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Friday, June 29, 2012

48

Girl Talk: Sinclair

This one’s a little weird, I admit, but I’d appreciate it if you would kindly indulge me in a discussion of the merits of one Augustus Sinclair, Esquire.

The BioShock games don’t provide crush material as readily as, say, any game from any BioWare franchise. For one thing, you (“you” being the pair of hands that represents Jack or Subject Delta) are quite isolated during most of your time in Rapture. Your closest non-violent contact with other characters occurs when — post-Big Daddy slaughter — you pick up ghoulish Little Sisters to rescue or harvest them for ADAM. Your more typical face-to-face interactions with other people involve battling deformed shrieking Plasmid addicts when they attempt to beat you to death, shoot you, blow you up, or whatever else they can devise to bring about your end in an unpleasant fashion. For the most part, you get to know the, uh, *normal* denizens of Rapture through voice recordings they made and, for whatever reason, scattered across the breadth of the city prior to your arrival. (They sure didn’t keep up with those things for all the sensitive subject matter they recorded, did they?) Each character has a little avatar that pops up on the bottom of the screen when you listen to his or her audio diaries, which makes it feel sort of like getting to know people from a sample of their internet comments, if said comments were read aloud in diverse easily recognizable accents AND if said comment writers had some serious boners for Ayn Rand. Which brings me to the second thing: damn near everyone you encounter in these games is HORRIFYINGLY AWFUL. Terrible, horrible, no-good-very-bad people. But also, entertaining!

One of the most entertaining is Augustus Sinclair, who you don’t hear from in the first game. You do, however, see evidence of his influence. You hear about him in other people’s audio diaries, you see his name on storefronts, the name “Sinclair” (spelled out in a gloriously Art Deco font, of course) seeps into your brain. And then shortly after beginning BioShock 2, he starts talking to you! He is, of course, a terrible person. He’s a slumlord in Pauper’s Drop and uses his residents as cheap labor sources to assemble products he later upsells, while offering them a slight discount at his liquor chain in order to lure their business and regain his meager investment in their efforts. He built a private prison, Persephone, to house political dissidents for profit, and was directly involved in spying operations that placed certain people under arrest. He further profited from political unrest in Rapture by running a "consumer rewards testing program" which basically allowed citizens to murder one another in the streets in the service of “testing” his “home defense” products. He’s a pretty bad dude. Somehow, though, he’s just so damn charming about all of it. (It helps that he’s not real.)

Saying that Sinclair isn’t as bad as some of the other characters in the BioShock franchise isn’t exactly a recommendation. I mean, the only bold-font male character in Rapture who isn’t acomplete moral horror show (excepting bereaved fathers looking for their kidnapped daughters-cum-Little Sisters) is Bill McDonagh, and I only know that because I read BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley. (Which I really enjoyed! You should read it. It’s extra fun if you have a friend/significant other/long-suffering pet to read it out loud to, so you can try all the voices. I do a better Frank Fontaine than I would have thought! But I digress, and good ol’ Bill is dead by the time the events of the game take place, anyway.) Sinclair is definitely a black hat. In fact, he was described as “affably monstrous” by Jordan Thomas of 2K Marin prior to BioShock 2’s release. I find that description quite apt. “Affably monstrous.” Isn’t that how we prefer our cinematic action heroes? Drop a friendly wisecrack before smashing that nameless, faceless man’s skull? Not that Sinclair would personally take part in any skull cracking, given a choice. Much too vulgar an activity to undertake with one’s own hands when … alternatives are available. Sinclair’s forthright declarations about his own motives and transparent moral adjustments as his goals shift, however, are disarming and occasionally downright endearing.

