Bioshock’s underwater city of Rapture is an environment that physically embodies broken dreams. Built by the visionary Andrew Ryan, the city was meant to represent the high-minded ideals of creative and scientific freedom, along with the optimism of 1950’s America. The freedom that Rapture offered ultimately lead to its downfall, however. The invention of Plasmids and Adam … Continue reading Game Log #3 (Bioshock) – The Dissonant, Diegetic Soundtrack →
Bioshock’s underwater city of Rapture is an environment that physically embodies broken dreams. Built by the visionary Andrew Ryan, the city was meant to represent the high-minded ideals of creative and scientific freedom, along with the optimism of 1950’s America. The freedom that Rapture offered ultimately lead to its downfall, however. The invention of Plasmids and Adam gave citizens new, powerful abilities, but ended up driving the populace into a state madness and obsession. The once-pristine, rusted and flooded environments of Rapture stand as a testament to what Rapture once was and how the errors of man caused everything to quickly go awry.
In Dr. Lerner’s Film Music course, I learned a great deal about how music is used to compliment film, and I find that many parallels can be drawn between video game and film soundtracks. In the case of Bioshock, dissonant, diegetic music can regularly be found playing from phonographs and radios within the game’s world. I am drawn to one particular memory from my first time playing Bioshock, when I found myself pinned between one of these radios and a horde of angry splicers. As Bobby Darin’s rendition of “Beyond the Sea” played in the background, I desperately used the last shells in my shotgun to dispatch my attackers that dashed at me from the dark. When the cacophony of my firing had died down and the splicers lay dead, I finally could take a deep breath. All the while, “Beyond the Sea,” kept playing softly.
Not only did the diegetic soundtrack serve to draw me into the world, but it served to highlight the broken dreams of Rapture just as the broken physical environment does. “Beyond the Sea” embodies late-40s-early 50s American optimism, with its melody and lyrics conveying a sense of cheerfulness and comfort. The splicers that attacked me, on the other hand, were a reflection of Raptures failures and the monster the city had become. The music served, therefore, as a dissonant soundtrack (or a soundtrack that does not match the actions on screen). Dissonant soundtracks are a common filmic technic, and they often emphasize particular themes or emotions by choosing music that purposely counters what is expected in a scene. Like the once-shining statues of Rapture, the diegetic music represents what could have been. Rapture was founded on optimism and creation, and the contrast between the music and reality confirm this. Ultimately, Rapture’s decaying physical environment and the game’s music work together to solidify that Rapture is a land of tattered dreams and corrupted potential.
Other than briefly watching friends play Final Fantasy X, this is my first time playing it from the beginning. It was originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. The game has text and voice to drive the plot forward, which I found exciting at certain times and distracting during other moments. During the first […]
Other than briefly watching friends play Final Fantasy X, this is my first time playing it from the beginning. It was originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. The game has text and voice to drive the plot forward, which I found exciting at certain times and distracting during other moments. During the first 30 minutes of the game, the player is not allowed to skip any film nor save, but at times, is allowed to pause the game while the “background” music continued. In films, the music is always synchronized with on-screen action. But during the cinematic interludes of Final Fantasy X, pausing the game did not pause the music, which not only confused me but gave its game music a fluid identity between the diegetic and nondiegetic world. Another aspect that had a flexible identity was deciding the character’s name; there is a scene in which the character must talk to a group of AI. They ask the character for his name, and a menu pops up to give him a name. The game imitates many features in film, from the camera angles to the montages used for transitions. They were so integrated with one another, that sometimes it was confusing to know when the player should move the character!
The game introduction included more of the player “watching” than “playing.” That difference is the same distinction that exists between engagement and immersion in video games. Immersion (or spatial presence, as it has been termed by Jamie Madigan) needs the player to believe in the world and its context. On the other hand, engagement is similar to the feeling of “flow” (a psychology term for undivided attention and involvement during an activity). While playing Final Fantasy X, the game created a feeling of immersion but I found myself bored – almost frustrated at times – with how unengaging it was. The narrative drove so much of the immersion that I began to feel bored. Frustration built as I yearned for more game play and not so much watching the cinematic storyline. The characters didn’t help, because they drilled in the plot by saying phrases like “listen to my story” and “this is your story, it all begins here.”
The session ended when the game provided me a “Traveller’s Save Sphere,” which stores the character’s HP and MP and allows the player to save game play. The sphere wants to be a diegetic machinic part of the game, although I did not feel so comfortable with the game’s decision to integrate the nondiegetic with the diegetic. I’m excited to continue, although I hope this time, I hope I can expect more “play” time.
Galloway, A. “Gamic Action, Four Moments,” from Gaming, pp. 1-38.
Madigan, J. “The Psychology of Immersion in Video Games” The Psychology of Video Games. Web. 2010.