Bioshock 2 and the Power of Influence

Warning: The following post contains major end-game spoilers.

Everyone makes disciples.  Whether you know it or not, you actually are making disciples–there are people who, for better or worse, look up to you and follow your example.  What you center your life around will have an affect on those closest to you and how they live their lives.  Certainly it is possible for children to “break the mold” of their parents, but I suspect that is far more rare than we would like to admit.

Bioshock 2 was a pleasant surprise because, unlike its predecessor, the game was not about the danger of competing ideologies so much as the power of influence.  Particularly that of a father over his daughter.  If you haven’t played Bioshock 2 and are interested in picking it up, you may not want to read any further.

Most people remember the original Bioshock because of Andrew Ryan and his objectivistic ideals based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand.  The original game showed how devastating one’s ideology can be as Rapture, the city under the sea that celebrates human freedom and achievement, lies in ruin as result.  Bioshock 2 explores both Ryan’s failed objectivism and the new villain, Sophia Lamb’s collectivistic ideals.  At first glance, Lamb seems to be a true collectivist in the same vein as Stalin, but in the end she reveals that her collectivist policies were simply a convenient strategy in her cruel and selfish designs.  This sets the stage for where Bioshock 2 shines–on a very personal level.

In Bioshock 2 you are a “Big Daddy,” which are these huge men who have been engineered to protect Little Sisters–which harvest genetic material called “Adam” which everyone in Rapture is hyped up on and thus have gone crazy.   As the game goes on you find out that you were a diver that came upon Rapture–your daughter was taken away and you were killed–or at least it seems you were and all the while your daughter is experimented on and held captive by Dr. Lamb.

The most engaging part of the game is found in three encounters you have with some very unique and rather seedy individuals who played a part in your demise and your daughters imprisonment.   Each encounter is unique and each gives the player the opportunity to spare or kill these shady characters and each instance is unique in its moral implications.  At the end of the game when you save your daughter, she has the opportunity to seek revenge on Dr. Lamb who has abused and imprisoned her for so long–your moral decisions determine what decision your daughter makes in the end.

Bioshock 2 reminded me that ideologies don’t save people.  Salvation, in Bioshock 2 comes on a more personal level.  Rapture itself, is beyond saving, but one little girl is not and your influence on her in the end directs her in the way that she should go (Prov. 22:6).  This is true of the gospel–the salvation presented therein is far greater than strict ideology.  Certainly I believe that the gospel connotes the one true ideology, but what makes the gospel unique is that God becomes man, lives among us, teaches us how to live, and dies for us because he knows we cannot save ourselves.

The ideology of the gospel is unique because it is personal–Jesus enters our world and saves us individually on a personal level so that one day we will be fit to live in community together in harmony.  Unlike most games, the salvation found in Bioshock is more realistic–its personal rather than cosmic. Bioshock reminded me of the incredible power I have to influence others, especially those closest to me for good or evil.  It reminded me that relationships are more influential than ideologies.  Bioshock 2 reminded me of the power of influence more than perhaps any other game ever has.  In spite of our very individualistic world, Bioshock 2 emphasizes the power of the family and the influence therein.

About Drew Dixon

Drew is an editor at Christ and Pop Culture and editor-in-chief of Gamechurch.com. He is also a pastor, soccer coach, and writer. Drew also regularly writes for Think Christian, Bit Creature, and Paste Magazine. He has also written for Relevant Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @drewdixon82

  • Matt

    First of all, I’d like to say “Yay!!!” for more attention to Bioshock 2.

    Drew, I really enjoyed reading your perspective on the game. That a game can inspire such experiences is a testament to its quality (yay 2K!) The fact that it can be enjoyed on multiple levels is the beauty of the maturing medium of video games.

    As a reader of many gaming sites/blogs, I’ve been a little disappointed that Bioshock 2 has, to a certain extent, been dismissed by many reviewers and members of the gaming community as unnecessary, or a “money grab”. I can certainly take less-thoughtful or ignorant comments with a grain of salt, but I am regretful that so many will miss out on the best part of what Bioshock 2 has to offer.

    While I absolutely enjoy the combat and gameplay aspects, the subtleties of the narrative, setting, and imagery are what makes Bioshock 2 shine. And while I realize the game might not resonate quite so well with everyone, this is the distinction between this game and most “blockbusters”. I do not mean to disparage games like Gears of War or Halo (I enjoy both), but Bioshock 2, as well as the original, are examples of essential steps in the evolution of the video games medium.

    Bioshock 2 is to Halo/Gears what District 9 is to Transformers IF you care to see it. And everyone, Christians especially, should care. There is a place for Halo (though I’m not sure about Transformers), but we need more games like B2.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Matt. Games like Halo and Gears of War are popular mostly because people like to shoot things and blow things up, but perhaps on another level they prove that people tend to be drawn to the idea of saving the world. I like this idea too–that is why I played nearly every Final Fantasy game.

    Cosmic salvation is cleary laid out in Scripture–the cross certainly has a cosmic implications (Col. 1:15-20). I think that we should long for such salvation, but we are utterly incapable of bringing it about. We do, however, play a part in such salvation through our personal influence on others–discipleship.

    To me B2 was all about the power we possess to influence others and not just the decisions they make but their how their character develops. Few of us will ever “save the world,” but we all can be used of God to see people changed and that has cosmic implications. Some will certainly say I am fishing for meaning in a video game, but B2 made me think about these things and that made it one the most meaningful game experiences I have ever had.

    And finally, I agree, I think B2 is getting a bit of an unfair shake by many reviewers. Yes, Rapture is less intriguing the second time around, but the story is much more personal and I think more engaging than the first game. Plus its more fun to play than the original.

  • Matt

    I never meant to give the impression that blowing stuff up doesn’t totally rock. :D

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Haha, you didn’t. That is also what makes B2 great–there are so many ways to blow stuff up and shoot crazies but it also has a meaningful and well-told story.