Sinclair’s voice acting (the importance of which we’ve discussed before) doesn’t hurt. He sounds so skeevy, and yet somehow so charismatic! I am a lifelong resident of the southern United States and have a sometimes more apparent (when drunk, tired, cussin’), sometimes (slightly) less obvious Southern accent of my very own. Fake Southern accents are a thorn in the fabric of my existence. Voice actor Doug Boyd performed a miracle in this case, though; Sinclair sounds like my 96-year-old grandmother filtered through a middle-aged guy who really loves capitalism, and it is somehow bizarrely attractive. Maybe it’s because of the game’s sense of loneliness in fabulous environs populated only with scary enemies? Real talk, guys, I went to great lengths (reloading the game lengths!) to preserve some of my hacked ‘bots with names via the Handyman Tonic or upgraded Security Command Plasmid in BioShock 2. Don’t diiiiiiiiiiie, Tommy!! But I don’t think that explains the nature of Sinclair’s appeal. I wished some of my other guides would go away at times. Stanley Poole can go swim, for all I care, and Grace Holloway could have refrained from the “monster” accusations in at least half of her communications. Sinclair, though … as long as your goals align, he’s a good partner in crime.

Then there’s the imagination factor. Along with fun combat, the huge appeal of BioShock is running around in its environment. Rapture is this glorious decaying Art Deco would-be paradise. Does anyone else daydream about living in one of the apartments in Mercury Suites before the city’s fall? Minus the actually-living-in-Rapture part, of course. Hello, GORGEOUS. And after the city’s fall … what do the remaining movers and shakers in Rapture do with their time? Drink a lot of Old Tom Whiskey and Chechnya Vodka? Record their life stories on audio diary? Private dance parties? I know I’m not the only person who casts “played by real people” versions of video games in my head. When Splicers are coming at you from all sides, you don’t necessarily want them to look like perfect representations of real human beings. When you’re sitting around thinking about video game characters doing things in their spare time, however, you don’t want to picture them exactly as they appear graphically in-game. Therefore, when he’s not killing zombies or parasite-possessed Spaniards, the Leon S. Kennedy of my brain looks a lot like that guy who plays Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones. And the Augustus Sinclair of my brain looks less like a 54-year-old dude who hasn’t seen the sun in almost a decade and much more like a smilier, more expressively eyebrowed, and, oddly, therefore more sinister Jon Hamm.

Does anyone else feel newly interested in Augustus Sinclair now? Well, too bad. He meets an ugly end when Sofia Lamb gets hold of him and turns him into an Omega series Big Daddy who can still think, speak, and feel, but can’t control his own body. The suck, right?! You end up killing him per his request so that, like Andrew Ryan, he can die as “a man,” though it’s less of an ideological point since he actually is a prisoner in his own body by the end of BioShock 2, whereas Ryan is just sick of living in the remains of his own failed experiment and wants you to golf club him to death before “Atlas” can order his demise. Bummer, dude. In those in-between times beginning with New Year’s 1958 and ending with the collapse of Persephone in 1968, however, I’d have been quite happy to share a Fine Gin and a dance with Augustus Sinclair, Esquire. Since I never had the opportunity, I’ve had to be satisfied with naming a goldfish after him.

Further discussion:

- Just HOW AMAZING are these games?

- What’s your favorite Plasmid? Favorite weapon? Favorite area of Rapture?

- Does anyone else get super attached to their named Security ‘bots? And maybe wish you could have one in real life?

- Do you prefer the hacking system in BioShock or BioShock 2? I like Pipe Slider better than real-time, myself.

- Harvest or rescue? Why?

- BioShock: Infinite — thoughts! Give ‘em to me!

 

Previously: Alistair.

It only took Jennifer Culp three tries to master Sofia Lamb's hairstyle.

48 Comments / Post A Comment

Girl Named Jack

This post makes me feel deeply ashamed of the unwrapped copy of Bioshock 2 sitting in my living room. I couldn't afford it when it came out, and then when I could afford it I was already playing other stuff. If I wasn't so deeply invested in Dawnguard I'd run home and rip into it right now, I promise.

Speaking of TES, can we get a Girl Talk about Martin Septim?

RK Fire

@Girl Named Jack: Skyrim was the first Elder Scrolls game I played. I just read the Elder Scrolls wikia and was extremely amused to find that Sean Bean was the voice actor, especially given.. well, everything.

Jennifer Culp

@Girl Named Jack Martin! Good one. I'll add him to the queue.

Girl Named Jack

@Jennifer Culp Yay!

RK Fire

I should clarify for everyone else that I read the entry on Martin Septim, who is only referenced in Skyrim.

Who would be a good Girl Talk subject from Skyrim? Vilkas? Farkas? Ulfric Stormcloak? M'aiq the Liar?

