BioShock 2: Is It Deep or Dumb? – Wisecrack EditionDec 24, 2021
Hi Wisecrack, Jared again. Today we return to the underwater city of Rapture to talk about one of the most talked about video game franchises of recent times: BioShock. Of course, longtime viewers will remember that we covered the philosophy of BioShock 1 and BioShock: Infinite in the first issue of Wisecrack over four years ago. But you guys were quick to point out that we made an intentional but blatant omission in that video. So, today, we're finally going back and tackling the oft-forgotten and maligned middle child of the BioShock franchise, BioShock 2. At the time of its release, BioShock 2 was notable for having no involvement from series creator Ken Levine. .
In a 2010 interview, Levine said that he and his team at Irrational Games stopped developing the sequel because they wanted to avoid a repeat. "We're always trying to challenge ourselves," "We felt like we had said what we wanted to say about Rapture, about those kinds of settings and that kind of feel." Despite this hint from Levine that BioShock 2 is a rehash of the original, there's still a contingent of fans who remain steadfast in their belief that it's a great game, praising it for its improved mechanics and twist. introduces the themes of Bioshock 1. So now that we've been nearly a decade away from this potentially underwhelming sequel, let's revisit BioShock 2 and assess whether it was as successful as some people seem to think, whether it reached the same intellectual heights as the first. franchise delivery, whether
Welcome to this Wisecrack Edition on Bioshock 2. And, as always, spoilers ahead. Alright, first things first, let's do a little recap. In BioShock 2, you play as Delta, a prototype Big Daddy who lives in Andrew Ryan's underwater utopia, Rapture. Like all Big Daddies, you were tasked with protecting a Little Sister, and in Delta's case, that Little Sister's name was Eleanor. In the game's prologue, the main antagonist, Dr. Sofia Lamb, takes Eleanor from you and then uses mind control to force you to commit suicide. Ten years later, you emerge from a Vita-Chamber after being miraculously resurrected. You'll then be led through the ruined city of Rapture with the help of Eleanor's telepathic messages and a little help from some unexpected allies.
Your mission is to find Eleanor and save her from the sinister and soft voice of Sofia Lamb, who, by the way, is Eleanor's mother. Soon enough, he learns that Dr. Lamb was once a celebrated psychologist in Rapture's heyday, but, after Andrew Ryan's death in the first BioShock, she transformed Ryan's failed Objectivist utopia into a collectivist utilitarian hellhole. . Lamb has manipulated the poorest and most deprived citizens of Rapture through propaganda and plasmid addiction into being fiercely loyal to her and the rest of the "Rapture Family". Furthermore, the Family deifies Eleanor as the "first true utopian" because Lamb has been filling her with ADAM in an attempt to create a completely selfless and altruistic being.
Lamb's followers paper the city walls with an iconography depicting her and Eleanor that reads: â€śWe will be reborn. She is our savior." As you make your way to Lamb's hideout, you come across various allies of hers who you can choose to kill or spare depending on how generous you feel or how obnoxious the repeated dialogue of her is. There is also a new class of enemies called Big Sisters, which are livelier, more acrobatic versions of the Big Daddies that haunt the halls of Rapture. The same Little Sisters mechanic from the first game still exists, forcing you to choose between saving the yellow-eyed innocents or eliminating them for their prized ADAM.
As always, the choices you make will determine what kind of ending you'll get, whether it's good, bad, or neutral. That is practically all. You explore the city exploding splicers, in an attempt to rescue your surrogate daughter from the clutches of her evil mother. But, BioShock has never been just a first-person shooter. The games set themselves apart from others in the genre with their rich world-building, expertly paced storytelling, and use of philosophical texts to explore
deeper themes. But how deep can BioShock 2 go when it starts at the bottom of the ocean? Part 1: The Triumphant Lamb We Worship In its portrayals of the Rapture family and its fanatical worship of Sofia and Eleanor Lamb, BioShock 2 offers some pretty decent commentary on the dangers of religious fanaticism.
