Many of the plaudits for Bioshock included praise for its involving storyline, in-depth narrative and rich background. But when you read what Ken Levine (the eminence gris behind the Bioshock concepts) has to say about the game story you start to realise some interesting home truths about game narratives. Levine said that the Bioshock story breaks down into 3 basic acts: escape Rapture, kill Ryan, kill Fontaine. When you look at it that way, you have to ask yourself why then is Bioshock so involving, so entrancing?
The answer is in the details and the back story. The back story is basically the train of events that went before the start of the narrative, the forward-rushing impetus which kicks off the story proper. In that context, the events of the game are the final stages of the epic – they are the denoument, the settling of scores, the resolving of the dramatic tension, the defeat of evil. As for the game-story’s success, it is played out against a detailed, resonant, consistent backdrop which makes the in-game events and clashes more than just a simple string of missions. Characters are encountered and their stories highlight the backstory and the current state of necessity, one aspect in which the superlative voice-acting proved so valuable.
And now Bioshock 2 is starting to emerge, like some weed-choked chunk of seabed rising from the depths. There is a teaser site at www.somethinginthesea.com which cleverly plots out some possible backstory for the new game. I have no doubt that there will be more in the months ahead.