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Hey everyone this is Jared, creator
of 8-bit Philosophy and we've got a special episode for you guys. Now while many games
are certainly philosophical—very few are as effective at integrating philosophical
concepts in to the plot as Bioshock.
Not only is the Bioshock trilogy a pioneer of gameplay- mixing elements of survival horror,
RPGs, and FPS games, but it's also flaunts a level of intellectual sophistication rarely
seen in games. Welcome
to this special episode on The Philosophy of Bioshock. Oh, and we're skipping the
second one.
“Who is John Galt?” Is the cryptic question posed in Atlas Shrugged, the most famous book
by Russian born thinker Ayn Rand. Similarly, “Who is Atlas?” posters adorn the walls
of Rapture—transforming the original question of Rand's work.
In the book, John Galt, engineer, genius, and heartthrob, encourages a strike of the
mind, where all the world's industrialists are encouraged to leave their roles in an
ever increasingly controlling, regulated, and rule driven world.
Frustrated with the inefficiency of Socialism, and it's lack of care for the individual
and their hard work, Galt retreats to Galt's Gulch to shut down the industrial motor of
the world.
The original Bioshock takes place in Rapture, a digital homage to Galt's Gulch, in which
all the world's best minds were brought together undersea by one man- Andrew Ryan.
The names Andrew Ryan is effectively an anagram for “Ayn Rand” (Well. More or less.)
Andrew Ryan's political philosophy is lifted right from Rand's concept of “objectivism.”
Objectivism is a sort of guide to living a worthy life—its main tenants are: reality,
reason, self-interest and capitalism.
Basically, Rand believes that Reality is concrete and objective—there's no point in talking
about the mystical, divine, and supernatural as guiding forces for humanity—actions should
be determined solely on the basis of intellect. An easier way to say this is: Ayn Rand is
an atheist.
And apparently so is Andrew Ryan:
Ryan: I believe in no God – no invisible man in the sky. But there is something more
powerful than each of us: a combination of our efforts, a Great Chain of industry that
unites us.
Andrew Ryan serves as a mouthpiece for Rand's condemnation of coercive governments in favor
of a society based in belief that coercive government policies violate people's autonomy.
Her reaction is an ethics if egoism or radical self interest. Objecivism. It holds that people
ought to work hard to achieve happiness in their own lives, work hard, and not treat
others are mere means to an end.
Andrew Ryan's Monologues might as well have been lifted directly from Rand's work:
Ryan: Though my physical defenses fall, you'll not defeat me. My strength is not in steel
and fire, but in my intellect and will. You hear me, Atlas? Andrew Ryan offers you nothing
but ashes! In the end, all that matters to me is me. And all that matters to you is you.
It is the nature of things.
Rapture was founded under the belief that the communist parasites in the world above
were freeloaders that stole, violated, and unjustly took from the captains if industry.
Ryan was tired of working and not getting what he deserved—just like Galt.
Ryan: “No,” says the man in Washington, “It belongs to the poor.” “No,” says
the man in the Vatican, “It belongs to God.” “No,” says the man in Moscow, “It belongs
to everyone.” I rejected those answers.
Also like Ryan, Rand was a proponent of Laissez-faire capitalism or, the idea that a good government
exists only to protect individual rights, and stays out of people's personal lives
and the market.
Similarly, in the world of Rapture, The plasmid market is severely under regulated—the belief
is that the unfettered market provides the best options for consumers.
Ryan (tape): There has been tremendous pressure to regulate this plasmid business. There have
been side effects: blindness, insanity, death. But what use is our ideology if it is not
tested? The market does not respond like an infant, shrieking at the first sign of displeasure.
The market is patient, and we must be too.
So what went wrong? Does the ruinous state of Rapture suggest that a society run by such
tenants is doomed to fail? Or did Ryan pervert Rand's beliefs?
This is where ADAM comes in. ADAM is a resource so potent that it led to a civil war between
Ryan and Fontaine, err… Atlas. Due to Ryan's ideals of a free market economy, ADAM was
completely deregulated, creating a population of addicts riddled with side effects-— resulting
in rampant chaos and instability
Using the little sisters as mules for magical sea slugs to create ADAM certainly
treats them as mere tools for your own goals. And Ms. Rand would certainly disapprove.
Lets be clear—the trendy discussion on Bioshock Infinite has something to do with quantum
entanglement and multiverses— and while it's a great discussion—it's already been
covered ad nauseam. We are going to abbreviate the discussion because… science is hard.
The third installment of the Bioshock series moves from the underwater world of Rapture
to the floating city: Columbia.
A play on the United States Capital, Columbia is a sort of floating Eden founded by a man
named Zachary Hale Comstock.
Comstock is a fictional stand in for nineteenth century New York political figure Anthony
Comstock—famous for his fight against obscenity and his rather prudish values. The Comstock
character mirrors Anthony's public feud with noted anarchist Emma Goldman, who is
doubled by Daisy Fitzroy.
Comstock founds Columbia with the promise of providing a place for God's people, apart
from the world of sinners in the Sodom below.
This image of Columbia as a shining beacon in the sky has its philosophical justification
in the concept of American Exceptionalism. American Exceptionalism is the belief that
the New World was promised to God's chosen people. And through this philosophy, Bioshock
Infinite provides us with a tasty satire of America's Historical landscape.
