The theory of gaming. Visit us at oracleturret.wordpress.com, and follow on Twitter.
Background Illustrations provided by: http://edison.rutgers.edu/
Neither Mine Nor Thine: Influence of the Judgment of Solomon On Bioshock Infinite

All right, folks, the tale of Bioshock Infinite is nearing an end—Burial at Sea: Part 2 drops today, likely with a twist to throw us for a loop, and that’ll end this piece of this infinite story. In honor of that I’ve got a Bioshock Infinite essay about the DeWitt-Comstock-Elizabeth conflict, through an analogy that Burial at Sea signed and sealed.
Bioshock Infinite deals with some heavy themes, from racism and child abuse to despotism and fate. Not the least among these ideas is the concept of religion as a force for corruption, but in truth no one religion is really focused on. The game’s Christian themes aren’t themselves a source for critique but a foundation on which Columbia’s cultish religion is based, extracting iconic elements such as baptism and the miracle birth without addressing the scriptures themselves. For the most part this approach is fine—it highlights that the issue with religion isn’t faith itself, but the way in which it can be used as a vehicle for manipulation. This idea is relatively consistent with how religion is addressed in other Bioshock games, and the comparison still gives Infinite room to make a clear point about radicalism. Deeper Christian themes, while sometimes enriching to the game’s world, aren’t essential to what Infinite is trying to say.
However, there is a Biblical story that has noticeable parallels in Infinite, one that enhances the game’s narrative while presenting new and fascinating possibilities for both: the Judgment of Solomon in the Old Testament (Kings 3:16 – 3:28).

View On WordPress

Neither Mine Nor Thine: Influence of the Judgment of Solomon On Bioshock Infinite

All right, folks, the tale of Bioshock Infinite is nearing an end—Burial at Sea: Part 2 drops today, likely with a twist to throw us for a loop, and that’ll end this piece of this infinite story. In honor of that I’ve got a Bioshock Infinite essay about the DeWitt-Comstock-Elizabeth conflict, through an analogy that Burial at Sea signed and sealed.

Bioshock Infinite deals with some heavy themes, from racism and child abuse to despotism and fate. Not the least among these ideas is the concept of religion as a force for corruption, but in truth no one religion is really focused on. The game’s Christian themes aren’t themselves a source for critique but a foundation on which Columbia’s cultish religion is based, extracting iconic elements such as baptism and the miracle birth without addressing the scriptures themselves. For the most part this approach is fine—it highlights that the issue with religion isn’t faith itself, but the way in which it can be used as a vehicle for manipulation. This idea is relatively consistent with how religion is addressed in other Bioshock games, and the comparison still gives Infinite room to make a clear point about radicalism. Deeper Christian themes, while sometimes enriching to the game’s world, aren’t essential to what Infinite is trying to say.

However, there is a Biblical story that has noticeable parallels in Infinite, one that enhances the game’s narrative while presenting new and fascinating possibilities for both: the Judgment of Solomon in the Old Testament (Kings 3:16 – 3:28).

View On WordPress

Begosh and Begorrah! 6 Irish influences in gaming that you probably missed

image

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day (for another hour or so, at least), and I hope everyone’s had their fill of shamrocks, pots of gold, excessive boozing and iffy Irish stereotypes by now. This time of year we usually look to gaming’s most prominent Gaelic protagonists—the McRearysColin Moriarty and Irish from Red Dead Redemption haven’t gotten much attention since last year—to help ring in the drinking, but what about lesser known Irish inspirations? The sort that sneak into your favorite games where you might have missed them entirely? Well, I’ve got a frothing glass of them for you right here: 6 cool things from Irish history, folklore, music and programming that have slipped into and enriched our favorite games. Sit down, have a listen–the Leprechauns won’t leave you behind.

