Bioshock is a first person shooter game set in an alternate history 1960, the game places the player in the role of a plane crash survivor named Jack, who must explore the underwater city of Rapture, and survive attacks by the mutated beings and mechanical drones that populate it. The game incorporates elements found in role-playing and survival games. The player takes the role of Jack, who aims to fight his way through Rapture, using weapons and plasmids (genetic alterations), in order to complete objectives. While exploring Rapture, the player collects money, which can be used at various vending machines to gain ammunition, health, and additional equipment.

Below are a two videos to give you an idea of what it was like:

My experience:

I had quite the experience playing this game. I am not a "gamer" so I would categorize myself as a "damaged" learner when it comes to playing video games, especially first person shooter games. I was happy that there were three options of difficulty you could choose from upon starting the game. I, of course, chose the easiest level.
The game starts out with a brief audio and video intro ending with you wading in water with debris and fire all around. I was not aware or sure what to do (actually I thought the video was still playing). After about a minute of just floating in the water, a quick hint came on the screen that told me to use the AWSD buttons to move around. Aaaaaaah. Now I get it. The first thing I did was move right into a bunch of flames which was followed by much screaming so I assumed that was not a good thing. I learned to steer clear of the fire. Next, another helpful hint came on the screen informing me that I could use my mouse pad to look around. This made it much easy to see where I was heading before I got there. Eventually you end up on some island where this creepy lighthouse is, so you just naturally walk inside to see what is up. This leads you to this pod (bathysphere) that closes as soon as you step inside. Once inside, you get your first audio recording (Atlas) explaining to you what is going on and what to expect. Throughout the game you are guided by Atlas giving you advice and different objectives to accomplish. His voice definitely becomes a relief at certain points as he tells you not to worry and to keep going. This difficult part for me was learning the language of the game. Jack has to go around finding weapons to use against this mutants. The first thing you find is a wrench. The things you can pick up are usually glowing a bit so that is helpful. Once you approach something, a hint pops up on the screen telling you what it is and how to pick it up. Also very helpful. Once you kill a mutant, my first kill was with the wrench by beating it on the head a few times, you are able to search your kill. Many times you will find money, first aid, or plasma. The plasma is used to replenish yourself for your electric bolt weapon capability you acquire. This allows you to electrocute the mutants, stunning them from a distance, and then you can pound them with your wrench. You can use the money that you collect to buy other things like weapons and first aid as well. Eventually, you find a pistol which makes the killing a little easier, as long as you have good aim. As you move further along ( I did not get that far) other weapons become available like machine guns, incinerate, telekinesis and winter blast. I only played long enough to get to the second stage called the Medical Pavilion.

The game definitely has it's own semiotic domain. There are many different terms you need to learn as well as characters and skills. Below is an outline of what is needed to be learned to become familiar with the game:

  • Jack
  • Andrew Ryan
  • Brigid Tenenbaum
  • Atlas
  • J.S. Steinman
  • Peach Wilkins
  • Sander Cohen
  • More...
  • Big Daddies
  • Little Sisters
  • Splicers
  • Machines
  • Wrench
  • Pistol
  • Machine Gun
  • Shotgun
  • More...
  • Electro Bolt
  • Incinerate!
  • Telekinesis
  • Winter Blast
  • More...
Gene Tonics
  • BioShock Gene Tonics
  • Audio Diaries
  • Radio Messages
  • Welcome to Rapture
  • Medical Pavilion
  • Neptune's Bounty
  • Smuggler's Hideout
  • Arcadia
  • Farmer's Market
  • Fort Frolic
  • Hephaestus
  • Rapture Central Control
  • Olympus Heights
  • Apollo Square
  • Point Prometheus
  • Proving Grounds
  • Final level

I felt like the game was really good at teaching you step by step how to play and overcome different obstacles, especially on the beginner level. I have already mentioned the hints that will pop up that tells you what to do. When you approach a new object for the first time a description will also pop up that will tell you what it is. Also, at any point in the game by pressing "H" on the keyboard a hint will pop up that will clue you in on what to do next. The audio from Atlas also plays a key role on keeping you on task and telling you what to do next. During play, by pressing the "M" key, a menu will pop up that also provides a great deal of help. It stores all the audio files that you have listened to up to that point and you can replay them at any time. Also it provides you with a list of weapons you have acquired as well as health and money collected. There is also a map that will orient you so you know where you are at all times. I feel the game has built in enough features to keep even the most novice gamers on track and gives them just enough help to push them along without getting too discouraged.

Learning Principles used:

Active, Critical Learning: You are definitely learning by being actively in control and by trial and error.
Semiotic Domains: Learning all the characters and terminology goes a long way in better understanding the game.
Psychosocial Moratorium: The actions and decision you make as Jack have no real world consequences.
Identity Principle: As "Jack", a player will have to make some moral choices as to the type of character he wants Jack to be. Like whether or not to kill Little Sisters or to save them.
Achievement Principle: At every level there are different rewards given out and accomplishments made.

Online resources and help:

Bioshock has many different online resources that provide information and help regarding the game. It has it's own page on which provides a ton of information about the game as well as numerous other resources. At The Cult of Rapture website you can sign up for the Bioshock newsletter and the RSS and twitter feed. Also there are links to different forums discussing the game as well as podcasts and articles. Bioshock also has it's own wiki page where a wealth of info about the game can be found and discussed.

Overall thoughts:

I thought the game did a really good job at keeping me involved and did not make it too hard to learn. As I type I do have the urge to play some more just to see what comes next. I think that is key in producing a good game. I am not a big fan of shoot'em up games like this typically and I have no strong urge to go and and buy the game and master it at this point. However, I can see the attraction to it and the learning principles utilized really added to the experience.