Dissecting BioShock Infinite’s Multiplayer Component
No, of course it doesn’t have an actual multiplayer component. And while we’re dallying, I’d like to thank Kotaku for beating me to this idea, which I had just a few days ago. I’m going to roll with it anyway because I can, and because hopefully none of you actually saw that article. Who even goes onto Kotaku, anyway? I’m not even a fan of Japanese food…¹
Having recently finished BioShock Infinite, I’ve been fighting the temptation to post article after article with massive spoilers regarding the game’s concluding sequences and overarching themes, however in consideration of the many who opted to pass on Infinite just for the moment, either because they can’t afford to purchase it or do not have the time to play it, I’ve done just one entirely spoiler-free discussion in which I praised Irrational Games for finally reaching the intellectual consensus with their game, and creating something worth talking about.
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This article is not going to have any spoilers either. In fact on that note, this week we will be discussing in a special podcast, pretty much every big spoiler and then some, regarding BioShock Infinite. Further details will be revealed closer to the time, so look out for that. In the meantime, however, for the purposes of this article I wanted to discuss how BioShock Infinite, a wholly singleplayer experience, manages to create possibly the greatest multiplayer since Call of Duty 4 hit the scene in 2007.
First let’s all take a moment to note exactly what multiplayer means. I would define it as more than one person interacting with each other, in a particular game. But let’s remove that preposition and rather say, about a particular game. Or on a particular game.
Consider if you will, the last game that you finished and then immediately had a chat about, with practically anyone you could. I can probably count on one hand, the number of games in which such a fervent desire to discuss, was generated in me. Even if it’s not personal sharing of thought, sometimes you just want to find out more about a game. I remember for a while, going absolutely bat-shit crazy about everything to do with Dungeon Siege II, to the point that it sometimes hurt that I couldn’t do the things possible in that game. Don’t ask.
Now in your standard game with a standard multiplayer offering, for the most part once you’re done with the story you will then head online and spend many, many hours playing the multiplayer component. Killing enemies, capturing flags and points, that sort of thing. Some games allow you to fly jets, others allow you to jump more than once. But not many keep you thinking, right? Or surely we would see far less thirteen-year-old trash-talkers online.
BioShock Infinite’s multiplayer comes not in a standard offering, the likes of BioShock 2’s multiplayer which I found somewhat enjoyable but others considered to be an abortion. Rather, BioShock Infinite’s multiplayer is a different sort of creation, less to do with programming and more to do with interaction. The thing is, absolutely everybody who has played through the game to completion, has wanted to go online and find discussion about the game, be it positive, negative or just purely informative.
Some people didn’t understand half the themes in the game for shit (you’re going to love our podcast special), some did but rather wanted some explanation of the various ambiguities in play (see: above), others such as myself came in with a broader understanding and so, left with an equally broad understanding but just wanted to praise a developer for not simply creating an overly complex, self-completing puzzle, but actually catering to a crowd of higher thinkers.
In essence, BioShock Infinite’s multiplayer is not so much about gameplay (although that is one of the topics of discussion) but rather plot. It involves afterthought, hindsight, recollection, and most importantly, learning. Thousands of people have since gone onto various websites (I actually have a link dump of Infinite-related content) and discussed with others, the various facets of Infinite.
Now I ask you, is that not multiplayer in some form?
And is that not the most fulfilling multiplayer, at that? I mean, unlike a Call of Duty game where you come out with hundreds of hours of wasted energy and a strange twitch on some of your fingers, after playing BioShock Infinite’s multiplayer, you come out that little bit more educated than when you went in, knowing a little more about the universe and its various complexities, as well as being enlightened as to the extent of storytelling possible in a modern game. Plus, nobody’s mother is a slut when discussing BioShock Infinite.
Best Multiplayer award for this year, anyone? You don’t even need an online pass for it.
¹ Except sushi, of course, but I think it’s mostly just because I’m really good with chopsticks.