Bioshock Fan Wants Bioshock 2 Cancelled

This article boils down to this paraphrase:

Everyone agrees sequels are bad. I mean, not all sequels are bad, but sequels in general are bad. And just like every game downloaded by a pirate is a lost sale, every dollar budgeted for a sequel is a dollar less for one of the kind of fun and original games they made when I was a kid and they just don't make anymore because the industry is full of beancounting sellouts who like sequels because they're safe. And that's why I don't want another Bioshock game.

This is almost complete and utter poppycock. It's so ridden with nostalgia masquerading as judgment, logical fallacies taken as common knowledge, and flawed premises that it's hard to know where to begin. But the beginning is as good a place as any.

"this is not a hate piece towards the Bioshock franchise. It is a deep look at one of the biggest problems in the video game industry right now, sequels and how they kill originality/creativity."

So we've got sequels kill originality/creativity. Let's separate those out.

Sequels kill originality. So obviously this means that sequels are not original. Now, I think most people would agree that any sequel is, in some quantifiable way, less original than a completely unrelated work. If two works share characters in common, share themes in common, and there is an observable cause-and-effect trend between events in one work and events in another-- as you'd expect in a sequel-- then these two works have shared elements where another, unrelated work might have different ones, and is therefore, less original.

Left out of this analysis is the status of remake, but let's assume that remakes would draw the author's ire equally and presume the lesser but included charge of being a remake when he refers only to sequels.

However, unless a sequel is, in fact, a remake, it is presumed that it shares some, but not all, of the previous work's elements. Those elements that are not shared (new characters, new settings, new plot events, new themes) can be rightly called original (at least in the sense that any fictional elements can be considered so, maxims like "there is nothing new under the sun" notwithstanding).

So is it fair to say that sequels kill originality? I would say no, not by definition. One can make an "original" work of poor quality that is stolen or borrowed from better sources without it being a sequel, and a well-made sequel can and should contain "original" elements. There is a sense in which the shared elements form continuity, which brings positive things to a work, at least as many as "originality".

The next part: sequels kill creativity. This is even less true than the beginning. A sequel that is not as creative as the original may sell well based on the previous work's reputation but this effect is not long-lasting. A truly inferior work is recognizable even when it is a sequel. The construction of a good sequel that will be well-received critically and will sell well I think is no less "creative" than an original work. In fact, it may require more creativity, as the reuse of certain characters, settings and themes in a way that is simultaneously fresh (so you don't feel you are watching the original over again) while true to the previous material (so you don't feel that these elements have been modified unjustifiably) is difficult to achieve.

There's a myth underlying this critique of sequels, and I think it's this: the perception that a sequel is easier to make. I don't think good sequels are easy to make. From a business perspective, sequels may be easier to decide to make, but that's not the same thing. It may be an easier job to sell to investors the idea of making a new chapter in an established frachise that has sold well, but there's little relation between the difficulty of that task and actually making a good and engaging sequel. Some of your biggest fans can quickly turn out to be your toughest critics.

There isn't an entertainment medium thriving today that isn't plagued with the beating of dead horses. This is not a blanket judgment declaring all sequels are inferior; however, this focus on "franchising" ideas makes for a copy of a copy of a copy industry.

This is more style than substance-- making sequels, which is largely a value-neutral process, is compared to beating dead horses, which has negative connotations. The "copy of a copy" metaphor implies a process of degradation, where each generation is worse than the previous one (ironic when referring to digital entertainment, where one of the biggest problems is that copies of copies are perfect, which leads to the emphasis on copy protection). Of course there's no comparison between the process of copying a single game and the process of making a sequel, but that's what is being alleged here: that making a sequel is "copying". Why "copying" should be confined to comparing games within the same franchises, rather than between competing franchises, I don't know. I play a lot of FPS games, but not a lot of fighting games. I can easily tell the difference between screenshots of Halo, Half-Life, Gears of War, and the author's bugaboo, Bioshock. An aficionado of fighting games who doesn't play shooters might not. However, I would be hard-pressed to identify screenshots of Dead or Alive, Tekken, Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, or any of a number of other games of that ilk: they all look the same to me. They look like copies of copies. I think fans of the genre, though, would disagree.

It has also trained gamers to be prepared to interact with the same worlds and characters until they have to use their toes to count. This isn't something that we always complain about. The titles listed above are good, even great, games. However, this industry and gamer routine has made tending the IP farm less fruitful.

What is "less fruitful" in this sense? I think farming is the wrong analogy here, as the job of a farmer is to create a lot of copies of the same kind of thing, not necessarily the widest variety of individual things as possible.

How is interacting with the same worlds and characters bad? Doing so might not innately be good, but neither is it innately bad. Again, I think this works against the underlying assumption that sequels are easy to make. They aren't. They are hard. To continue reusing elements in a way that makes fictional worlds and characters seem deeper, without making you feel you already know everything there is to know, and become bored, is difficult.

Even if sequels are exceptionally better than their predecessors, it doesn't change the reality that the industry is addicted to developing old tricks new ways, or in some situations, old tricks bad ways.

Let's be clear on this: it is bad, in the author's opinion, to make a sequel to a good game even if the sequel is better than the original game, because presumably those resources could be applied to making a game that is even better-- apparently simply by virtue of the fact that it's not a sequel.

This is nuts. If it was as simple as sitting down and saying "now I'm going to make a great game, shall it be a sequel or not" then perhaps there'd be some truth in it. I suspect it doesn't work that way.