View On WordPress

Ugly Bear and Feathered Freak: Gender Equity in Banjo-Kazooie

image

Due to admittedly justified console favoritism on the part of Naughty Dog, I have yet to play The Last of Us—a state of affairs I lament, give its stellar reception. I get most of my information about the game from a close friend, who has told me “Winter” is her favorite section because she gets to play as Ellie. I understand that feeling, since I just about backflipped off my couch when I learned Elizabeth was going to be the player character in Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part 2.

What these two games have in common, among other things, is the prevalence of a male and female duo as main protagonists. Playing as such dual-gender pairs where both characters contribute to the success of the mission—either by player controlling both characters, or playing one while the other acts as a critical AI partner—is a dynamic that’s has been picking up steam in western gaming; examples as early as Ice Climber have led to more complex and intricate relationships in Enslaved: Odyssey to the WestHalf-Life 2, Halo and the aforementioned Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite. While criticisms have been leveled at some of these depictions—some claiming, for instance, that Elizabeth is little more than a vending machine and Ellie is “weaker” than Joel—they are nonetheless an interesting evolution in western gaming, and a positive step in regard to gender equity.

However, in examining this dynamic, attention must be paid to one particular game that often isn’t included in discussions of gender in gaming—a game that utilized a dual-gender pair so equitably and so seamlessly that it rarely draws attention for the effort, because it seems so effortless. Naturally, I am talking about Banjo-Kazooie. Of course.

View On WordPress

12 games that make you feel horribly guilty (for doing exactly what they tell you to do)

Guilt in games is an interesting phenomenon, prompting the player to feel personally responsible for acts that are executed on the digital plane within specific limitations. While one could argue the player bears some responsibility for actions taken when they are given a choice–such as with Bioshock‘s Little Sisters, or the Call of Duty No Russian mission–what about scripted actions that the player must complete for the game to advance? We still feel guilty, interestingly enough, as shown in this article on 12 games that make you feel horribly guilty (for doing exactly what they tell you to do). A study in psychology, this one.

View Post

12 games that make you feel horribly guilty (for doing exactly what they tell you to do)

Guilt in games is an interesting phenomenon, prompting the player to feel personally responsible for acts that are executed on the digital plane within specific limitations. While one could argue the player bears some responsibility for actions taken when they are given a choice–such as with Bioshock‘s Little Sisters, or the Call of Duty No Russian mission–what about scripted actions that the player must complete for the game to advance? We still feel guilty, interestingly enough, as shown in this article on 12 games that make you feel horribly guilty (for doing exactly what they tell you to do). A study in psychology, this one.

View Post

Archetype IV: The Failed Hero

Let it never be said that Square-Enix doesn’t know its literary canon or character tropes. The wise old mentor is a stock character seen throughout world literature, a prominent classical figure and a recognized Jungian archetype. This elderly man uses his years of experience and wisdom to guide the heroes in their journey, and direct them to the lessons they need to learn in order to survive and prosper. While this archetype appears in Final Fantasy less often than some, it has had definite staying power, first emerging in Final Fantasy V and subsisting through Final Fantasy XII.
However, Square-Enix’s version of this character deviates from the standard. While he does have an aged wisdom (despite the fact that he rarely tops 40) that comes from a vast wealth of experience, it is a solemn knowledge that arises from one place: his own story, where he acted as the young hero and ultimately fell. He then returns as the Failed Hero, helping and guiding the next generation to do what he could not—but with a hint of something less solemn to him. Prominent characters in this archetype are Vincent Valentine (FFVII), Auron (FFX), and Basch fon Rosenburg (XII). Other notable examples include Galuf Baldesion (FFV); Cyan Garamonde (FFVI); the non-playable Cid Kramer (FFVIII); and Sazh Katzroy (FFXIII), who shares similarities with the Failed Hero but better fits the Sad Clown archetype.

