You ever wonder what it’s like to be your pet goldfish? Swimming along inside its fishbowl knowing only the small space that it was plopped into from a plastic bag. Every once in a while they slam into the side, thinking it could go farther knowing that freedom is just a lie.
This feeling is one of the many Bioshock instilled in me and many other gamers experienced when we first entered Rapture. This underwater ‘utopia’ had so many things to be afraid of and I could have picked any of them. Could have started with the horrifying Big Daddy, which was originally my pick, but when I sat down to think about it, I changed my mind. Thinking about essentially being stuck in a glass jar so far below the ocean creates so much more apprehension.
One thing to know about me, I know some basic facts about bodies of water. If I can’t see my feet, it’s time to get out because honestly, you can’t see things swimming up to your toes to chomp them off. I also know of the Marianna Trench, the deepest chasm in the ocean that is said to house creatures we have never seen let alone imagined. I learned about it by reading a book series as a kid about the Megalodon shark, which some of you may know about because of the Meg movie with Jason Statham. I fear the ocean, but talking about that for 400 to 500 words seems… lame.
So when I look back on my oceanic trip to Ryan Andrew’s love child with the sea, I remember being stuck in a tin can and with the currents of the ocean slamming against it while water slowly seeps in. Most rooms in Bioshock leave you out of view of the ocean floor if we had a full view of it the entire time we’d either get bored or go crazy. There are segments in which we walk through tunnels of pure glass, seeing fish and the rest of Rapture that we have yet to see. It puts everything in perspective, that perspective is simply this: We. Are. Stuck. We. Can’t. Leave.
This crushing realization settles into the back of your mind while letting all the other craziness pile ontop as you run and gun through this dilapidated paradise. It sets a beautiful, yet unsettling tone for the rest of the game. You are on edge, and sometimes you forget why but once you get another view of the ocean outside and instantly remember, making the feeling intensify once again.
I talk a lot about tone in games, sometimes I think a bit too much but it just seems right when talking about Bioshock. Each moment, each character you meet, each room you walk into has its own tone and adds to the larger picture. When the first thing you see is the ocean, you know after subsequently crashing into it from a plane, sets the mood/tone for everything you do in the coming hours. You know in that instant that things won’t ever be normal ever again. The walls of sanity will crush down around you just like glass walls around you within Rapture.