Steven Schnelz

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An Anthropological look at Bioshock

BioShock

Anthropology of Social Behavior in Bioshock[1]

What is Bioshock

Bioshock is a complex first person shooter game released in 2007 by 2k Boston (now Irrational Games). It is set in the 1960's in an underwater utopia known simply as Rapture. You play a protagonist named Jack and after crashing your plane near the underwater city, you have to navigate your way through the destroyed remains fighting Big daddys, Little sisters, Splicers, and deranged citizens along the way. The city is based on Ayn Rand's philosophical idea of Objectivism and during game play you are not only faced with different approaches, such as using stealth and types of charachter developement, but you are also required to make moral decisions. There are different artifacts and character voices that alter your decisions along the way and based on your choices there are two different endings; if you choose the moral route you are rewarded with a glimpse into the future where you have five daughters, but if you choose the immoral route you are scorned for your evil and end up taking over a nuclear submarine.

Main Argument

Katy Meyers explains in her article that games that are based in unknown worlds can be viewed using anthropological research methods and by focusing on 3 types of interactions we can determine certain things about that culture. Bioshock's generated environment is like an unexplored archeological sight and gives the user a chance to explore a new world using examination from multiple viewpoints. With these interpretations he or she can adjust their gameplay accordinigly.


She outlines 3 levels of interpretation we can use while looking at game structure and how we can deduce certain things from those interactions with the environment.

  • The first thing to look at is the actual behavior of people. How are the charachters acting and what are they doing. What do certain objects do or not do. In the game there are several characters in the game some trying to kill you (splicers), some trying to sway your decisions (Atlas) and some are trying to stop you (Ryan). We can also look at objects around us; the blood smears, broken tables, and dead bodies. We observe that the world were in is in dissaray even though we did not see it happen.
  • The second thing to look at is what people say they are doing. We determing this by talking with characters, reading diaries or journals, and hearing first hand accounts. In Bioshock you have several voices speaking to you throughout often through a radio and we also find diaries strewn throughout the city.
  • The third thing to look at are written rules and ideals of the society. You can either come across this in the actual basis of the game where Rapture was a utopian city created around the basis of Ayn Rand's philosophy where the individual is supreme and the government has no control or in the more subtle nuance of good vs. evil with Dr. Steinman and Dr. Tenebaum.

Importance

The importance of looking at a game like Bioshock with an athropological perspective is it gives us a better grasp on what the the developers were trying to create and it engages us in the game in a unique way. When creating the game 2k Boston wanted to establish a common trend of objectivism, which they achieved in the creation of the city Rapture. They also wanted to add a moral dilemna in the game and have the player deal with conflicting narratives as to whether or not they would choose the moral path or the immoral path. They used the little sisters as the moral dilemna and Dr. Tenebaum, and Atlas as the opposing narratives. The combination of these two attributes made the game more engaging and with an immersive environment, and a customizable role play, Bioshock was acclaimed as a slam dunk in the gaming community.

Personal Opinion

Although I have never personally played Bioshock, I have played a similar type game known as Skyrim. Skyrim is also a first person shooter game with a customizable role play, an immersive environment, and contains a moral dilemna throughout the game. In that game I felt extremely enganged, almost too much so at times. Your character almost becomes you and you start making decisions in the game based on your own emotions rather than just speed or strategy. After reading this article and looking back at all the game had to offer I completely agree with Meyers in that taking a deep look at the nuances in a game can make you understand it better and actually become more involved.

Works Cited:

Meyers, Katy. "Anthropology of Social Behavior in BioShock." Play The Past RSS. Play The Past, 22 Nov. 2011. Web. 02 June 2013.

American Privacy Under Attack: CISPA, PIPA, and SOPA

Freedom Under Fire

Recently there has been a plethora of anti piracy or cyber security legislation passing through capital hill. Although we believe our elected officials have our best interests in mind we should, however, take a closer and somewhat cynical look at what they are trying to turn into law. These so called protective acts are extremely obscure and the wording is ambiguous to the point any average person could turn the meaning around. There have been three main bills all of which have come under scrutiny by the public for their lack of so called "protection".

