Whenever I discuss videogame narrative, I usually get an eye roll or a certain pretentiousness from people that pretend they care. The fact is that people don't look at games as an art form right now, and perhaps they were right. I stress the term "were".
Ken Levine's and Irrational Games Studios may have just helped cross that line with Bioshock: Infinite. Set in the early 1900's, your character travels to a floating city in the sky to find a girl, Elizabeth, in order to erase his debt. I will not go into characters or spoilers as most people can Wikipedia it. However I will say a few things about it in general.
In a time of linear game experiences, we don't pay a lot of attention to the world in the game. We go through the motions of just getting to the next level and so on. With Bioshock it is the opposite. I dare any one of you to go through the game and not take a little extra time and look at the world around you and experience it for what it is.
The city of Columbia in the game comes off as peaceful and if you had all the money in the world you would want to live there. However, it is a world that still believes in minorities being the underlings of society. They worship America and it values up to a certain point in its history. When waling through the world, they have statues of John Wilkes Booth and a painting of him getting ready to assassinate Lincoln, with the president being portrayed with devil horns.
While this imagery is reprehensible, it adds to the game and leads into topics that games have not gone to, at least in my game experience. Other themes like alternate realities and oppression are main themes but the joy is the constant rush to the brain one can get when going through the storyline. So many things happen that circle around the beginning of the game, you will be left with the desire to come back to the narrative to experience it again; kind a like "The Sixth Sense" when it came out originally.
I am utterly fascinated with this game and Ken Levine at this point. As a writer, I wish I had half of that mans story telling talents. Bioshock: Infinite is the game that could change the way people view games. It doesn't have to be visceral all the time, which this game is, but rather make you think about the repercussions of what you do in life and what would have happened if you did the opposite. This is the game to redefine what games can be and will be along for the ride on the sky rails when other games start to.
Bryan W. Dull