Bioshock was this generation's pivotal moment.

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Xantiriad

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Edited By Xantiriad

I am not talking about how “fun” Bioshock was (although it was a lot of fun), but how significant and important you think it will be in years to come?   Let me explain why.

For many years, video games have been seen as a childish pursuit, something the the “mainstream” looks down on as being immature and unworthy. It all feeds into the debate about whether a video game can be judged as an art form. This point of view upsets me and degrades our hobby. We are constantly tarnished with accusations that all games involve killing and violence. Alright, so does Bioshock, but it is balanced with emotion and alternative play mechanics. We all know this perception that we are all immature and blood thirsty morons is wrong. I’m pleased, in some small way, that consoles like the Wii & DS are starting to dispel this myth.

Every few years a game comes along that revolutionises the game design: Mario Brothers established platform gaming rules, Tomb Raider did the same for adventure gaming; Mario 64 shocked the gaming world with a virtual three dimensional world; Metal Gear Solid 2 pioneered cinematic story telling; and Grand Theft Auto III released the shackles of linear game design, creating a new sense of “exploration and fun”. To this epic list, you should now add Bioshock.

When people look back in a few years time, it will be Bioshock that defines the key landmark in the current generation of video games. Not because of its gameplay, or how fun it is, but because it is the first game to establish video games as the fourth storytelling art form, after books, comics and film. The first video game that can be considered art. Until now, video games have used cinematic techniques to tell stories: through cut scenes, dialog, or flash backs. Metal Gear Solid 2 was the first game to establish many of the techniques we see used today in hit games like Uncharted, COD4, Halo 3 etc. All of these techniques, while original for video games, are borrowed from the cinema. The trend has been to make games more like movies in order to tell a dramatic story.

Bioshock completely re-writes the rule book. Rather than follow the established convention it has actually defined a new form of “interactive story telling” which no movie, game, book or comic has previously achieved. Bioshock has a genuine claim to present video games as a new art form.

Let me give you a definition of art: “Generally art is a (product of) human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind; by transmitting emotions and/or ideas.”

If you have played through this game, you would be hard pressed to say that it did not stir an emotional reaction when you decided the fate of a little sister, or when you discover the reasons for you linear actions. At no time during the game are you spoon fed what to think (other than the “motivation” to move forward). In fact, the games power is in turning an established norm in video game design into a key part of the plot and narrative. The story itself is not “watched” like a movie, or “read” like comic but interactively discovered and revealed through interaction and exploration. The audio diaries are cleverly distributed so that they reveal character stories and plot in reverse, or out of sync, so that you constantly question the motivations and wrestle with your own ideas. Anyone who has seen the film Memento will know what a powerful and unsettling experience that can be.

Finally, the subject matter itself: Ryan’s objectivist-dystopian city of Rapture; is an ingenious comment on the conventions established in modern video games. Once again, you are left to decide for yourself: Is Rapture was a flawed and evil concept? Or the unlucky result of a failed genius’ big idea. The developers leave hints to their opinions through the audio diaries, but ultimately the player makes up their own mind.

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Xantiriad

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#1  Edited By Xantiriad

I am not talking about how “fun” Bioshock was (although it was a lot of fun), but how significant and important you think it will be in years to come?   Let me explain why.

For many years, video games have been seen as a childish pursuit, something the the “mainstream” looks down on as being immature and unworthy. It all feeds into the debate about whether a video game can be judged as an art form. This point of view upsets me and degrades our hobby. We are constantly tarnished with accusations that all games involve killing and violence. Alright, so does Bioshock, but it is balanced with emotion and alternative play mechanics. We all know this perception that we are all immature and blood thirsty morons is wrong. I’m pleased, in some small way, that consoles like the Wii & DS are starting to dispel this myth.

Every few years a game comes along that revolutionises the game design: Mario Brothers established platform gaming rules, Tomb Raider did the same for adventure gaming; Mario 64 shocked the gaming world with a virtual three dimensional world; Metal Gear Solid 2 pioneered cinematic story telling; and Grand Theft Auto III released the shackles of linear game design, creating a new sense of “exploration and fun”. To this epic list, you should now add Bioshock.

When people look back in a few years time, it will be Bioshock that defines the key landmark in the current generation of video games. Not because of its gameplay, or how fun it is, but because it is the first game to establish video games as the fourth storytelling art form, after books, comics and film. The first video game that can be considered art. Until now, video games have used cinematic techniques to tell stories: through cut scenes, dialog, or flash backs. Metal Gear Solid 2 was the first game to establish many of the techniques we see used today in hit games like Uncharted, COD4, Halo 3 etc. All of these techniques, while original for video games, are borrowed from the cinema. The trend has been to make games more like movies in order to tell a dramatic story.

