Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A New Platform for Creativity

How old is too old for video games? I hope I'm not there yet, since I just really enjoyed finishing Bioshock 2. This is a game that can appeal to extreme gamers AND English majors who never got to use their degree in a career...and who like mowing down hoards of zombies. (Perhaps someday I'll explore the beauty of the zombie genre by itself.)

Bioshock 2 takes place in the city of Rapture, a would-be utopia under the surface of the ocean. As the game story unfolds, you learn that a maniacal genius has created this underwater metropolis to escape the burden of world governments. Rapture is meant to be a haven for those elites who can find no place under the thumb of laws and societal norms. Something goes horribly wrong, though, as utopian societies are wont to do. What's left in the aftermath of a major conflict is a huge, hulking, art deco-infused city with zombie-like, genetically enhanced monsters who roam around looking for the next kill.

Apart from the thrill of unleashing round after round into these hideous freaks, the game explores prescient questions about genetic engineering, cloning and societal reconstruction. In the spirit of Ayn Rand, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, the city of Rapture becomes the setting for a reimagining of the kind of ethical wrestling that plagued those writers who were, in their own time, the seers of the world to come.

How far have we come? While the threat of worldwide totalitarianism is no longer a major issue, can't the same concerns play themselves out in a whole new way? And can't they manifest themselves in ways that aren't only fit for conspiracy theorists? What kind of society do we want? How will we get there? What freedoms are we willing to sacrifice? What desires lurk amongst the minds of our fellow humans that might some day create a 21st century version of Rapture?

I don't have a clue, of course. I am gratified to know, though, that people, even video game makers, feel some need to ask the questions and attempt to learn from the past in order to prepare for the future. Sophistication is no longer just for books and poetry; video games, TV shows, horror movies, newspaper articles and..maybe even blogs..are the new medium for exploring what could be based on what is.

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