While politics paired with an epic rescue mission of ‘damsel in distress’ Elizabeth are the main themes of the story, the innovative combat and gameplay should not go unnoticed. 

The player takes control of Booker DeWitt, equipped with a ‘sky hook’ to make use of the city’s skylines as a means of travel.  DeWitt’s only melee weapon, the sky hook makes for gruesome and exciting gameplay in which no other game I have played compares.  Different from the previous BioShock games, DeWitt is only afforded the ability to carry two weapons while two Vigors (powers much akin to the Plasmids from the first two BioShock games) can be equipped and toggled between at any time.  From the first awe-inspiring view of Columbia that the player gets to the last few moments of the game, I could not pull myself away and upon completion, I had to pry my jaw from the floor.

Games like BioShock: Infinite are what make me proud to be a gamer.  Many critics argue that video games do not hold the capacity to be even remotely considered as art forms.  Someone had to think up a floating city with windows into alternate timeframes.  Someone had to think up what a post-apocalyptic Washington DC would look and feel like.  And someone had to be proud enough to filter these concepts into the hands of gamers everywhere.

As I sit around with my friends and make jokes about how buggy Bethesda games are and compare Borderlands weapon inventories with my friends on Xbox Live, I am not ashamed.  I have found art where others have found none, and to me—that is what it means to be a gamer.

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