Bioshock completely re-writes the rule book. Rather than follow the established convention it has actually defined a new form of “interactive story telling” which no movie, game, book or comic has previously achieved. Bioshock has a genuine claim to present video games as a new art form.

Let me give you a definition of art: “Generally art is a (product of) human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind; by transmitting emotions and/or ideas.”

If you have played through this game, you would be hard pressed to say that it did not stir an emotional reaction when you decided the fate of a little sister, or when you discover the reasons for you linear actions. At no time during the game are you spoon fed what to think (other than the “motivation” to move forward). In fact, the games power is in turning an established norm in video game design into a key part of the plot and narrative. The story itself is not “watched” like a movie, or “read” like comic but interactively discovered and revealed through interaction and exploration. The audio diaries are cleverly distributed so that they reveal character stories and plot in reverse, or out of sync, so that you constantly question the motivations and wrestle with your own ideas. Anyone who has seen the film Memento will know what a powerful and unsettling experience that can be.

Finally, the subject matter itself: Ryan’s objectivist-dystopian city of Rapture; is an ingenious comment on the conventions established in modern video games. Once again, you are left to decide for yourself: Is Rapture was a flawed and evil concept? Or the unlucky result of a failed genius’ big idea. The developers leave hints to their opinions through the audio diaries, but ultimately the player makes up their own mind.

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ThatFrood

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#2  Edited By ThatFrood

While I agree that Bioshock was a good game, a very good game even, I don't see it as a pivotal moment. Certainly, it is one in a list of many games that do interesting things with established game mechanics, but "pivotal" implies that, had it not existed, "games as art" would never come to fruition, which is ridiculous.
The narrative of the game is very good, the way it was presented is Bioshock's strong suit. (I would argue, though, that the ideas behind the game begin to breakdown under stricter scrutiny) But despite its stellar presentation, I really wouldn't classify Bioshock as a flawless, pivotal or "defining" moment. It was a fun, edgy game.

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#3  Edited By NakAttack
@ThatFrood said:
" While I agree that Bioshock was a good game, a very good game even, I don't see it as a pivotal moment. Certainly, it is one in a list of many games that do interesting things with established game mechanics, but "pivotal" implies that, had it not existed, "games as art" would never come to fruition, which is ridiculous. The narrative of the game is very good, the way it was presented is Bioshock's strong suit. (I would argue, though, that the ideas behind the game begin to breakdown under stricter scrutiny) But despite its stellar presentation, I really wouldn't classify Bioshock as a flawless, pivotal or "defining" moment. It was a fun, edgy game. "
this^
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#4  Edited By Meowayne

No. Just no. I see what you want to say, but definitely no. If anything, the game you describe is Half-Life 2, and even that is not nearly there.

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#5  Edited By NakAttack
@Meowayne said:
" No. Just no. I see what you want to say, but definitely no. If anything, the game you describe is Half-Life 2, and even that is not nearly there. "
agian this, but moreso portal for me
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#6  Edited By Pinworm45

Yeah, I'm gunna put Mass Effect as being closer to this than Bioshock. 
 
Although I suppose the lesson to be learned from all the people recommending different games as being closer to fitting the bill is just proof that games have evolved as a whole, perhaps? well, not a whole, but more in general.

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#7  Edited By L33tfella_H
@ThatFrood said:
"The narrative of the game is very good, the way it was presented is Bioshock's strong suit. (I would argue, though, that the ideas behind the game begin to breakdown under stricter scrutiny) "
I'd be happy enough to point it out to people.
 
Bioshock...is System Shock 2..Re-Dux.
 
Don't Believe me?
 
 
By all means, Bioshock isn't a bad game (eventhough i feel that all these people talking about how 'original' it is are being a bit pretentious), It's a Great Game, but i dunno, i didn't get 'into' that universe like i did with SS2 (something i re-installed recently, and was positive about it). I guess i just enjoy a nice loooong corridor lit up by a few lights with some techy music and groans of hybrids all around me begging to kill them rather than the stare of the ocean behind a window and some 60's vintage tunes playing in the background.
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#8  Edited By Shinri
@Pinworm45 said:
"Yeah, I'm gunna put Mass Effect as being closer to this than Bioshock. 

Hahaha. 
 
