On Modernization, Experimentation and Bioshock Infinte: The Loss of Trial and Error

Illustration for article titled On Modernization, Experimentation and Bioshock Infinte: The Loss of Trial and Error

This is not really a new subject, but it's one that has recently been on my mind while playing through Bioshock: Infinite. I've noticed three big changes in the newest Bioshock which seem to be the trend in new first person shooters: Shields; 2 Weapon Max; and No Quicksave/Quickload.


Now, many would lay the responsibility for these changes at the feet of the console for catering to the "console kiddies" as it were. I don't want to get into this fight. Personally, I think the distinction between the "console masses" and the "elite PC Mater Race" is a completely artificial one. We are all gamers. This is about the changes developers think "gamers" want.

So, back to the task at hand: Shields; 2 Weapon Max; and lack of Quicksave. Why has this become the norm? Why do developers think we want this? While it may be unrealistic to think that I can carry 10 weapons on my person, It gives the player a toolbox for problem solving, and isn't that what games are really about?


Give me options to solve problems. The more options you give me, the more involved I feel. The more rewarded I feel when I craft my own solution. Likewise, I appreciate the ability to engage in trial and error with this toolbox. One of my favourite aspects of the original Bioshock tiitles was the ability to approach a situation and see what worked and what didn't. If it doesn't, I would reload and try a different solution. The current system punishes the player for failure through the loss of money, which in turn limits the ability to upgrade my toolbox through improved vigours and weapons. While this may increase tension and immersion, it limits player experimentation.

The shield seems to play into this too. I suppose you could call it "experimentation on the fly." It gives the player some leeway to fail without consequence. If something doesn't work, duck behind cover, regenerate without consequence, and try something else. Unfortunately, I feel like this only allows for short term plans and eliminates the kind of in depth experimentation that quicksave allows for.


I'm not trying to say Bioshock is a bad game. Quite the contrary. It excels at creating an interesting narrative with terrific atmosphere, art design and sound direction. I just wish it didn't follow the traditiion of modern shooters that seems to limit the ability of the player to experiment without consequence.

What do you guys think? Do you like games that allow you to experiment without consequence, or do you prefer the kind of tension that comes from penalizing a poor decision?

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