Bioshock is one of my favorite gaming experiences of ALL TIME. I'm not talking 2007 pick, or best game of the decade, but one of the best games ever developed, played, period. And I do not want a sequel.

I guess one can start to rationalize a sequel with discussing what was missing from Bioshock. Where can we go from here? The vita chamber system was rather silly and made dying more of a mild nuisance than an actual threat, and enemies' health did not regenerate while you got your free pass so it felt like coming back to kill someone in the hospital after they've been run over by your car. Big Daddies became too easy to kill in the last half of the game due to weapon upgrades. These are really patching kind of issues.

I suppose this ends up branching in to another battle between narrative and ludology, because this author seems to think that sequels are for addressing gameplay issues. Despite the repeated use of the word "sequel", which is generally understood as telling the audience what happens next, the only reason the author conceded one might want to make a sequel is because somehow he didn't like the save mechanism, didn't like the health system, and didn't like the difficulty curve. The story doesn't rate a mention.

So the author doesn't mention the story, didn't like the save system, didn't like the health system, and thought the major enemies were too easy. This is referring to his favorite game ever. What did you like about the game? Can't you think of something you liked about the game that you'd want more of?

To quote 2K president Christopher Harmann, "If we spin it the right way, and get the right twist of innovation, we can make six parts of it, as Star Wars did." My first question is: what does Star Wars have to do with Rapture? He has an answer, "It's [Star Wars] a fight between good and evil, just like Bioshock." Unfortunately, it's the wrong answer.

The author has this bit right, but he's barking up the wrong tree. Yes, the president of the developer is sayins some pretty dumb things. He freely makes reference to a series that is famous for developing three sequels that while commercially successful also managed to alienate the most devoted fans of the original. He spouts a bit of claptrap about "good and evil" which sounds even more idiotic in the context of a discussion about Biohock, a game that was supposed to be about making adult choices. One can argue about the degree to which the game achieved that goal, but Bioshock was never supposed to be about black-and-white, good vs evil the way Star Wars was. (Heck, even Star Wars seemed to soften that angle. Was Darth Vader evil? No, according to the prequels: he was just an annoying adolescent with too much power who couldn't manage his personal relationships at all and blamed everyone else for his problems.)

Levine describes his idea that the gamer should have to "pull" the story from the environment and character interactions. Bioshock was devoid of cut scenes for this very reason. With cut scenes, the player is "pushed" along the game's direction and the rope tying story to game play is temporarily severed. Not only does Levine's method make the gaming experience seamless, it provides something for everyone. Those gamers bent on meticulous detail can find as much story as they're willing to look for, more casual gamers can choose when they want to get picky, and that third action-oriented group can cause chaos and mayhem. The intricacies of this kind of approach are what make Bioshock. With this kind of deep seeded game design, what can a sequel really do? There's talk about the idea that Rapture is too beautiful and interesting place to let go to waste on one story. But Rapture isn't what made the first Bioshock. Trying to take just Rapture, or just big daddies, or any couple of elements out for other installments will ruin the integrity of the game's idea.

Now we're getting somewhere. The author points out some of the reasons why Bioshock was good-- a narrative that depended on older technology (audio diaries) rather than newer technology (cutscenes) and as such let players choose the level of immersion in the environment and the story.

What connection that has to whether or not the story continues after the first chapter, I don't really know.

Is Rapture too good not to return to? I don't know. Is the sequel going back to Rapture? I don't know that either. The cryptic teaser trailer doesn't even take place underwater, so maybe not. Maybe on land there is a compelling reason to return to Rapture. What the teaser does feature is apparently a grown Little Sister. Isn't there anything that is potentially intriguing about what happened to these girls after the destruction of rapture? Isn't there any curiosity about that? Isn't there any conceivable way that curiosity about that might lead back to Rapture somehow and reveal how and why Rapture failed in a more complete and more interesting way, while at the same time creating new mysteries to wonder about?

This doesn't require us to go back to Rapture, however. Take what we've learned from Rapture and travel to another place we haven't seen, with characters we've never met, and ensure that we are as trapped, enraptured, and enamored as we were with an underwater city and its mask-wearing inhabitants.

I agree-- works should be as engrossing and enamoring as Bioshock was. What I honestly don't get is why it is necessarily better, at a similar level of quality, for that game to not be a sequel.

I don't necessarily want or need a sequel to Bioshock or any game. (Okay, I lied... I want a sequel to Mass Effect.) What I want are more good games. What does it say about how rich and deep a setting is if it can't hold up to more than one storyline? If a fictional world has more good stories to be told in it, why not tell them? I agree that there always should be something beneath the tip of the iceberg-- the player should never feel they know everything, should never be given all the answers, should never come to "the end". That's why I don't want the Halo Bible published-- because the portions that nobody but Bungie ever sees color your perception of everything you do see in a subtle way that would be destroyed if all the material came to light.

Give me a good sequel over a bad original any day of the week. That doesn't mean milking a franchise. If you can't make a good sequel, don't make them. It isn't as if developers don't know the difference. There comes a point where everyone knows that something ought to just stop, and sometimes it doesn't (Lara Croft, I'm looking at you.) What is important, though, is quality-- more than originality. Because there really isn't anything new under the sun. Or under the ocean, for that matter.

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Comments

Perhaps a sequel will provide more story about what made Rapture so unique. Either way sequels can be good. Look at the Godfather 2.
Bring on Bioshock 2.