You are standing outside the entrance to a dark and gloomy cave. If you are anything like me, you have been here many, many times before. It isn’t always the same cave: Once it was a “cave-like opening, somewhat obscured by vegetation,” which led to the mystical Caverns of Quasqueton; another time it was the Wizard’s Mouth, a fissure in the side of an active volcano (“This cave actually seems to breathe, exhaling a cloud of steam and then slowly inhaling, like a man breathing on a cold day”). Once it was a passage from the throne room of Snurre, the Fire Giant King, “extending endlessly under the earth.” Once, memorably, the “cave” was made of metal: it was the outer airlock of a spaceship which had crash-landed in the crags of the Barrier Peaks. You don’t know what lies in that darkness, but you have heard rumors: there are troglodytes, dark elves, a long-dead wizard, terrible creatures, treasure. You are here to learn the truth. So strike a light: you’re going in.
Ten years ago today, Irrational Games’ sci-fi first-person shooter BioShock was released, and its story of a ruined undersea city and the brutal objectivist that led it to its doom was instantly canonized as one of the medium’s strongest artistic statements. The art-deco-adorned city of Rapture was realized with a depth and vision few games had ever approached and populated with some unforgettable characters, like the twisted artist Sander Cohen and the city’s power-hungry founder Andrew Ryan. Its grappling with Randian philosophy gave the dialogue a high-minded and dramatic flair, all of which culminated in its iconic twist and commentary on the futility of choice in video games.