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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back – Bioshock

I love the enveloping euphoria of a video game that really gets me as an alcoholic a creative survivalist. Surely the programmers expect I’m “enhancing” my experience of the product into which they’ve poured years of their actual lives by blurring my vision, slowing my reaction time, and trying to sticky-note intricate information onto neurons that most likely won’t survive until morning. But what about my avatar? You know, the me I’m supposed to be in the game? Where’s his drinking problem bottle? How am I possibly supposed to identify with this straight edge long enough to get through his story? Surely they don’t expect me to stay sober. Surely they don’t intend to make me make him stay sober. This is why I have to celebrate Bioshock and BioShock 2 for their daring-do in recognizing and perpetuating the importance of booze to survival . . . and creativity!

If you’ve never heard of 2K’s first person shooter Bioshock or its first person driller sequel, here’s the gist: you wander around a chaotic, drug addict (splicer)-overrun, underwater city, Rapture, where little girls with huge hypodermic needles ravage corpses for the drug still clinging to the cells in their system while voices in your head try to lead you somewhere to do something heroic. Why? Because you’re there. Ok, good enough for me. Let the tutorial level reveal what button does what, and let’s start exploring this screwed-up submerged city. Ooh, what’s that button do?

That, my friend,” hints the tutorial, “is the action button. Approach yonder bottle and press said button. But oh, do be gentle.” YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENS! My avatar takes a drink! And not just a drink; my boy drains the motherf*cking bottle! I don’t remember (and I’m sure he doesn’t either) whether it was wine, whiskey, vodka, absinthe, gin, scotch, beer, or brandy. All that I know is that there was another readily available bottle, and I made my me drink that too.

While amused at such repetition, as well as the dizzying effect it incurred, I was damned surprised to see that my me’s health increased. Well, of course it should! Obviously I wasn’t surprised at the realism, but I was taken aback that the game was so realistic! Why else would one “drink to your health” after all?

Throughout the game, I admit that my me had been abusing EVE to reap the superhuman abilities endowed by ADAM-enabled plasmids while falling under the influence of both substances which let him create fire, electricity, wind, insects, illusions, and more . . . from his MIND (so long as the EVE didn’t run out). But later, after bolstering my me’s health and then attempting to summon said powers for glorious malevolence basic survival, I noticed there was less juice in my avatar’s veins available for doing so! The dreadful link was then exposed: drink drains EVE. As a creative, this took me completely out of the game. I could not comprehend this equation: every inebriating bottle I came upon deprived my me of his genetically modified inherent talents?! “This can’t be,” I said to myself. “There must be some explanation, possibly another way!” Lo and behold a sign was given, and it was in the form of a(nother) bottle in an incandescent-backlit vending machine: Booze Hound.

Booze Hound is perhaps the greatest power-up in any game ever. Why? Because it smacks critics across the face with a white glove, that’s why! Upon imbibing this tonic, the drink no longer detracts from the capacity for creativity but extends it the way in which only actual intoxicants can. Gone are the days of exhausting the EVE so desperately needed for creative plasmid combos in order to eek out a chance for a few more seconds of hedonism heroism. Now booze helps my me in his struggle to leverage his recently acquired enhanced talents to achieve his objective of . . . what was my me playing for again? Oh yeah, the drinking!  But then some (rather handsome) religious zealot had to go and break up the party.

Bioshock Infinite, as if taking a step back to bend over as an apology for the former games’ indulgences, does not include any form of the Booze Hound tonic. If the game developers honestly expect my me to confront a dude who can see into the future, at least allow an alcoholic’s avatar to confuse his own mind to his advantage! So just like that, gone are the days of deriving inspiration from a bottle. But hey, at least the act of imbibing in-game sill proffers the illusion truth of sustainable health via intoxication. Also, it’s not like Bioshock Infinite is making the drink a scapegoat. In fact, the game actually recognizes the achievements of those who can balance the arts of weaponry and indulgence . . . but only once. And finally, here’s to the series that produces fans who’ll prove their salt never diminishes via their own creative concoctions.

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