Megasus

@Girl Named Jack Yes! Also let's talk about Behtesda DROPPED THE BALL with the Skyrim romances. So boring! And you can't marry Brynjolf, WHO SOUNDS JUST LIKE IAN GLENN!! Clearly no ladies/not enough ladies on staff.
@RK Fire: BRYNJOLF

Girl Named Jack

@Megano! YEEEESS BRYNJOLF. Oh, sweet mother of god, I love that man's voice. Even if mostly he's just telling me he's got other things to do. Seriously. Why can't we marry him? FAIL.

Ugh my first playthrough I ended up marrying the first person that asked me. Except it was that dude from the Winking Skeever, Sorex, and I hate his voice aargh. What the hell was I thinking? He doesn't even own the place. I am holding out for someone better this time.

RK Fire

@Megano! I LIKE IT

@Girl Named Jack: Awww I married Sorex because I thought he was a good looking guy. :(

Although I am playing again as a lawful good character (my first character is in both the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood) so I need to find a new husband..

lavender gooms

@Girl Named Jack Ah yes, Martin "can't stay out of the path of my broadsword" Septim. Had to reload a few saves after braining him and all my other followers. I have the same problem in Skyrim. I am just not meant to have companions.

TheBourneApproximation

@Megano! Judging that my safe-search-on Google Image search for Brynjolf just now resulted in 50% shirtless shots/drawings and several decidedly not safe search results...I think the community agrees with you!

Megasus

@lavender gooms Yeah, or horses/dogs. GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY GUYS.

Girl Named Jack

@lavender gooms I'm not so good with the companions either. They get in the way of my arrows. Except maybe J'zargo, he stays out of my way pretty well. And he has good companion dialogue. Other than that, I'm a loner, Dottie. A REBEL.

TheBourneApproximation

@Girl Named Jack Like many, my husband spent half of his first game yelling at Lydia to "stop the fuck doing that," although his David Bowie-looking dark elf mage lady later ran around with a small posse. I probably should have tried using companions more, but they would ultimately find their way between enemies and my nice young Nord with her very large hammer.

nerdywhales

@TheBourneApproximation companions get in the way of everything! but at least they can carry all your stuff so you dont have to walk in slowmo because youre too cheap to drop anything

andy02

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elis

The games in the BioShock series are first-person shooters with role-playing game elements, and considered to be a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, which many of the developers were previously involved with through Irrational Games.
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Jennifer Culp

You can sort of see my tiny Sofia Lamb hair in my pic here (from Halloween 2010). My dude went as Sander Cohen.

SarahP

@Jennifer Culp WHAT. That's amazing!

avoidmadness

@Jennifer Culp Perfection!

SarahP

Oh man, I loved/hated hearing everything Sinclair said! Especially as a foil to Stanley Poole and Grace Holloway, you're right. I absolutely agreed with you about loving the aesthetic... I even admired the female splicers' outfits. Is that wrong?

(Also, point of pride: my husband's company worked on part of Bioshock!)

Daisy Razor

My bedroom was right off of the living room when my husband was playing Bioshock II and the voices of the Little Sisters filtered into my subconscious as I fell asleep.

Nightmares. For. Weeks.

Megasus

I've never played Bioshock. Is it hard? It sounds cool. I am not great at shooters but I could play Fallout OK.

Danzig!

@Megano! It's a very forgiving shooter. You can play with no "permadeath", meaning you just teleport to a tube somewhere else in the level whenever you're killed. It was included because nobody likes difficult games anymore.

TheBourneApproximation

@Danzig! Forgiving is good! (Some of us are very very bad at hand-eye coordination...) Perhaps I will put this on my "Famous stuff I really should really finally get around to playing" list, right after the super-cheap copy of Deus Ex: Human Resources I picked up last week...

avoidmadness

@Megano! Play it! It's pretty great. I hate horror but I love horror survival games, I know, I know, it takes me forever to finish a game because I pause it ever 2 seconds. Bioshock 1 is probably one of my favorite games, the world just eats you up, the story is fantastic.

Danzig!

- Just HOW AMAZING are these games?
1's an instant classic, 2 is a pale imitation of the first in every way except combat - much more fun to play minute-to-minute, lots more tactical plasmid usage and the like, but what made Bioshock special was its thematic design, which Bioshock 2 entirely lacks. They threw in all the elements without any apparent knowledge of how those elements work together.

