Video Games And Morality: Bioshock

So I had my first panel ever this weekend at Comikaze and I really enjoyed doing it! We had a medium turnout so I feel like over-all it went well. I had a blast so as far as I am concerned it was great. The panel was titled “8-Bit Kingdom: How Video Games May Embody the Beatitudes and Change the World.” Which has led many of you to ask, how do video games embody morality and especially the beatitudes?

A good question and during the panel I tried to relate it to my own experience as well as keeping to a recovery theme. However for those who didn’t make it out, the next couple of posts will talk about this.

The first game up is…

BioshockBioshock – This overall brilliant game (one of my favorites) is at ground zero for the morality debate and I talked about it quite a bit.  In particular there are two points I’d like to make here but first a little setup. Bioshock takes place in an underwater city named Eden. Eden embraces the philosophy of Ayn Rand (one of the main characters is called Atlas). Basically Rand’s philosophies boil down to a couple of points.

One is rugged individualism. The idea that the individual can and should be able to do whatever they want if they feel it benefits them (for instance, have an affair if it makes you happy.) Secondly, that government should be completely laissez faire, that is to say, completely hands free from any regulations and that people and institutions should be free to follow whatever course they wish. You can probably see where this is going.

Eden, was supposed to be a paradise free from regulation and control in all areas such including politics, industry, economics, science, art, philosophy among other things. It was basically saying there is no real truth or morality, do whatever you please. The result was that before long everything went to hell in a hand basket.  Economics was soon taken over by the mob, science began experimenting on people and the arts became gross and macabre. It is a society that got what it deserved based on its beliefs.

Kind of sounds familiar doesn’t it? I use Bioshock to illustrate what happens when you have no real truth or moral foundation. You get a grab-all-you-can, sick, self-absorbed society that devolves into chaos and crime.

You also get drugs. Point two is that Bioshock shows the depravity of drug use and the problems it causes. There is a new available in Eden called ADAM and everyone is addicted to it. For the record it does pretty cool stuff, such as feeding your special powers, but you need ADAM to play the game.  The world of Bioshock is filled with crazy, psychopathic ADAM users desperate to get more at any cost. How low will they go? Try killing the little orphan girls that go around and recollect the stuff (fortunately they have Big Daddy to watch over them), Case in point , I recently met an addict who flushed a couple of grams Meth down a toilet when he was still using. He was so desperate to get it back that he actually licked the toilet hoping to get some in his system. My point is that addicts will do anything to get their fix and Bioshock does a great job of representing that.

So that is it for round one of video games and morality. I get it, at the end of the day we are ultimately just talking about video games. So we don’t want to take this to seriously. Still video games are a huge part of the entertainment industry and it ain’t just kids playing as the average age of a gamer is in his early 30’s. So they do require some critical thinking and it is nice to see some games with depth and spirituality we can learn from.

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