BioShock: Decision, Forced Choice and Propaganda

Coming soon in 2014. Published by Zero Books, Winchester.


Published by 2K and primarily developed by Irrational Games/2K Marin, the first person shooter videogame franchise BioShock, (BioShock, BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite) received positive reviews on release. Moreover the series has attained something of a hallowed status as one of the greatest examples of commercial videogame artistry ever made. Its complex moralistic narrative, level of emergent customisation, immersive dark tone and technical artistry all culminate into a series of videogame experiences, somewhat elevated from the usual “cause and effect” shooter.

The BioShock series is often touted as “making the player think whilst playing.” The combination of narrative, game design, politics and philosophy takes place in failed dystopian futures and alternate universes (Randian Objectivism and American Exceptionalism), whilst the player addresses issues concerning free will and ethical consequence. However, Robert Jackson argues that the BioShock series indirectly reveals deeper, cultural meditations on the nature of decision, choice and propaganda on a wider level, within an ecology of systems and decisions. Instead of understanding BioShock as a ‘lesson’, ‘allegory’, ‘meta-commentary’ or ‘reading’ that applies to videogame culture alone, Jackson analyses how the franchise informally propagates and structures ideals inherent to our technological society. 

Spoilers obviously.




  1. Decision Ecologies: How can a Choice be ‘Forced’?
  2. Decision and Forced Choice Inherent to Videogames
  3. Forced Choice: BioShock and Retroactive Causation
  4. Forced Choice and the Apparatus: Fate, Allegory and Retroactivity in Psychoanalysis.
  5. Decision: BioShock Infinite and the Marketplace of Ideas.
  6. Decision: Propaganda, Turing, Ellul and the Reality of Automated Ideals

Postscripts: The Future of BioShock: The Future of Games. The Future of Propaganda.


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