One of the very best things about joining the community of game-related bloggers is discovering all the terrific people hard at work thinking about this medium and pushing it ever forward. Clint Hocking's blog Click Nothing is unfailingly adept at lifting the hood of a game and explaining in clear terms how all those gears and tubes work...and what may need a bit of repair. As Creative Director at Ubisoft Montreal, Clint's ideas go beyond theoretical musings, often beyond what an academic like me is generally equipped to do.
In his most recent post he discusses the dissonance that he sees in Bioshock between the narrative and ludic aspects of the experience:
To cut straight to the heart of it, Bioshock seems to suffer from a powerful dissonance between what it is about as a game, and what it is about as a story. By throwing the narrative and ludic elements of the work into opposition, the game seems to openly mock the player for having believed in the fiction of the game at all. The leveraging of the game’s narrative structure against its ludic structure all but destroys the player’s ability to feel connected to either, forcing the player to either abandon the game in protest (which I almost did) or simply accept that the game cannot be enjoyed as both a game and a story, and to then finish it for the mere sake of finishing it.
It's important to note that Hocking loves the game and admires it on many levels. It comes closer than any game he has seen (and I wholeheartedly agree) to achieving the kind of narrative/thematic unity found in the best cinema:
BioShock is not our Citizen Kane. But it does – more than any game I have ever played – show us how close we are to achieving that milestone. BioShock reaches for it, and slips. But we leave our deepest footprints when we pick ourselves up from a fall. It seems to me that it will take us several years to learn from BioShock’s mistakes and create a new generation of games that do manage to successful marry their ludic and narrative themes into a consistent and fully realized whole. From that new generation of games, perhaps the one that is to BioShock as BioShock is to System Shock 2 will be our Citizen Kane.