When the Fear of Disappointment Hurts Bioshock's Replayability
I have a confession to make: I'm scared to replay Bioshock.
I admit that this unshakeable fear of mine is rather pathetic. The opportunity to re-explore Bioshock's underwater metropolis, in all its crumbling dystopian glory, should be exhilarating for someone with a sincere admiration for Irrational Games' masterpiece. However, where excitement should reside lies the haunting possibility of disappointment. What happens if revisiting Bioshock after all these years hurts my lasting and life-changing impression of the game?
Examining a Questionable Mindset
The fact that my thoughts are even drifting to this absurd question is quite puzzling, especially when you consider how obsessed I once was with the game. If we had the ability to rewind time, you'd see firsthand my awe-struck expression as I began my journey through Bioshock nearly nine years ago. In a universe devoid of school, chores, and other various teenage responsibilities, I would have completed the game in one sitting – eyes unblinking and hands glued to the controller. Despite my inability to completely neglect life, many all-nighters and countless hours were spent soaking in every single aspect of Bioshock's captivating narrative and surprisingly mysterious world.
Regardless of my fond memories of Bioshock, I still find myself cautiously avoiding it like the plague whenever I feel nostalgic and compelled to re-experience the video games of my past. And honestly, I've been finding it difficult to determine exactly why that is.
It's not like I've never replayed the defining video games of my youth before. Quite the contrary, in fact. I've revisited Resident Evil's zombie-infested Spencer Mansion, stylishly re-slayed hordes of Devil May Cry's demons, and even re-defeated Crash Bandicoot's evil Doctor Cortex all in an effort to satisfy my unquenchable thirst for nostalgia. Time and time again, conquering these self-proclaimed gems always proved to be an extremely worthwhile experience. But no matter how many childhood video games I relive, my mindset towards Bioshock never changes.
Life-Changing Transformations in Rapture
Putting Bioshock on a pedestal like this was never my intention – actually, it's this exact mentality that has harmed my ability to replay the game. Then again, it's significance to my ever-changing life cannot simply be diminished nor dismissed. Bioshock didn't “save me” or anything even remotely as dramatic as that. However, it did serve an important role in transforming many of the preconceived notions I had towards video games.
Actually in retrospect, Bioshock was the first interactive experience that encouraged me to start viewing video games from a more artistic standpoint. I've grown to understand how the game's magnificent aesthetic and atmospheric sound design painstakingly captured the essence of Rapture as a failed utopia devastated by internal corruption – a feat that crafted an exponential level of immersion for me, no less. I've also grown to appreciate Irrational Games' razor-sharp focus on intelligent game narrative, and I still find myself pondering Bioshock's plot twists and philosophical questions to this day. More importantly, I know that there wasn't one individual element – aesthetic, narrative, sound design or otherwise – that transformed Bioshock into a serious work of art to me. Instead, they each served a specific and equally important purpose in convincing me of the game's true artistic value.
Bioshock not only shifted my perspective on video games from that point on, but also fueled the sudden surge of inspiration that led me to start pursuing a career as a freelance video game writer. After finishing the game, I required an outlet in which to properly express my overwhelming thoughts and feelings, and I turned to writing to fulfill that essential need. More for personal reflection than anything else, Bioshock became the very first video game I ever reviewed – and the only one I've ever given a perfect score to. While my reviews for Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and Max Payne 3 would later revive my video game writing ambitions, Bioshock single-handedly planted the seed years prior.
A Sliver of Hope
In the grand scheme of things, it's this sudden realization of how much Bioshock benefited me in real-life that feeds my ridiculous fear of replaying the game now. I mean, how can a video game that has significantly transformed aspects of my life ever meet my steep expectations via another playthrough years later?
Thus, I remain hesitant to do much more than admiringly gaze over Bioshock's detailed box art. In an effort to protect my aging memories of Bioshock, I find myself attempting to siphon out any traces of exaggeration and mis-remembered details in hopes of preserving an accurate account of my experience with the game. Even in this obvious act of desperation though, I know that even my strongest memories of the game with become distorted and altered due to the malleability of the human mind.
I'm far from hopeless though. With the rumored future release of a Bioshock compilation being a near-definite possibility, there might be a day arriving soon were I'll finally face my fear of disappointment and plunge into the cold, dark waters leading to Rapture once again. I just sincerely hope that when that day comes, my foolish apprehension towards replaying Bioshock is smashed into a cloud of dust, not painfully realized.