American Exceptionalism is a way of justifying a particular lifestyle. Columbia, Like America,
is considered God's country. Forgiveness of sins, Salvation, and Baptism are all religious
themes in Infinite—but like it's predecessor, this game explores the dark side of this philosophy.
Similar to Comstock's Colombia, The expansion into the new frontier was justified as a mission
from God—to ensure that the new world doesn't backslide like the old world sinners of Europe.
America was to be a land populated by exceptional, chosen people, exempt, and above the rest
of the world. Secularized as manifest destiny—American Excpetionalism justifies and demands the extermination
of the indigenous people of the “wilderness,” AKA Native Americans, for the sake of securing
the national identity of the Christian settlers. Those not willing to accept Christianity were
forcibly moved or eliminated.
American Exceptionalism is not just a question of land—the ideology of this philosophy
is inextricably woven into the fabric of history. Slavery, labor strikes, the abuses of Irish
and Chinese workers who built the American Railroad system—are all justified by the
lofty goal of a promised city for God's people.
Fearful of the anarchist Vox Populi, afraid of the Irish and Chinese threat, and scared
of racial mixing, Columbia is a paranoid place.
Infinite explores America's haunted past—The Battle of Wounded knee which is considered
the end of the U.S and Indian wars, is heralded. Laws enforcing racial segregation for relationship
and marriage, and lynching are not just the norm—they're commonplace. Perhaps this
is why the enemies in the games are robotic George Washington's called “Patriots.”
With Bioshock Infinite we get the prospect that the Hero, Booker Dewitt is both Comstock
and Andrew Ryan—when it is revealed that in another dimension the hero of the game
is simultaneously the villain. Bioshock exposes the paranoia of an Us versus Tthem Dichotomy—it
challenges our conception of good guys and bad guys—of freedom fighters, revolutionaries,
dictators and terrorists.
Kill little sisters or save them, throw a ball at an interracial couple or at the racist
announcer, accept or reject the baptismal forgiveness of sins.
One of the essential dilemmas of Bioshock is the freedom of action, choice, and free
will. For those of you that don't know me, my name is Matt and I run a channel called
Game Theorists. Thanks a lot to Wisecrack for having me. Let's get in to it- this
is the importance of choice and Free Will in Bioshock.
In the first Bioshock we are told: “Andrew Ryan reminds us – we all make choices, but,
in the end, our choices make us.” So… if we make choices, we must be free. But then
again, if our choices make us then how can we be free to make them? This off conundrum
leads us to the question: Is Free will even possible?
In Oone school of thought known as, Hard Determinists suggests believe that there is no such thing
as free will. If all action can be boiled down to cause and effect, then all of our
actions are always bound by an external force.
Even you, viewer, may think you are free to click off this video right now. But keep in
mind that if you do, there is a REASON you are doing so. So the question is:, are you
truly free in your actions, or are your actions a result of a series of events that you had
nothing to do with? Our “choice” in our actions is merely an illusion.
Andrew Ryan reiterates this with the phrase “A man chooses. A slave obeys.” In what
is perhaps the most brilliant part of the original game, Andrew Ryan makes a statement
on the nature of gaming itself, and how you, as a gamer, are destined to mindlessly follow
the fixed path of the game's narrative. And “interactivity,” or the idea that
you as the gamer have any bearing on how the game will turn out, is merely an illusion.
Infinite presents a possible way out of the problem of free will—the multiverse—an
infinite number of worlds to choose from. The fact that Booker is able to go back and
choose to not be baptized—to smother baby Comstock in his crib seems to be a way out
of a deterministic universe.
Except that this very choice isn't a real possibility.
Even when it seems that there is choice for the player—the game hints at the problem
of free will.
The first choice—to flip a coin- is quite interesting. You are prompted with the “choice”
to press X and flip the coin. Except, in reality, you are not free to not flip—if
you never 'press X', the game doesn't progress, it just stays there. But if you
do 'press X' to flip… well it always ends up heads.
Or Consider the scene in which Booker is prompted with the choice to “Bring [them]
the girl and wipe away the debt.” You are free to walk around the room. The game even
presents you with the OPTION of pressing X to hand Elizabeth over. Yet, the only way
to progress in the game is to press X and pick baby Elizabeth up.
Even though “Press X” is an OPTION that you can seemingly deny, the game proves
that this “choice” is merely an illusion. You are fated to hand Elizabeth over. Whereas
most games would just show this event in a cut scene, Bioshock makes you press square.
It forces you to recognize that you are in fact not free, and anything that indicates
otherwise, is merely an illusion.
Perhaps the only way to truly assert your freedom in the world of Bioshock is to simply
turn off the game.
Jared: Jump through this dimensional tear by clicking here to see the Wisecrack crew
debate against MatPat.
Which game is more of an artistic masterpiece – The Last of Us or Pacman?
Be sure to check out the Wisecrack Channel page and subscribe for more smart stuff. And
hey - Help us win the debate by hopping over to that video and casting your vote for us!
MatPat: That seems relatively unfair.
Jared: You're just afraid that the Wisecrack army is going to take you down!
MatPat: Well, at the end of the day, the choice of whether to click or not is theirs...OR IS IT?!
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The Philosophy of BioShock - Wisecrack Edition

323 Folder Collection
squallriver史嗑爾 published on May 13, 2018
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