5/5 would read again.
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#9  Edited By Xantiriad
@Pinworm45 said:
" Yeah, I'm gunna put Mass Effect as being closer to this than Bioshock.  Although I suppose the lesson to be learned from all the people recommending different games as being closer to fitting the bill is just proof that games have evolved as a whole, perhaps? well, not a whole, but more in general. "
I think you can now put quite a few games forward now as examples of interactive story telling (rather than just cinematic narrative). Mass Effect 2 has definitely raised the bar for RPGs that want to have a strong character driven narrative. Uncharted 2 also did some really cool things with incidental dialogue and character development.
 
I'd put System Shock and Half Life 2 firmly in the last generation, although I agree they pioneered many of the concepts and techniques used in Bioshock. Playing Bioshock 2 has really brought home what an achievement the predecessor was. It is interesting that if you read the mainstream media, such as British newspapers like the Guardian, they very much recognise Bioshock as the game that changed mainstream perceptions of interactive art. 
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#10  Edited By ahoodedfigure

Do you mean that Bioshock 2 is a popular example of non-linear storytelling?  Or that more people accepted it as an example of this?  History will say whether or not it's pivotal, I think it's too early to tell until other titles fall out of memory, but I don't think the structure itself was strongly innovative.
 
I think their best achievements were to create emotion in those few seconds of freeing a little sister, the immersive world of Rapture itself, and the comment on linearity that the game makes.  
 
As to whether others picked up on this, even other gamers, it's difficult to tell unless they're asked individually.  To me it's not so much about single games or popularity contests, but the flow of titles that push the medium forward and explore new ideas.  The titles we love now may be reduced to a few facts about their contributions much later, assuming they're remembered at all, while games we take for granted now may be the start of a new branch of interactive entertainment we don't yet appreciate or understand.

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#11  Edited By L33tfella_H
@Xantiriad said:
"  I'd put System Shock and Half Life 2 firmly in the last generation,  "
Now...I can agree with System Shock..But Half-Life 2 came out Mid-2004, do you really consider the 3-year gap between it and Bioshock to be between 2 different Generations?
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#12  Edited By Meowayne

Not to mention that there are earlier and better games that didn't even attempt to use "cinema" storytelling devices, but "videogame" storytelling devices instead; games that were aware of what tools they have that movies don't, and used these to create worlds, stories and characters, games such as Portal, Shadow of the Colossus, Silent Hill 2, and probably others that I haven't played. 
 
I agree that Bioshock does the same. But it does so only to some extent, it does so in a very unoriginal way (mainly by using audio tapes), and the huge majority of the narrative is still told non-interactively. 
 
So.. I don't know. Go play more games?

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#13  Edited By Xantiriad
@L33tfella_H said:

" @Xantiriad said:

"  I'd put System Shock and Half Life 2 firmly in the last generation,  "
Now...I can agree with System Shock..But Half-Life 2 came out Mid-2004, do you really consider the 3-year gap between it and Bioshock to be between 2 different Generations? "
The current (7th) generation of video games is considered to have started in late 2005, so yeah it just misses out.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_video_game_consoles_(seventh_generation). Always tricky with PC games to classify them into "generations".
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#14  Edited By valleyshrew

10 years ago there were games that were deep story telling experiences such as metal gear solid and deus ex that I think were more memorable and enjoyable. I don't see what bioshock really does that sets it apart, it's got to be the most over thought of game of the decade perhaps along with Half-Life 2. Mass Effect is imo a better choice for pivotal moment, but I think this generation's games are worse than the last 2 as they have been getting substantially smaller worlds. Mass effect is really quite small for an RPG, and Final Fantasy XIII is an order of magnitude smaller than Final Fantasy VII in terms of content (despite still being the same length). GTAIV is lacking content that San Andreas had so many were disappointed with it and even MGS4 was pretty small and lacking gameplay wise. It's no longer feasible to make large games in HD when a 10 hour one sells for the same price.
 
I thought Bioshock was a well made immersive game but with a poor (though good by video game standards) story and the gameplay was just above average for a shooter. I did not care about any of the characters like you do in Mass effect and I was forcing myself to complete the second half. On your closing point I really don't think the player makes up their own mind about Ryan, he is the antagonist of the game and the story seemed to be clearly preaching against a eugenics fueled fascist utopia. To be fair, I hated rapture for it's atmosphere and claustrophobic darkness (same reason I also hate dead space) so I am not the most objective commenter.

