Adam Serwer posts the new BioShock trailer and notes that the third installment of the FPS horror series will take on the concept of American exceptionalism:
The first BioShock envisioned a libertarian dystopia where an underwater city constructed on Randian ideals falls apart and all the residents devolve into some state of slavery. The sequel imagines the destroyed city and its remaining survivors falling into the hands of a religious collectivist. Because there’s never really been a randian society, and communist-style collectivism is largely been discredited as a philosophy, the first game was really far superior to the second.
The trailer for the third BioShock game came out, and I’m pleased to see it’s based on another interesting political idea. Instead of taking place in underwater Rapture, the game takes place in a floating city called Columbia which resembles “the 4th of July in 1900.” Instead of libertarianism or collectivism, the high concept driving the game will be American exceptionalism.
According to the game’s creative director, Ken Levine:
The notion of this American exceptionalism came to me quite late. It was only about six to eight months ago. We always had the city in the sky. Because there was this feeling of optimism at the turn of the century. All this technology was changing, twenty years ago we were this little regional power, we were all farmers and fisherman and now we’re working in factories and there are cars and there are aeroplanes and there’s electricity. If you look at the art back then, if you told someone that in five years they’d be living in the sky, they’d say, okay I buy that, because that’s how much the world is changing.
I only every played the first of the BioShock games and I thought it was brilliant, both as social commentary and as a first-person-shooter. Not to mention it was terrifying. Judging by the trailer, BioShock Infinite should be even more visually stunning than the first and probably just as scary. Besides, what better way to critique American exceptionalism? Most games hint at just the opposite.
As Serwer notes, “Having gone from Rand to Marx, it sounds like the third BioShock might have a sprinkling of Niebuhr.” Naturally, few of BioShock’s fans will be familiar with Reinhold Niebuhr or his critique of American exceptionalism but that’s neither here nor there; it’s the ideas that count, not how we come by them.