Whereas the first game poked holes in Ayn Rand's Objectivism by showing the natural conclusion to a utopia based on radical self-interest, BioShock 2 flips the script by presenting a critique of blind, selfless devotion to a higher cause. While these two ideologies may seem contradictory to each other, especially given that atheism is a central tenet of Objectivism, the game goes to great lengths to show that they have more in common than one might think. NARRATOR The people of Rapture, lost and leaderless after the Civil War between Ryan and Fontaine and the death of both characters at the end of BioShock 1, are seduced by Lamb's philosophy and begin to join the Rapture Family en masse.
As a skilled psychologist, Lamb plays on her anger at the system that failed them and promises them something greater through these new beliefs. These people, many of whom fought to feed themselves in Ryan's utopia, are now willing to throw away their lives for Lamb's word. We have seen this type of bigotry throughout history, both religiously and politically, as people have thrown away their lives or political liberties in the name of a higher cause. Lamb's targeting of the poorest members of the population is more of a direct allusion to early Christianity, which flourished in the Roman Empire due to the willingness of church leaders to preach to and incorporate the lowest members of society.
The fact that the word â€ślambâ€ť is often used to refer to Jesus Christ is no more an accident than the fact that Andrew Ryan's name is a clumsy anagram for Ayn Rand. This reflection of religious methodology is clearly obvious in the character of Father Simon Wales. Once a downtrodden citizen of Rapture's poorest neighborhood, Wales is energized by Lamb's philosophy and turns it into a simple religious doctrine that even the most corrupt ADAM splicer can understand. The senseless death of Wales and his many followers underscores the danger posed by a total surrender of the self. This is antithetical to the message of the first game, which focused on the danger of complete and utter self-interest.
The plot of BioShock 2 seems to be that things on the other side can be just as bad, much like how the tearful universe sequence in BioShock: Infinite depicts the populist Vox Populi freedom fighters who rule Columbia with the same authoritarian violence than Comstock. It's a cynical take to say the least, but at least it's cohesive and a good reminder to occasionally criticize your own actions rather than rely on blind faith. For that reason, we are going to give a "deep" to this aspect of the game. Ok, so BioShock 2 does a good job criticizing Lamb's overzealous devotion to philosophy.
But what exactly is his philosophy? Part 2: When Greater Good Turns Bad In the same way that Andrew Ryan was a physical embodiment of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, Sofia Lamb is an amalgamation of several different utilitarian thinkers, most notably John Stuart Mill. Mill was a philosopher British born in 1806, considered by many to be the direct successor of Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarian ethics. In his book, aptly titled Utilitarianism, Mill provides a summary explanation and defense of his philosophy based on the "greatest happiness principle," which states that "actions are right insofar as they tend to promote happiness, and incorrect to the extent that they tend to produce the opposite. of happiness." In other words, what is good is what creates the greatest happiness for the most people.
This type of morality falls under the umbrella of consequentialist ethics, which means that, when it comes to determining the morality of an action, the end justifies the means. Rand's version of rational egoism is also a consequentialist theory. But where Rand believes that each person should act in their own interest for their own happiness, utilitarians favor less focus on and prioritize the happiness of all.This line of thinking would certainly appeal to someone like Sofia Lamb, who has convinced herself that turning Eleanor into an egoless ADAM repository would be the ultimate dissolution of the self and the beginning of a new utopia.
And like any good consequentialist, she seems intent on achieving this goal by any means necessary. All of her actions throughout the game (Eleanor's confinement, the kidnapping of girls to become Little Sisters, the careless manipulation of Splicers) are done in the name of a greater good. Still, it's pretty hard to argue that Lamb's actions promote happiness or make suffering more difficult across the board. Throughout your entire stay in the city of Rapture, the only person who seems to be having fun is that bloody clown. And if Lamb really is meant to be a student of Mill's philosophy, perhaps she should have paid a little more attention to the text.
In his essay On Liberty, Mill states very clearly that â€śThe only end for which mankind is authorized, individually or collectively, to interfere with the freedom of action of any one of them, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be legitimately exercised over any member of a civilized community, against their will, is to prevent harm to others. Basically, the ends don't justify the means if it requires hurting people. Virtually all of the game's action revolves around members of the Lamb collective attempting to harm Delta through a series of surprise attacks. It could be argued that by attempting to free Eleanor, Delta is harming the Rapture family and they are only acting in self-defense.