CISPA

CISPA or cyber intelligence sharing and protection act is a new legislative bill that just passed in the house of representatives. In the main wording of the bill: self protected entities, notwithstanding any other provision of law, may for cyber security purposes 1. use cyber security systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property of the self protected entity. 2. share such cyber threat information with any other entity including the federal government. In layman terms companies like Google, Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter can share your information with the government or any one else for that matter. This legislation would completely negate the 4th amendment right against search and seizure and the warrant process for obtaining personal information would become outdated. Luckily there has been a public outrage with some 700,000 signatures petitioning against CISPA as well a cry for help from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

SOPA and PIPA

SOPA or stop online piracy act and PIPA or preventing real online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property act are two other loosley worded articles of legislation that were designed to combat online copyright infringement and the trafficking of counterfeit goods. Promoters of the bills say that it will only be used to target truly foreign sights, but the actual language of the bills is either so vague or so convoluted that there is an enormous amount of room to argue what is "foreign". SOPA states that "action" can be taken if the sight is 1. U.S. directed 2. the operator is committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations punishable under section 2318-2320 (primarily deal with copyright infringement and counterfeit) 3. the site would be subject to seizure if it was instead a domestic sight. PIPA's outlines that action can be taken if the site is used primarily as a means for engaging in, enabling, or facilitating the activities of copyright infringement or is designed by the operator for those purposes. What this would do to websites in the U.S. is the site would have to remove all links to the foreign site, U.S. advertising services could no longer have ad links to the site or put ads on the foreign site, U.S. payment networks (paypal) would have to cease all transactions between foreign site and U.S. customers, and U.S. service providers must block customer access to foreign site via DNS balcklisting. If that is not ridiculous enough there is a large loophole for ad networks and payment networks because they dont have "duty to monitor" clause so as long as they comply on the date of the order those companies can go right back to what they were doing. Taking a deeper look at these bills the only thing they seem to be targeting is search engines or blogs. SOPA and PIPA don't contain and provisions on removing copyrighted content, but actually censor whole domain names. This means that if blog contained a link to a website deemed foreign they would have to remove all links to it including those in comments and then actually police their sight to make sure it never came back. This is not only monetarily costly, but actually infringes on our right to share information because it can now be censored.

Anonymous

Anonymous is a group of elite hackers or hacktivists as they have been called. They make it their mission to fight against government and corporations to retain online privacy, freedom of speech, and other political movements. They are best know for their internet tirade on Tunisia using OpTunisia which helped lead to the overthrow of Ben Ali. They slammed Sony with a whole website take over and break ins after Sony filed a lawsuit for a how to video on jailbreaking a PS3. They also pulled a pretty awesome stunt on Aaron Barr known for HBGary after he told the news he had identities of the leaders of Anonymous and that he was going to sell them to the federal government. Anonymous is a small, but powerful group of individuals who at certain times are very ruthless, but stick to their principles and because of this they help protect our privacy.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden was technical coordinator for the NSA and CIA up until about a month or so ago. He became a fugitive after he leaked information about the U.S. governments phone and internet surveillance program to a london newspaper. He stated that his actions were to, "inform the masses of what was being done in their name and done against them". Prosecutors filed charges of theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person against Snowden. Although these are considered espionage I feel that Snowden did the right thing in reporting what he saw because he knew it was wrong and the government was abusing their power. He did america a service and should be considered a patriot. Snowden is currently in Ecuador after being asked to leave Hong Kong. Although the U.S. and Ecuador have an extradition agreement the accusations against Snowden are considered political and therefore Ecuador is not required to honor the agreement.

Importance

These acts of legislation although veiled in the guise of being beneficial are actually attacks at the bedrock of american freedom. The internet brought us the ability to share thoughts, ideas, and concepts with each other, a place where free and open discussion gave us things like Linux and the remixing of music. The government is trying to censor these interactions and that goes against our ideals as americans. I am thankful that there are organizations like Anonymous who are willing to fight against those who would try and diminish our privacy and freedom and I am glad there are men like Edward Snowden who are willing to become a fugitive to inform the masses that they were being watched and the government was abusing its power. I am not anti government I just believe that cyber security can and should be accomplished without sacrificing americans online privacy.

Works Cited

Havey, Jason (2012) A technical examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP

Norton, Quinn (2012) 2011: The Year Anonymous Took On Cops, Dictators and Existential Dread

Zetter, Kim (2013) Reddit Cofounder Calls on Google’s Larry Page to Oppose CISPA

Sottek, T.C. (2013) The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act: CISPA explained

"Stop Online Piracy Act." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act.

"Edward Snowden." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden.

"Anonymous (group)." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_(group).