The Troubling Predicament of BioShock: Infinite

One of the most anticipated games of 2012 faces one of gaming's oldest dilemmas.

There's something wrong with BioShock: Infinite, but it isn't the game itself. The spate of videos released over the past three weeks highlight individual enemies, with members of the development team discussing the inspiration behind these creatures' form and function.

They raise some questions: Why give us the director's commentary when we haven't even seen the movie yet? Shouldn't there be some surprise? And since no one is forcing me to watch them, why does the recent bombardment of videos bother me so much?

Many of BioShock: Infinite's public appearances in recent weeks are trailers that don't reveal anything that isn't supposed to be seen. There's little opportunity for investigation, but more importantly, there's almost no room for interpretation. It feels like there's no confidence in the audience to come to its own conclusions because doing so would mean expectations go unchecked. In turn, this raises some important questions: Is this game not capable of standing on its own merits? Why not let fans come to their own conclusions? To be fair, the associated interviews with Irrational's creative director, Ken Levine, give some much-needed context to these scraps cut from the roast, but Levine isn't in a position to go outside the unspoken but understood boundaries of this week's "heavy hitter" or whatever happens to be the agreed-upon topic.

These videos do a great disservice not only to Infinite, but also to Irrational. On a macro level, the constant dissecting of game content introduces an element of media fatigue so pervasive that by the time the game is released, there's nothing to talk about. There's no mystery. There's no opportunity for fans to interpret their own narrative, because they're already being told why something is in the game and why it looks the way it does. It was all spelled out months before, and by the creators no less. It's like attending a Shakespeare class and being told your take is wrong because the professor is Shakespeare, and he would probably know better than anyone.

"It's like attending a Shakespeare class and being told your take is wrong because the professor is Shakespeare […]"
It's amazing that a studio with such enormous artistic and visual talent would spread the gospel of BioShock that, quite frankly, is antiquated and boring. Why tear down the universe when it hasn't even been built in the minds of the audience? Why not use the magnificent talents of your art team and feed imaginations? You also have one of the most passionate and talented fan bases of any game out there, so why not let them do the work for you on some level?

Regardless, it's a shame and simultaneously worrisome that there are potentially several more months of this ahead. Will there be anything left to discover come October 16?

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Discussion

282 comments
VilandasUK
VilandasUK

I haven't watched anything that would show spoilers to me except for the teaser trailer and the first game play and I won't be watching anything else because then it comes out and I'm gonna buy it and I will be spoiler free :D

Dentalflossbush
Dentalflossbush

I've never seen a video game concept delivered so originally or as captivating as Bioshock. The unparalleled creativity makes these games artwork. I don't care how many enemies they show me, it makes me want to play it more. The intricate depth in the environment design and character development is unmatched. Personally i wont be watching the heavy hitters vids because i want the pure engrossing experience. So that you Ken Levine and the Bioshock team for your amazing work.

The_GooBear
The_GooBear

@wibachinski Good point. They had a walkthrough of a BioShock section before it was released that explained the purpose of the Little Sisters, Big Daddies and Splicers. When the game came out I wasn't disappointed. It had so much more to offer than what was revealed. Maybe they're just running out of things to discuss. The only shameful thing about it is how many conspiracies there are against the video game industry they work to uphold.

Kayweg
Kayweg

BioShock Infinite is only one example of this. I completely agree with this article. Yes, i could simply choose not to watch. I do however try to keep informed, in fact that's why i visit gaming sites like GS in the first place. That information could also be provided by just releasing clips of actual gameplay instead of all the gloss and narrative. This approach would allow me to get an impression and form an early opinion while leaving enough room for imagination. Maybe LESS brainwashing would be the better advertising here ?

ALLmyBROSgame
ALLmyBROSgame

Marketing for games and honestly for any brand is completely changing. There's so much going on in the world today we need reminders that'll keep things at the front our minds. This is just their way of saying "hey, the games coming, don't forget about us." I don't think it robs from the story because none of the heavy hitters have been completely explained. They're literally just showing us mini-boss characters hopefully to keep us intrigued. I can see how this could be considered spoiler material to some, though.

nster81
nster81

@Giancarlo But to single out BioShock? BioShock is usually strong on story and is rather dynamic, so they won't run out of things/way to play in the game. You could use something like a Ghost Recon Future Soldier type of shooter as a better example. Marketing for games that aren't longer than 5 hours ruins a lot more and shows a lot less at the same time.

wibachinski
wibachinski

Remember that one time when we knew about Big Daddies before Bioshock? Too bad they couldn't do anything innovative with the game or throw in any shocking twists to the story. Oh wait...

Lausanna
Lausanna

I generally don't pay much attention to previews. Just enough to get a sense of whether I'm going to want to buy a game or not.

