To build the impossible : narratology and ludology in the BioShock trilogy
MetadataShow full item record
In 2007, Irrational Games released the steampunk first-person shooter BioShock. Months after the game's release, Clint Hocking wrote a blog post entitled "Ludonarrative Dissonance in BioShock." The essay brought the debate between narratology and ludology in game studies from the realm of academics, theorists, and developers, to the average gamer. No longer were players and critics analyzing a game based on just its gameplay and/or aesthetics. Now there was the pre-conceived notion that video games should aim to have its narratives element reflect the ludological components as well. The primary objective of this thesis is to explore the relationship between the narratological and ludological components in the BioShock trilogy that went into creating its unique experience as a player-driven narrative. I will be performing three case studies, comparing and contrasting BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite in regards to ludonarrative synchronicity. Rather than using Hocking's term, "ludonarrative dissonance," which is loaded with negative connotation, I will analyze the games based on their attempt to reach "ludonarrative synchronicity." This term of my own signifies moments when the narratological elements of a game converge with the ludological elements in a harmonious fashion. Unlike Hocking’s word choice, ludonarrative synchronicity does not seek to find fault in a game from the outset. The strength of analyzing the BioShock trilogy in depth, rather than focusing on a group of separate, unrelated titles, is two-fold. First, BioShock's creator Ken Levine's stated goal was to build a game in which the players were not an observer of narrative, but a participant. The other advantage of having three related games to analyze is that it allows for multiple points of comparison and correlation that appear in all three games. I will detail specific narratological and ludological aspects of each game for those who have not played them, followed by an examination of three key points of comparison between the three games where the intersection of narratology and ludology are prominent within the entire trilogy. Those three key points, not necessarily exclusive of one another, are theme, level design, and immersion.