- What’s your favorite Plasmid? Favorite weapon? Favorite area of Rapture?
Electro-bolt, shotgun, Fort Frolic.

- Does anyone else get super attached to their named Security ‘bots? And maybe wish you could have one in real life?
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- Do you prefer the hacking system in BioShock or BioShock 2? I like Pipe Slider better than real-time, myself.
1 is more fun, initially, but becomes a real chore the farther you get into the game, especially when you're playing for long sustained periods.

- Harvest or rescue? Why?
Rescue, because the game rewards you more for it, and also there are only two ending states for the finale - good and bad, and good requires a 100% rescue rate. You get bad if you harvest any at all.

- BioShock: Infinite — thoughts! Give ‘em to me!
Given that Irrational's on it and not 2K's motley crew of journeyman studios, it has to be good. The I don't know if Ken Levine's made anything not-good. The gameplay videos have it looking as good or better than Bioshock.

Danzig!

@Danzig! Also: I have a southern family and man did I loathe every moment Sinclair was talking.

TheBourneApproximation

Picture looks half Jon Hamm...half Sal Romano. Don/Sal slashfic lovechild?

BeebsLaRue

@TheBourneApproximation I was thinking he looks a little like Brad Garrett? But I like the Don/Sal combo much better.

lindackerite

Oh man Bioshock. I watched an...it's complicated relationship partner (boyfriend then ex and now we're seeing if we want to get back together....complicated) play through this game when I was sick (the game scared him too much to play it alone).

So yeah, this is coming from a spectator but I LOVED it: art style, story, different features. Didn't even deal with 2, but looking forward to Infinite.

Re: plasmids - I'm a sucker for fire across all games, so Incinerate is tops. But also enjoyed Winter Blast!

lavender gooms

Favorite plasmids? Telekinesis. And Bees.

BEADS?

BEES!

Sgt. Exposition

@lavender gooms Oh man, if you loved the Bees as much as I did, you have to watch this developer commentary by the guy who designed that level, Arcadia: http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/06/27/cool-insights-from-a-candid-and-funny-bioshock-developer-commentary/. There as going to be a gun with bee ammo! There's a design and everything.

squeee

@lavender gooms BEADS?? but seriously, they pinpoint those m'fing houdini splicers like nobody's business

squeee

I own at the one-two-(three) punches these days. A lil electro-shotgun-blast, a lil swarm o'bees, and then a lil' drill dash into YO FACE. I haven't finished BioShock 2 yet partially because I'm scared of it, and partially because I don't want it to end. Can't wait for the new sexiness that will be BioShock Infinite! PS: You all have the soundtrack, right? It's the best soundtrack.

youresmalltime

SORRY MY POWER WAS OUT FOREVER I'M HERE.

I am so fail at first person. I was not a Goldeneye child, and I honestly think that is why. I could not make BioShock happen. D:

The Mayor of Bethville

AHMAGAD! I can't believe I missed this post. I think you know that my most favorite plasmid in Bioshock is BEES, BEES, I HATE BEES. But in Bioshock 2, it's all about the fire plasmid. I don't know why, but it is dead useful against the Big Sisters and I constantly went back to it. My lovah prefers the ice plasmid in both games, but I hated that it killed anything the splicers dropped. (Probably because I waste ammo like nobody's business, and he is totally thrifty.)

As for weapons, I am all about the machine gun and that is usually the case in any game I play.

I always talk to my security bots ("Come on, guys! This way!") and got really mad when someone would damage one because it was like, "Don't hurt my friend." More often, I would talk to the Little Sisters and got way protective if anyone went after them. "They're hurting my sister!" (Am I the only one who still quotes Parenthood?)

I prefer the hacking system in Bioshock 2 better. I never got a handle on that pipe thing because I am waaaay lame and impatient.

I suppose it goes without saying that I couldn't bring myself to harvest any Little Sisters. I did it once and had terrible guilt.

I just watched 10 minutes of Infinite game play over the weekend, and I was like !!!!!!!!!!!!! It looks unbelievable. BRING IT ON.

linkaccu

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