Kickable
Kickable

SgtStrungOut this mass marketing BS you're talking about can easily be avoided, it only ruins games for people with no restraint, who get burned by spoilers but still keep watching previews. who cares about them, they don't deserve a spotlight like they're victims of some bad industry practices that need to be changed, they're nowhere near new and they're entirely optional may be valid for TV ads, but barely. 99% of the time an ad is just some short cinematic montage and not even close to these Bioshock monster bios, with the main character narrating why he wants to shoot at aliens or monsters in some broadly typical speech. your finger on the mute button is still faster than he is though

DethAngel22
DethAngel22

I like how he posts the video here, tempting you to watch it. Just waiting there...paused. This rant making no sense unless you watch it...this blog is promoting you to watch the video he's complaining about lol

lanasrj
lanasrj

I think they're banking on the game having enough surprises for players that even having this knowledge won't lessen the impact. Let's wait and see before we start worrying, okay?

hermes200
hermes200

@Elazul_Stice: That is an awful comparison. The article is about Irrational and Levine choosing to show all surprises and answer all questions beforehand, spoiling surprises and interpretations that should be left to experience in October; which is totally different than complaining afterwards (because I assume people that complain at least had the decency of playing it) about the product. OT: There is always the choice of not watching the videos, although I presume there is a lot more to this game than what is shown there...

Elazul_Stice
Elazul_Stice

OHHH no Gamespot. remember Mass Effect 3? Games are now an artform not to be criticised. The "artists" CHOOSE to show some preliminary sketches. Mystery? Fans interpret their own narrative? oohhhh no sir. you're confused. If you question the artist, is it really their art anymore? /sarcasm :/

umster
umster

@Nafe if we dont like the story line we can always presure the devs to change it

Nafe
Nafe

He wants to compare to Shakespeare? If anyone has read Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare gives away the entire story line in the Epilogue of the opening speech. Yet, the story itself was surprising and amazing. There is your perfect example.

Nafe
Nafe

Wait so people are complaining they know too much? WTF? This is called ADVERTISING. Bioshock 2 was a disappointing sequel, and they want the fans to know the next won't disappoint. I guarantee you we don't know HALF of what is in the game.

conkerton
conkerton

Watch 5 seconds of the Bioshock heavy hitters and shut it off. I want a surprise for the game.

baldrickhead
baldrickhead

@ Shnx30. I think it's a mistake to presume to understand the typical gamer's mind or to equate the general populace with a bunch of unquestioning media-consuming lemmings. Just because most people don't contemplate the meanings of King Richard the III on the bus home doesn't mean their subconscious understandings of art, its meanings and symbols, aren't affected by others and the interpretations of others. Giancarlo's article raises an age-old question. What place do artists intentions hold in our understanding of their art. Like film, our gaming industry is saturated with these broadcasted intentions before the 'finished' products/artworks even arrive. There is nothing wrong or right about this. The key of when to suspend interpretation for the thrill of the ride will probably always be the burdern of the individual and their personal tastes. The world is waking up to game art, and its discussion is the young progeny, but hype and marketing came of age long ago. Viewer beware, they're be spoilers 'ere.

Banefire76
Banefire76

@SgtStrungOut I remember those days too :) When i was around 9yrs old (giving my age away here) i got my 1st brand new Atari 2600. And in those days you only had the one screenshot on the back of the case with a blurb to inform your purchase. I agree that having the bare minimum preview for what looks to be a hit certainly makes the wait an exciting one. But im the sort of person that loves to hear the motivations and feelings behind the creation of games. I look for the individuals that give of themselves when they create a world for us all to play in. Rather than the companies that simply copy other successful companies for the sole purpose of making money. So for that reason i gravitate to games made by the likes of Hideo Kojima, Ken Levine and Hironobu Sakaguchi. And when they discuss thier motivations to why they made a certain decision in creation of a game i lap it up with glee. Because they do it out of love for the medium and it shows. So i dont disagree with either your point or Giancarlo's but i think there are exceptions to the rule, especially with creators that always give more than what is expected of them like the 3 examples i mentioned. :)

jefferson1964
jefferson1964

Like was said you do not have to watch the videos. Ive not seen one and do not plan on seeing any as i was to be suprised. In a way it is like Mass Effect 3 releasing a demo...i didnt play as I did not want to know anything beforehand.

SgtStrungOut
SgtStrungOut

@Banefire76 I never said the game is bad or not going to live up to the unnecessary hype, but it kills the mystery and charm of gaming to me. When I was younger, each game I got was a mystery to me because the only way I ever got to see what it looked like before I played it was on old school gaming magazines or, on rare occasions if the game was made by a major developer, on a 20-30 second commercial. That was cool. That made me appreciate the game more. I am not a huge Bioshock fan (although I beat both games 100%), but I see this with so many games, and I was happy to see a article bringing this issue up, yet dissapointed with all these casuals commenting as if it would hurt their experience if there was no hype for the game.

