I had heard lots of good things about BioShock, which prompted me to buy it. (The sale on Steam didn’t hurt either.) I’d heard that the worldbuilding was interesting, the gameplay wasn’t bad, and there were great twists to the storyline to eff with you. Those seemed like good recommendations to me. I had also heard that there was a degree of horror to the game, which I am not a fan of, and that women were not treated very well in the game overall. Since this sexism has been discussed in a number of places, including in the “Tropes vs. Women” series, you can understand that it was with some trepidation that I began to play.
BioShock freaked me out a good bit; let’s get that out right off the bat. The atmosphere of the game, all gloomy, flickering lights, and structures that were breaking down with leaks everywhere was an exceptionally creepy aesthetic. It made everything feel rundown and broken. So, well done there. But that’s not what really got me freaked out. The visuals, while powerful, were not the biggest factor of my fear. The sound work in the game is downright brilliant. While you can hear your own feet and occasionally the panting you do when running (which was very cool), what caused me to hunt for corners was the sound of various enemies wandering about, yelling nonsense and ranting. Just hearing the moans and stomping of a Big Daddy made my heart start to race and check and recheck my ammo. The sound engineering, with the excellent Foley and scratchy dialogue, set the mood far more effectively than any of the visuals were able to manage.
However, that being said, there are aspects of the visuals that are more disturbing than engaging, making me almost recoil from the game rather than stay immersed in the storyline. It wasn’t the creepy shadows, watching the figures of distant people do things, or the ruins of Rapture. No, that fact was the bodies. And, more specifically, it was the fact that the majority of corpses lying about were female. Sure, I got the fact that I was playing in the ruins of the Ayn Rand’s Wonderland pretty quickly as the game is upfront about it—that all the social nonsense had come to play and destroyed itself. But why were the majority of the dead female? That was a nagging thought and made me uncomfortable. Thankfully, the majority of them were dressed like ’50s housewives rather than in very skimpy nothings, but there were a few of those as well. It was … problematic.