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Monday, February 18, 2008

No Gods or Kings: Objectivism in BioShock

No Gods or Kings: Objectivism in BioShock:
"Levine said he actually wrote the story of BioShock as a fan of Ayn Rand's precepts.

'I'm probably way more similar to her in my terms of how I think about religion and politics than any other philosophers,' he said.

But Levine believes that Rand would reject that take on philosophy, that Rand believed it was 'her way or the highway.'

So BioShock wasn't meant really to be a game about Rand's beliefs, but more about her intensity.

'I wasn't setting out to make a game about objectivism, I was setting out to make a game about someone who had a very strong belief in a philosophy that was similar to this philosophy.

'It's a cautionary tale about wholesale, unquestioning belief in something.'"
Even athiests are prone to the ideas of dogmatism - as proven by the virtiol spit out by Rand and her philosophical followers such as Terry Goodkind. Reading some of their more volatile rants, it's easy to see how dogmatic one can become with "absolutist" beliefs such as objectivism. I loved Bioshock for exploring this aspect of objectivism, and for bringing up the philosophy without abjectly worshiping the shadow of Atlas.

Like Levine, I don't think there is any single philosophy which can be used to guide all moral and ethical decisions we face in life. Everything breaks down after a point. So far in my life I've found the best way to make decisions is to trust instincts and intuition - the high-level calculating one's brain does behind the scenes, factoring and weighting inputs from as far back as pre-memory childhood, and generally encompassing all the various philosophies I've considered. When intuition fails to provide an answer to any given dilemma, it's generally because of unique situations or factors that bear further study.

But getting back to Bioshock - I think it's major ethical and moral innovation is not in the system of rescuing or destroying the monstrous children known as Little Sisters. Such a binary decision between "save the kids" and "murder the kids" doesn't present ethical shades any less clear than those in Grand Theft Auto. The game rewards you handsomely for saving the kids, offsetting the loss of the precious resource ADAM you face for not killing them. So it's not really a hard choice - just, do you want to be moral, or not?

The ethical dilemma in Bioshock that I found innovative was the conflict between the objectivist creator of Rapture - Andrew Ryan - and the anarcho-mobster Fontaine that tried to take him down. Is Fontaine any better or worse than Ryan? Could you provide some kind of better alternative to an addicted and horrifically warped populace? Is there any saving Rapture?

I may sit down and play the game through a third time, having read this. Such a great FPS.


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