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#15  Edited By NakAttack
@Xantiriad said:

" @L33tfella_H said:

" @Xantiriad said:

"  I'd put System Shock and Half Life 2 firmly in the last generation,  "
Now...I can agree with System Shock..But Half-Life 2 came out Mid-2004, do you really consider the 3-year gap between it and Bioshock to be between 2 different Generations? "
The current (7th) generation of video games is considered to have started in late 2005, so yeah it just misses out.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_video_game_consoles_(seventh_generation). Always tricky with PC games to classify them into "generations". "
 sorry, but i gotta flame ya for using Wikipedia as a source.
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HypoXenophobia

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#17  Edited By HypoXenophobia

I would disagree, I would say I was moved more emotionally by Silent Hill than any of Bioshocks strong points. But then again, if you only follow the big name websites, your purchasing habits and taste would lead you to believe those false assumptions. I feel that a game like Bioshock would be revolutionary to those that have grown up playing bad games and decent to those that haven't. Because the game at it's core was a decent game. The story was at time convoluted and it's forced choice feels hollow, but regardless the gameplay aspect wasn't thoroughly there. It was passable but not great. Any aspect after Cohen to me was pretty much where the game lost it's luster quickly. Just my opinion though.

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nanikore

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#18  Edited By nanikore

No, it wasn't. It's extremely overrated.

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#19  Edited By Venatio

No and  I couldn't disagree more, I'd say either Mass Effect or Uncharted 2 
  
Mass Effect 2 just feels like an important game, such a well done game and it's ALOT of fun to play aswell, unlike Bioshock 1 
 
It's also good to know that Jeff agrees with me, heard it on the bombcast, he thinks that game s a big deal

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#21  Edited By DrFidget

 As far as changing the way people see and play games, Wii Sports is the most important game this generation.  

You want to talk about games as art, that’s a whole other story and Bioshock is only a footnote.    

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#22  Edited By Willy105

It's too early to say which game was this generation's turning moment.
 
Bioshock just doesn't feel like it. Maybe in another 10 years we can say conclusively.

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#23  Edited By JoelTGM

I think the only reason the game stands out at all is because we'd never seen a game set in an underwater world before, but after that it was pretty basic and not memorable to me at all.  It looks different, but I wouldn't say it's special.

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#24  Edited By Cerza
@valleyshrew said:
" 10 years ago there were games that were deep story telling experiences such as metal gear solid and deus ex that I think were more memorable and enjoyable. I don't see what bioshock really does that sets it apart, it's got to be the most over thought of game of the decade perhaps along with Half-Life 2. Mass Effect is imo a better choice for pivotal moment, but I think this generation's games are worse than the last 2 as they have been getting substantially smaller worlds. Mass effect is really quite small for an RPG, and Final Fantasy XIII is an order of magnitude smaller than Final Fantasy VII in terms of content (despite still being the same length). GTAIV is lacking content that San Andreas had so many were disappointed with it and even MGS4 was pretty small and lacking gameplay wise. It's no longer feasible to make large games in HD when a 10 hour one sells for the same price. "
I completely agree.
 
@ahoodedfigure said:
"  The titles we love now may be reduced to a few facts about their contributions much later, assuming they're remembered at all... "
This. Primal readily comes to mind as an example here. There was a lot of marketing and hoopla when it came out . It was an amazing game. It did many things extremely well (some of which like the UI are still better than how they are done today) and was easily a generation or two ahead of its time. Yet no one seems to remember it. You never hear anyone talk about it, or compare it to the greats of today. It's like it's been completely forgotten. Whose to say Bioshock won't suffer the same fate.
 
Also, I feel the need to point out that all the credit the OP is directing towards Metal Gear Solid 2 really belongs to Metal Gear Solid 1. MGS 2 was little more than a refinement of what was done with MGS 1. It really didn't do anything differently other than pull a bait and switch with the protagonist a quarter of the way through the game and deliver a far more convoluted and nonsensical plot. 
 
Also, Tomb Raider is NOT an adventure game. It's an action game. Technically, I would classify it as an action platformer. Myst, Sam and Max, Monkey Island, Kings Quest (excluding the abortion that was Mask of Eternity), and The Longest Journey are adventure games.
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#25  Edited By Xantiriad
@HypoXenophobia said:
" I would disagree, I would say I was moved more emotionally by Silent Hill than any of Bioshocks strong points"

I can see your point on Silent Hill. I'm not a big fan of that series, or the genre, but I am looking forward to Silient Hill: Shattered Memories - which isn't out in the UK until March. 
 