But that argument is as hermetic as Dionysus Park. Ultimately, Lamb talks a lot about her utilitarian and collectivist beliefs, but she falls short of being really utilitarian. Her book Unity and Metamorphosis, excerpts of which are heard throughout the game, states that the evolution of the human race is leading to the death of the self, the total loss of the ego, and subsequently the end of tyranny. But in practice, Lamb acts like a selfish tyrant. He performs dangerous experiments on his own daughter. She turns girls and young men into Little Sisters and Big Daddies against her will.
She kills anyone who tries to get out of Rapture. All so that she can be shown to be right in her beliefs and create a hypothetical God powered by ADAM. She would consider this the ultimate death of the self, but to anyone but her, it doesn't seem to be of much use. In the character of Dr. Sofia Lamb, BioShock 2 tried to create a philosophical villain who believed in everything Andrew Ryan despised and still managed to be evil. Unfortunately, it's hard to get a truly selfless, charitable, collectivist to perform acts of villainy without appearing incoherent. If her philosophy is about selflessness, but they're on a selfish power trip, you can see how that might criticize the power trip more than the philosophy itself.
So, we're going to have to give this section a "dummy." However, if you were to argue that the game is less critical of the actual philosophy as in Bioshock 1, and more critical of how tyrants misimplement these philosophies, we might see how one could call it deep. Unfortunately for Sofia Lamb, the inconsistency between her beliefs and actions is just one of her problems. The other is where she lives. Part 3: Haven't we been here before? By placing the events of BioShock 2 in the same place as BioShock 1, the philosophy and actions of people like Sofia Lamb are immediately placed in the context of Ryan's world.
You may play as a different character, but the story is a continuation of the first game in every sense of the word. So much so that it's hard to avoid reading audio diaries of old familiar characters that fill in unnecessary plot points. The game is littered with superfluous nods and nods to Bioshock 1 stuff, making it feel more like DLC than a sequel. And because of this, BioShock 2's villains never get a chance to breathe. In the first BioShock, we get a glimpse of Ryan's utopia at its peak. We're shown the high dream potential of him, which is what makes the crumbling reality hit that much harder.
The criticism of Objectivism is more scathing because we see the consequences of these beliefs. In BioShock 2, the new utopia never gets off the ground because things have already gone to hell. Lamb and her followers try to rise from the ashes, but they can't get rid of Ryan's ghost. Lamb presented her philosophy as an alternative to Ryan's, but her utilitarianism or her anarcho-collectivism or whatever you want to call it never manifested itself the way Ryan's magical city at the bottom of the ocean did. And, in the end, the result was the same anyway. Infighting, destruction, death, and a one-way voyage in a bathysphereto the surface.
It's hard to effectively poke holes in a new ideology when the player still inhabits a world ruined by the old one, and when the presence of said ideology is only in the antagonist's words, not his actions. NARRATOR BioShock as a franchise is about how the lofty ambitions of men are doomed to fail due to inherent personal flaws. But in BioShock 2, those lofty ambitions amount to vague talk about how a young woman will become a utopia. So, you're left trudging through a city you've already walked through, all to save your daughter who isn't even really your daughter.
NARRATOR Oddly enough, it's also one of the best things you can say about BioShock 2. It tries to tell a personal and emotional story. A story about a Big Daddy and a Little Sister. A story about redemption or loss of innocence, depending on how you play. For some people that's enough, and for that reason, we're content to give BioShock 2 a "somewhat deep" rating. Sure, the critique of philosophical ideologies is pretty ineffective, but it has some interesting things to say about the inherent value of the self and the power to care about someone rather than the vague notion of everyone.
But what do you guys think? Is Bioshock 2 a proper sequel to one of the most revered games of all time? Let us know what you think in the comments. Thank you to all of our patrons who support the channel and our podcasts. Don't forget to hit that subscribe button.
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