Bioshock 2: Choice and Parenthood

Back in Bioshock 1, there were two endings, and they were determined solely by how you related to the Little Sisters: if you Harvested more than 1 Little Sister, you were evil enough to order a Splicer army to steal a nuclear submarine, because... apparently mercy killing children and threatening the world with nuclear winter correlate.


Regardless, if you Harvested 0-1 Little Sisters, instead you went on track to the good ending where you magically drag a bunch of Little Sisters to the surface and help them live happily ever after in spite of all the financial and logistical difficulties involved in a vat-grown clone who's younger in real terms than any of these Little Sisters successfully raising a family of presumably more than a dozen ex-Little Sisters to happy, healthy adulthoods.

... Bioshock 1's endings are both pretty terrible, is part of what I'm saying.

The other bit of what I'm getting at, though, is how disconnected from everything else they are. They're tacked on and irrelevant, failing to grow out of the core plot, and the evil ending in particular doesn't have anything to do with the choices you made except on the extremely tenuous thread of 'being evil'.

Bioshock 2, by contrast, has a more nuanced and meaningful set of endings, connecting directly into the choices you've made and fitting to the core story of the game.

Nuanced is, oddly enough, straightforward: Bioshock 1 only had one axiom for good/evil measurement, which limited its ability to provide meaningful definition. Bioshock 2 inherits 'how do you treat Little Sisters', but also less obviously incorporates a series of characters who Delta -the player character- is given cause to potentially want dead, and an opportunity to indulge or leave them alive. Both of these elements -how you treat Little Sisters, and how you treat people who have done terrible things- get used to help define Delta's final personality.

Meaningful ties back to Bioshock 2 just fundamentally having more clarity on what kind of story it is: a story about the relationship between a father and a daughter. (Albeit one complicated by magical genetic shenanigans) Bioshock 1's endings can't really connect to anything because there isn't really a core story at all. The last third of the game attempts -badly- to pretend that Jack being kind to the Little Sisters is a major element of the core plot, and if this were executed better the good ending would be... still fundamentally nonsensical, but at least set up for properly, as far as emotional/narrative significance. And outside this thing with the Little Sisters... Bioshock's story isn't a story at all, it's a guided tour on the city of Rapture. Everything of genuine narrative interest is in the past, and Jack is just picking his way through the remains of Rapture's Interesting Story.

Bioshock 2's endings, meanwhile, are a natural extension of the core parent/child relationship: the moral choices you make aren't simply about defining what kind of person Delta is... they shape Eleanor, who looks up to her father figure so strongly that whatever choices you make in turn are looked upon by Eleanor and imitated. Save all the Little Sisters and kill all the bad guys, and Eleanor decides that punishing the wicked and protecting the innocent is the way to do things. Harvest all the Little Sisters and kill everyone, and Eleanor decides selfishness is the thing to do. Mix your messages, with killing some people and sparing others, or Harvesting some Little Sisters and Rescuing others, and Eleanor is left frustrated and confused: what is the right thing to do, what was she supposed to take away from her father's behavior?

That's all perfect as an extension of the choices you can make, providing a deeper meaning than 'the developer wants you to know you're a terrible or great person in their mind'.

Keep in mind your children are watching. Would you be happy with them becoming like you? If not... maybe rethink your behavior.


Next time, the praise train comes to a stop and I cover Bioshock 2's more systemic flaws. Interestingly, these are slanted more toward gameplay flaws than toward narrative flaws.

See you then.


Popular Posts