Banefire76
Banefire76

@SgtStrungOut While i agree with your sentiment i must disagree with lumping Ken Levine in the same category. Ken's work on System Shock 2 and Bioshock 1 clearly shows the talent he has for presenting an excellent story/narrative. Sure it is true that heavy marketing before release does catch casual gamers unawares but i dont believe that what has been shown in trailers and pics will detract from what this game is going to encompass. Perhaps a little more care in selecting targets for your very correct statement would be beneficial?

SgtStrungOut
SgtStrungOut

Wow all you little impatient kids and immature adults need to grow up and realize that this shameless mass marketing hype BS is ruining gaming. The mystery and imagination of video games is gone thanks to scumbags like Levine and all the other developers at companies that hype of their game to appeal to casual gamers and people who not normally game had they not seen ads of said game. Seriously, are these people gamers or just sheeple whoever go with what is popular and on TV? Dumbed down and drone like.

AceBalls
AceBalls

I've been staying away from all these previews and sneak peeks for fear some very unnecessary spoilers....

maderrin
maderrin

I guess that's just a hype attempt went bad. 15 years ago all you could do before the game's release was to watch some very early screenshots of it published in a magazine. Now ther's so much stuff going on before the actual release, that I often feel like I've already played the game. Very little is left for the player to discover, that's why I cut down the amount of video watching and news reading just to have some more fun later on.

Sheic
Sheic

I was thinking this months ago. Why is Ken Levine showing alot of himself explaing the game and how your suppose to play it and what everything stands for, instead of, i dont know - showing us snippets of the actual game and letting us get excited about it! I too started to get bored with seeing Ken alot and not Bioshock Infinite, hence i dont watch or look at any content associated with Bioshock Infinite. It made it even worse when the release date was announced for the end of this year. Im a huge fan of Bioshock 1&2.

indicaX
indicaX

So we're starting the "It's cool to not like this game" crap with Bioshock already. The game has an advertising budget and slight mainstream appeal so now we're going to pick it apart starting with the ad campaign. I would say this is a suprise, but it's not really...

homegirl2180
homegirl2180

I don't think the majority of Bioshock consumers are watching these videos, or even aware of them. As of this time two years ago, Bioshock's sales total was 4 million. Do you really think they're all watching these videos? I'm not, and I began with Irrational back with System Shock 2.

sonic-boom
sonic-boom

While I do agree Bioshock: Infinite has revealed alot of game information early, I think this article is over-reacting. The reason I can think of for all this exposure is for Infinite to distance itself from the Rapture setting so when somebody buys it in October there should be no confusion.

lewishim666
lewishim666

They are only telling us the same stuff that they told us before bioshock was released. We knew about the big daddies, little sisters, the splicers, and andrew ryan before bioshock came out. There were still plenty of surprises when I finally played bioshock. I'm confident that there are still plenty of tricks up irrationals sleeve. A "shock" game is more about the journey and the things you choose to do in the world. Irrational hasn't ruined the "journey" by telling us this stuff. With that said, it seems like gamespot got bored and needed to right something.

johnnybowman
johnnybowman

@BoxingTheStars Yeah for a second I thought this was an IGN article. If you do not want it spoiled use some self control and do not watch. I do not have that self control. yeah this is a repost

Banefire76
Banefire76

If this game had anyone other than Ken Levine at the wheels then i may agree to a degree. But when it comes to Ken and what i have seen so far from interviews with the 2 main voice actors and the premise of the game and the setting im intrigued all the more. Why? because Ken always has much more in store. And frankly everything shown is something to be expected anyway since a certain continuity is to be expected between bioshock games. There exist certain series that when the original writer that garnered the series its original attention are involved in the upcoming game, the audience can trust that once again they are going to be entertained because that lead writer always delivers - Ken Levine is such a person and when he wasn't working on a Bioshock game is when the story and integrity suffered (eg. Bioshock 2) Another example of a trutworthy lead writer not being present on a series he/she created would be Drew Karpyshyn. The most recent edition of the series he started out as lead writer suffered greatly because his artistic vision was not present to lend integrity to the storyline which resulted in a failed ending. I see this approach as giving "full disclosure" to its fans without ruining the story's inevitable twists. Kinda like, "heres whats to be expected ok, so now you're clear to enjoy the narrative when you get into the game." The same thing happened with Arkham City and that was still an awesome game, so i say take a chill pill Giancarlo :)

nickythenewt21
nickythenewt21

So some videos about the enemies in the game are somehow going to spoil the entire game for the audience? Yeah no, this game looks incredible, a once in a generation kind of game. I mean, I understand not wanting to know everything in the game and wanting some surprises, but obviously they aren't going to show everything the game has to offer in these Heavy Hitters. This is Irrational Games for God's sake, if there's a developer who knows how to surprise their audience it's them.

accretia27
accretia27

I'm sure they still got surprises for gamers in the game, I hope.

