a man chooses

I’m still in line-edit limbo.  I could be getting on with other projects but I suspect my brain might explode if I try to think about anything that isn’t Glitterland.

So I shall blog ad tedium.

I recently bought Bioshock Infinite for myself as a sort of “no reason, you’re a grown man, you can spend your own money on whatever you like” sort of reward.  And, alas, I am not gripped.  I am in a state of non-grippedness.  I am, in fact, completely smegging ungripped.

And I feel like a whinger because everybody keeps writing about how super-amazing-awsome the whole thing is.  I’m also a little bit sad because I may have to acknowledge my relationship with video games is changing or has changed. Or, y’know, something.  I just honestly don’t have the time any more, which is a sad incitement err … indictment of being a nominal grown up if I ever heard one, and I’m starting to wonder if I have the patience.

I think I’m buying games out of habit. And substituting buying them for, well, playing them.

The only games I’ve actually finished in the past few years have been pretty linear first person shooters or otherwise action-centric things.  Well, I’m not sure how you’d characterise Dishonoured. First person stabber? Or in my case, first person sneaker.  But my heart – I’m sure – still belongs to RPGs.  I mean I’m one of those wanky gamers who are in it for the story, man, the story.  Well, I’m in for the story AND the gameplay, otherwise I’d just read a book.

But finding 30-50 hours to pour into a game is borderline impossible these days.  And then I just stare at my ridiculously vast Steam library of half-finished games, and feel simultaneously depressed and frustrated.  Well, in a very minor way. I mean, talk about small violins. OMG, it’s terrible, my Steam library is too extensive and my life too full of interesting opportunities.  Woe is me.

Obviously I’m not very interested in the broad sweep of FPS games – the ones where you go to exotic locales, equipped yourself with an extensive repertoire of heavy weaponry and shoot people who are different colour to you for no readily apparent reason.  Because it’s war.  And that’s what happens in war. Or whatever.  But, when there’s something more going on than, I really like knowing that not only the story but the entire experience can be packed up and presented to me in about 8 hours.

So, I’m a big fan of the original Bioshock. I mean I don’t think it’s necessarily great art but then I’m not sure what IS great art.  But it’s imaginatively and intellectually engaging, and I’m kind of a sucker for PLACE, if that makes sense.  It’s the same with books, to be honest.  I don’t want a million gazillion pages of intensely detailed description (New Crobuzon, for example, was way too much for me) but I love it when you feel like you’re inhabiting somewhere, not just a textual space.  But one of the things that really draws me to computer games is the ability to not only see, but be part of, a world.  Like, galloping over the ice-plains of Skyrim, beneath the bare blue sky, you can sometimes feel genuinely chilly.  And Bioshock, of course, had Rapture, it underwater objectivist Dystopia.

Hell yes.

Graphics have moved on a bit since, but I still remember the place like I’ve actually been there.  The glittering blue-green cityscapes.  It’s glass-and-gold palaces.  And the ruined splendour of it all.  Columbia, by contrast, is a flying city – which ought to be just as breathtakingly cool, but somehow isn’t.  To me, anyway. They reflect the same sort of hubris, but the story of Columbia is massively less engaging.

To some extent, I think it’s personal.  I’m a lonely gamer, by temperament.  I like to come to the ruins of something and unravel the story backwards.  In Bioshock Infinite you kind of are the story, which, again, should be more interesting but it lacks the same sort of melancholy resonance.

Weirdly, I’m thinking of an art installation someone took me to once.  The whole exhibition was about rooms, I think, and I can’t remember anything else about it, because I fail at culture.  But the installation that really worked for me was called something like Tribute to HP Lovecraft, and you went up this wooden spiral staircase, through a metal hatch and into this … I don’t know how to describe it … a white-painted gallery space, wooden-floored, with these huge gouts and chunks just ripped out of the walls to show the innards of the architecture.  A couple of scattered breeze-blocks, wreckage on the floor, a complete sense of carnage and a raw force of inconceivable destruction.   When we first stepped inside, I thought we’d taken a wrong turning and wandered into an unfinished space before I realised that we’d actually blundered into the end of Lovecraft story. That moment when some stranger surveys the devastation and constructs the narrative.  It was amazing – and one of the few times I’ve actually felt part of an installation, rather than merely an observer of it.

And I think that’s what I liked about the original Bioshock. Constructing the narrative from the place.

Whereas Columbia just feels kind of hollow to me, even though it’s beautiful, and has actual living people in it, rather than a bunch of crazed mutants, so it should feel … realer, right?  Also the whole super-religious, wildly racist thing isn’t exactly a compelling philosophy.  The thing about objectivism is that, even though it’s a load of bunk, it’s strangely compelling bunk.  I mean if you squint at it funny you can almost get onside.  Why, yes, yes, I do believe a man is entitled to the sweat of his brow.  And given it valorises freedom and artistry and meritocracy, you can kind of see why nerdboys get hot over that kind of stuff.   So I think you sort of regret the fall of Rapture, even as the sensible part of you reflects that it was inevitable because objectivism is stupid.

But no matter how pretty Columbia looks, it’s hard to accord grudging respect to a philosophy that is largely based about having non-white people washing the floors for their own good. I mean you’d have to be the most psychotically banal racist imaginable to be thinking to yourself “yep, this Comstock fellow might have a point.”


Elizabeth is nice though.

I think I need a new a hobby.


2 Responses to a man chooses

  1. Sarah Frantz says:

    Yeah, I’m sorry. Getting there.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Nooooo, don’t say sorry. This wasn’t a really lacklustre attempt to be obliquely passive aggressive. I’m not, like, Heather, y’know 🙂 You’ve just wrapped up one job, barely stopped for breath, and are about to plunge into another. Also I’m the doofus who re-wrote 3k words off the cuff. Things take the time they take. And sorry if this made me sound like an ungrateful prick. It was meant to be about my confused headspace 🙂

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