View Post

Archetype IV: The Failed Hero

Let it never be said that Square-Enix doesn’t know its literary canon or character tropes. The wise old mentor is a stock character seen throughout world literature, a prominent classical figure and a recognized Jungian archetype. This elderly man uses his years of experience and wisdom to guide the heroes in their journey, and direct them to the lessons they need to learn in order to survive and prosper. While this archetype appears in Final Fantasy less often than some, it has had definite staying power, first emerging in Final Fantasy V and subsisting through Final Fantasy XII.

However, Square-Enix’s version of this character deviates from the standard. While he does have an aged wisdom (despite the fact that he rarely tops 40) that comes from a vast wealth of experience, it is a solemn knowledge that arises from one place: his own story, where he acted as the young hero and ultimately fell. He then returns as the Failed Hero, helping and guiding the next generation to do what he could not—but with a hint of something less solemn to him. Prominent characters in this archetype are Vincent Valentine (FFVII), Auron (FFX), and Basch fon Rosenburg (XII). Other notable examples include Galuf Baldesion (FFV); Cyan Garamonde (FFVI); the non-playable Cid Kramer (FFVIII); and Sazh Katzroy (FFXIII), who shares similarities with the Failed Hero but better fits the Sad Clown archetype.

View Post

The Top 7… Impossibilities that have become video game mainstays

Video games feed into a sense of escapism and fantasy, where you can win the Super Bowl, frag super soldiers, and alternately kill or make out with aliens (of varying attractiveness) without even spilling your Mountain Dew into your Doritos. We as players are willing to accept breaks from reality in these circumstances, particularly when it smoothes out the gameplay or somehow makes things more enjoyable (hmm… wing cap, you say?).
As long as it benefits the game more than it detracts, we’re happy to suspend our disbelief even for some of the most obvious impossibilities. Let that go on long enough—or, in some cases, make the impossibility fun enough—and even the most realism-shattering acts can become such common mechanics, it’s hard to imagine gaming without them. We’ve discussed this before when going over the 7 totally unrealistic things games do all the time, but we want to cover ever more examples of impossibilities that defied the odds (and physics) to become video game mainstays. So lace up your rocket boots, don your helmetless invincibility suit, and let’s make our old science teachers cry.

View Post

The Top 7… Impossibilities that have become video game mainstays

Video games feed into a sense of escapism and fantasy, where you can win the Super Bowl, frag super soldiers, and alternately kill or make out with aliens (of varying attractiveness) without even spilling your Mountain Dew into your Doritos. We as players are willing to accept breaks from reality in these circumstances, particularly when it smoothes out the gameplay or somehow makes things more enjoyable (hmm… wing cap, you say?).

As long as it benefits the game more than it detracts, we’re happy to suspend our disbelief even for some of the most obvious impossibilities. Let that go on long enough—or, in some cases, make the impossibility fun enough—and even the most realism-shattering acts can become such common mechanics, it’s hard to imagine gaming without them. We’ve discussed this before when going over the 7 totally unrealistic things games do all the time, but we want to cover ever more examples of impossibilities that defied the odds (and physics) to become video game mainstays. So lace up your rocket boots, don your helmetless invincibility suit, and let’s make our old science teachers cry.

View Post

9 theories that transform two characters into the same person
There’s something to be said for a good disguise in a game. Maybe no one on this side of the controller was fooled by Amaterasu’s paper mask in Okami, but Spy from Team Fortress lives off tricking players, and people are still in awe of Sheik’s “true” identity to this day. New identities can shoot a hint of humor into a game, or leave players in disbelief if the creators are able to keep the gimmick convincing until the big reveal.
Games have gotten so good at this misdirection that fans have started to look for reveals before they can catch us off guard. Things start to get a little weird, though, when evidence of a connection between Character X and Character Y gets increasingly obvious… even when the creators likely didn’t intend it. Here we have nine examples of fan theories that transformed one character into another by sheer fannish belief, making those characters a lot more interesting by doing it.