Jaxith
Jaxith

I never watch, or read up on any games I'm looking forward to. I like everything to be a mystery. I don't want to know what characters I'm going to meet until I meet them, and I love discovering things in games that I didn't expect.

RussellGorall
RussellGorall

I was gonna' flame this piece, but I actually agree to a point. That being said, while most games would have been completed depleted of surprises by now, Infinite will probably have ten times as much in the actual game. Also, while this is an actual AAA title, it isn't published by Rockstar and Bioware didn't do the ending so critics and consumers already have something against it. That E3 2011 demo of it was touching, as was the latest Far Cry 3 trailer. These games actually need a little bit of headway in order for you guys to talk about them.

CommisarNoddy
CommisarNoddy

I totally agree. I have stopped watching the vids as i refuse to see more of the game. Same for farcry 3...

rahmie0789
rahmie0789

a bunch of over-analyzed info. This game will be fine.

shinx30
shinx30

(Cont.) Look at a film like Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange...Very underrated film regarding its audience and cultural impact. Most people watch the film because it's unique and interesting. Nobody cares about the subliminal messaging within the film. Now, that's very contrary to this case, Kubrick having never explained any of it--but still, those of us who do analyze the film are shunned by the herd. The same goes for the rest of art. Most of the kids I had art with in high school were jocks and bimbos that lacked any respect for our teacher and the content. People are bothered by art and its true purpose, and I believe that's the case with the author of this "article". He's not concerned with the gamers' freedom to interpret the game itself--he feels threatened by the artists' analysis of the material, much like the kinds of people who freak-out when they're told of the practically anti-religious subliminal messaging in Da Vinci paintings.

shinx30
shinx30

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

shinx30
shinx30

I'm sorry but, considering your typical gamer, there's a lot to be explained regarding a piece such as this. They're the artists, so what they say about it IS generally right. Most gamers are not intelligent enough to nitpick symbols, metaphors, and themes within an artwork. The game is without a doubt a work of art, but that is not the cause of its success. People play the game for entertainment and that's it. That's why these explanations are necessary. The predominance of the audience are not artists or those with an artistic mindset--most of them are just simple, generically-minded people. I would know, I deal with these kinds of people everyday, seeing how they makeup 89% of the population.

skittles212
skittles212

Try my method. When I don't want any spoilers I DON'T WATCH every single trailer that gets released!

Nosnitsttam
Nosnitsttam

"will there be anything left to discover come October 16?" well, yeah. if bioshock and it's exhaustive coverage were any indication, there will be TONS of shocking and memorable moments in Infinite. looking at the 1st bioshock, it really had 3 big things to show off: rapture, splicers, and big daddies. all 3 were prominently featured in countless stories and videos, gamespot itself had TONS of gameplay demos. did any of that ruin the experience that i had? nope. in fact several of the later areas blew me away as did the twist near the end of the game. so i doubt these videos will do anything to spoil the experience because i refuse to believe that irrational would release ANYTHING that would ruin a gamers experience. in any event, if you want to avoid over exposure: DON'T WATCH THE VIDEOS. did we really need an article like this?

shinx30
shinx30

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

mat989
mat989

True enough...remember Bioshock's trailer in E3, with almost no sound? I was like, "man, this game will be one the the best in 2012!"...gameplay trailers.."Cool, nice game. I bet the online will be even better if it keeps up like this, etc"...then the flood of videos about story, enemies, commentaries... C'mon, it doesn't change the fact the game still looks good. It was like Alan Wake: American Wasteland did, but it didn't stopped people from buying the game. Why? Because it was a good game. If Bioshock is going that way, either the story is so deep they're giving lots of hints right now to start figuring what'll happen next, or they will do like Asura's Wrath...reveal everything except main story, release game, wait reviews, and the game's dead... Fact: They need to have lessons with Bethesda.

Sepewrath
Sepewrath

Well like you said, the audience doesn't know how to regulate hype and expectations. So the game can be DOA, because it can never live up to the lofty standards people have created in their head. Also you have to show ending before the game comes out, so people know its good and they wont be cheated -_-

grey_fox1984
grey_fox1984

Amazing that this article exists- because I purposely avoided those videos, having a gut feeling that they were filled with spoilers I would prefer to experience first hand when the game is finally out. I don't even think I'm going to watch any more trailers for Prometheus or The Dark Knight Rises if they are released either. I'm sold on all of these things already and can't really get any more excited, previews and trailers will just ruin stuff at this point.