Friday, February 04, 2011


I'm not much of a computer gamer, and I only got a PS3 because it hardly cost more than an ordinary Blu-ray player, and seemed worth the difference just for it being a better Blu-ray player and having multimedia streaming: the game-console aspect was just a free bonus, as far as I was concerned. I've been surprised to enjoy Rock Band as much as I have, but as for other games... there are plenty that, if suddenly I had four hours and nothing else I could fill them with, I feel sure I would be delighted to play them, but those four hours would always have other options I'd enjoy more.

I recently learned of the game Bioshock, which is, of course, old hat for everyone else who plays computer and console games. I downloaded the demo and got all the way through it. My conclusion is simple. I want to see the Bioshock movie, but I don't think I'd want to play the game.

Part of that is that the coordination required to do all the things you have to do at once doesn't come naturally to me. Towards the end of the demo, you're fighting a simple security drone (or actually, a nearly infinite series of them). You need to be able to simultaneously use one joystick to aim, another to move, plus shoot with one button, change weapons with another, and then swing a wrench with a third, in quick succession. With some practice I got to where I could just barely get through this; with more, I am sure I could get it, even get to where it felt almost natural. But I certainly do not intend to put in the amount of time necessary to get to where I am thinking, "okay, switch to the electrical weapon, fire, move in, duck, now close and finish him!" instead of thinking, "press L2, no wait I think it's R2, wait, where did he go? which joystick do I need, okay, now press the left and then the right."

But the real important takeaway is that that particular game, the act of mastering all those controls and using them to get through these combat sequences, doesn't have enough appeal to me. It's not that it has none. It's just that I'd have to get over a fairly hefty learning curve to get to where I'm experiencing the story more than the mechanics of the game, and that's what I really want. If there was a way to experience this same game, doing the same things, where without investing hours into it I could be immediately focused on the story, I'd probably be playing.

That's likely what people who have played a lot of first person shooters experience, in fact. They got acclimated to thinking about controls the way the games need, so well that it is second nature, years ago, playing much simpler games, at a time in their lives when learning that stuff was easier, and when there wasn't much else going on in the games. It's analogous to how I spent time playing games like Crowther's Adventure and Zork, games which seem simplistic now -- so much of the problem-solving is just random trial and error -- so that I can play games that for others might seem like too much learning curve to be worth the rewards.

Of course, the seasoned FPS pros don't want to play a boring straightforward FPS, the kind that used to be de rigeur, because they're over that. Instead, they want one where the mastery of FPS modes of behavior is assumed, so there's a whole complex story layered on top. But I never played those FPSes. For me, Bioshock is being thrown into the deep end having never seen water before. There's not nearly enough time to enjoy the story.

So what I really want is for them to make a movie. What I really found interesting was the complex storyline, the intriguing setting, and the moody, atmospheric visuals. And to my delight, word is that a movie is being made. Though it's hazy whether it'll ever actually happen. Plenty of movies have gotten a lot farther in than this and fallen apart. IMDb has a forecast release date in 2013 but there's precious little information there.

I suppose in a pinch I could buy the game and then find someone who knew it and just sit and watch them play. How silly is that?


drscorpio said...

You might try it on PC if you get a chance. The only FPS I ever played for console where the controls weren't totally overwhelming for me was Nintendo's Metroid Prime series. I find them much easier to play with keyboard and mouse.
I didn't find the Bioshock demo too hard on PC. I will acknowledge that I may have a little more exposure to the genre than you.

Brokenbyclouds said...

I don't thunk it's silly at all. Watching a friend play was how I got through the Silent Hill franchise and I really enjoyed it.

I had similar problems with Bioshock for PC but I too wanted to see how the story played out. I opted to use cheat codes making me invincible and it worked out just fine!