View Post

9 theories that transform two characters into the same person

There’s something to be said for a good disguise in a game. Maybe no one on this side of the controller was fooled by Amaterasu’s paper mask in Okami, but Spy from Team Fortress lives off tricking players, and people are still in awe of Sheik’s “true” identity to this day. New identities can shoot a hint of humor into a game, or leave players in disbelief if the creators are able to keep the gimmick convincing until the big reveal.

Games have gotten so good at this misdirection that fans have started to look for reveals before they can catch us off guard. Things start to get a little weird, though, when evidence of a connection between Character X and Character Y gets increasingly obvious… even when the creators likely didn’t intend it. Here we have nine examples of fan theories that transformed one character into another by sheer fannish belief, making those characters a lot more interesting by doing it.

View Post

Rapture Round-Up: What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and What Should Terrify Us About Burial at Sea: Part 1

Is anybody tired of Bioshock yet? If so, you’re probably at the wrong blog—any day now I’ll be installing a giant flickering header that reads Bioshock Thoughts, let me show you them.
With Burial at Sea: Part 1 two weeks since released (and shocking, horrifying, and confusing players all the while), it seems like the new Bioshock installment is creating more questions than it’s answering, and sometimes we’re not sure which is which. In light of that, I’m going to do something a bit different here and throw down a nitty-gritty analysis of this DLC—what we know, what wethink we might know, and what we definitely don’t. As a bonus, let’s take a look at how assertions previously made on Oracle Turret regarding Bioshock Infinite stand up to this new addition to the story, and what should terrify us going into Part 2.

View Post

Rapture Round-Up: What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and What Should Terrify Us About Burial at Sea: Part 1

Is anybody tired of Bioshock yet? If so, you’re probably at the wrong blog—any day now I’ll be installing a giant flickering header that reads Bioshock Thoughts, let me show you them.

With Burial at Sea: Part 1 two weeks since released (and shocking, horrifying, and confusing players all the while), it seems like the new Bioshock installment is creating more questions than it’s answering, and sometimes we’re not sure which is which. In light of that, I’m going to do something a bit different here and throw down a nitty-gritty analysis of this DLC—what we know, what wethink we might know, and what we definitely don’t. As a bonus, let’s take a look at how assertions previously made on Oracle Turret regarding Bioshock Infinite stand up to this new addition to the story, and what should terrify us going into Part 2.

View Post

Big Daddy’s Girl: Parental Anxiety, Villain Abuse, and the Role of Children in the Bioshock series

With the release of Bioshock 2 in 2010, and Bioshock Infinite earlier this year, a pattern began to emerge based on Jack’s original journey, with the main protagonist of each game—in all cases an older (or, in Jack’s case, simply larger) male figure—acting as a protector to a younger female character. Perhaps even more interesting, the games’ villains follow a dynamic based on similar principles, though instead of protecting young characters, they harm them for personal gain—an act that, in the otherwise morally grey universe ofBioshock, marks them as irredeemable. Through these patterns, the Bioshockseries maintains an underlying current of paternal anxiety, where the hero’s major conflict lies in his ability—and his choice—to protect or harm his female progeny, and the villain becomes irredeemable by harming her.

View Post

Big Daddy’s Girl: Parental Anxiety, Villain Abuse, and the Role of Children in the Bioshock series

With the release of Bioshock 2 in 2010, and Bioshock Infinite earlier this year, a pattern began to emerge based on Jack’s original journey, with the main protagonist of each game—in all cases an older (or, in Jack’s case, simply larger) male figure—acting as a protector to a younger female character. Perhaps even more interesting, the games’ villains follow a dynamic based on similar principles, though instead of protecting young characters, they harm them for personal gain—an act that, in the otherwise morally grey universe ofBioshock, marks them as irredeemable. Through these patterns, the Bioshockseries maintains an underlying current of paternal anxiety, where the hero’s major conflict lies in his ability—and his choice—to protect or harm his female progeny, and the villain becomes irredeemable by harming her.

View Post