Some interesting debate and good alternatives. :) 
 
Maybe we are all wrong. Maybe Wii Fit is the pivotal game?
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#26  Edited By Ignor
@Cerza: 
I thought Tomb Raider was action-adventure?
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#27  Edited By Cerza
@Ignor said:
" @Cerza:  I thought Tomb Raider was action-adventure? "
The originals on PS1 were classified as such, but as far as I know they are just action today. It's my understanding that any sort of adventure sub classification was dropped, because just about everything fits it today. The OP is correct in calling out Tomb Raider as important, because it was immensely important, but what he is calling it out for is wrong, which is why I called him out on it.
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#28  Edited By pause422

It definitely wasn't.

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#29  Edited By threeve

Bioshock was OK.  I definitely don't get all the high praise that it got though.  To me it was nothing special.  Just another shooter but with some (undesirable) horror aspect to it, and a better-than-average shooter story.  I agree that Bioshock didn't do anything that Half-Life 2 didn't do better before.

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#30  Edited By Atlas

What's with all the hate on BioShock? Not to say that I agree with the OP unconditionally, but it seems like there's so much negativity in this thread, whereas when the game came out there was overwhelming enthusiasm, and yes, that overriding sense that video games had taken a quantum leap forward. It just did what it did so well you couldn't help but be in awe of it. I'm not really into the whole "Games are Art" thing, but I do think BioShock has one of the best narratives of any game ever, as well as some of the best dialogue, the best atmosphere, the most unique setting (certainly at the time - Fallout 3 stole it's thunder just a little bit), and some of the absolute best sound design of all-time. Say what you will about the actual gameplay - I thought it was outstanding, even if just for its originality - but BioShock was a special game.
 
In a way I feel like is a perfect example of a time and space sort of thing. I equate it to me recently seeing the movie The Road. I absolutely adored that movie, and felt bad when I read about people who said that they couldn't enjoy the movie because it didn't match up to the book. I had never read the book, and so the impact was unique and very special to me through the medium of film. This is much the same case - I think if you played a lot of System Shock 2, or played BioShock any significant amount of time after it was released (maybe you found out about the twist towards the end, or maybe you played it after you played Fallout 3), you have lost that very pure sense of perspective. That's not to say the opinion is invalid, it's just that the people who feel very passionately about BioShock probably feel about it because of their circumstances as much as because it is, objectively speaking, a very high quality game. It's all relative.

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#31  Edited By ThatFrood
@Atlas said:
" What's with all the hate on BioShock? Not to say that I agree with the OP unconditionally, but it seems like there's so much negativity in this thread, whereas when the game came out there was overwhelming enthusiasm, and yes, that overriding sense that video games had taken a quantum leap forward. It just did what it did so well you couldn't help but be in awe of it. I'm not really into the whole "Games are Art" thing, but I do think BioShock has one of the best narratives of any game ever, as well as some of the best dialogue, the best atmosphere, the most unique setting (certainly at the time - Fallout 3 stole it's thunder just a little bit), and some of the absolute best sound design of all-time. Say what you will about the actual gameplay - I thought it was outstanding, even if just for its originality - but BioShock was a special game.
 
In a way I feel like is a perfect example of a time and space sort of thing. I equate it to me recently seeing the movie The Road. I absolutely adored that movie, and felt bad when I read about people who said that they couldn't enjoy the movie because it didn't match up to the book. I had never read the book, and so the impact was unique and very special to me through the medium of film. This is much the same case - I think if you played a lot of System Shock 2, or played BioShock any significant amount of time after it was released (maybe you found out about the twist towards the end, or maybe you played it after you played Fallout 3), you have lost that very pure sense of perspective. That's not to say the opinion is invalid, it's just that the people who feel very passionately about BioShock probably feel about it because of their circumstances as much as because it is, objectively speaking, a very high quality game. It's all relative. "
I didn't read the book either, but I still didn't enjoy the road that much. I liked the middle and beginning, but the ending was a complete disaster, from my point of view. It completely contradicts the build-up of the story and is very abrupt. It attempts to completely change the tone of the film, but doesn't give the viewer any reason to accept it.
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I love Bioshock so much. I'm such a wuss when it comes down to playing games and Bioshock scared the living daylights outta me (I called it the White Smoke of Poop-Myself), but it has such a fantastic storyline and such an enthralling premise. Whilst I wouldn't say it's pivotal for the reasons you've cited, I'd certainly say it was pivotal in the sense that it proved - without a doubt - that good graphics and gameplay could be implemented without the sacrifice of storytelling or length. 

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#33  Edited By nrain

Cough Call of Duty 4 Cough

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trophyhunter

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#34  Edited By trophyhunter

I hope not because I hated that game
I'd say any of the games on my favorites list are a better choice

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