A man chooses, a slave obeys: BioShock and the dystopian logic of convergence

  • Aldred J
  • Greenspan B
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Abstract

For all the critical attention paid to dystopian landscapes in recent literature and film, a similar dystopian turn within gamespace has been largely overlooked. The authors contend that post-apocalyptic digital games merit the same critical examination as their literary and cinematic counterparts, arguing that such games can provide a meaningful site in which questions about the future of technology play out against the dialectic of utopian and dystopian alternatives. Specifically, this article argues that the popular console game BioShock simultaneously celebrates and interrogates utopian notions of technological progress and free will embedded within prevailing industrial and academic conceptions of convergence. The authors explore the differing, yet complementary, conceptions of utopia put forth by critical theorists and the games industry in order to examine how BioShock’s ambivalence toward technology—and technologies and practices of media consumption in particular—complicates more idealistic and totalizing forecasts for the future of media convergence. Building upon Alexander Galloway’s treatment of gamic action as an ‘‘allegorithm’’ that permits procedural exploration and mastery of dominant control protocols in the information age, the authors analyze the way in which BioShock operationalizes the ‘‘control’’ logic of convergence. By performing a close reading of the game’s ideological content as well as its procedural strategies of transmediation, they link BioShock’s ambivalence to the multifaceted, often conflicting nature of convergence discourse and practice within the digital games industry.

Author-supplied keywords

  • BioShock
  • FPS
  • convergence
  • dystopia
  • games industry
  • utopia

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Authors

  • Jessica Aldred

  • Brian Greenspan

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