Paper Topic

So…here’s the short version:

A structuralist/semiotic analysis of diegetic and non-diegetic sound in the game BioShock and how signifiers are decoded by users and how user experience is affected by whether or not they pick up on dated references.

Part of what makes BioShock such an incredible game is the setting/environment and sound is a huge part of this. BioShock takes place in 1960 in the underwater city of Rapture, a failed attempt at utopia by a strange and psychotic Nazi scientist. The soundtrack includes music fromt the 1950s and there are many other dated references that the user may or may not pick up on. If the user does pick up on these references, he/she has a particular experience. If the user doesn’t pick up on these references, he/she has a different experience. Neither experience is less significant or enjoyable than the other, just different.

If ‘sound’ is not a large enough area to get a paper out of, I will consider looking at the setting/environment of the game as a whole as there are many dated references in other areas.


  1. laurabrunetti

    i so definitely think ‘sound’ is a large enough area to get a paper out of. πŸ™‚ in fact, one thing you may want to do is to look at a particular shot (X seconds, or task A.. i don’t know this game and how it’s structured) that is interesting to you or think is the best candidate for analyzing and just use that. i think it would be too great a task (at least for this paper) to look at sound throughout the entire game. it’s just a suggestion, though.

  2. yenning

    I think it is interesting to explore the diegetic and non-diegetic sound in game. I am not familiar with this game but I think what Laura suggested might be a good idea to narrow down your topic. or maybe you can explore in what kinds of settings/environments the 1950s music is used and why is that. or a specific pattern of using sound in this game might be another possibility. It seems a good topic to me. I would like to know more about that! πŸ™‚

  3. Tyler Pace

    Don’t forget some of the amazing original compositions for Bioschock. I’m particularly fond of “Cohen’s Masterpiece.”

    Laura’s right in that you can probably squeeze and entire paper out of sound in Bioshock and you can just focus on a particular cut scene or two. Perhaps the longer scenes with Andrew Ryan, Cohen and the end guy? I forgot his name!

  4. amboro

    Dear Mr Bardzell, last night in the desperately seeking for the academical proof that video game study indeed have correlation with semiotics and visual communication for my thesis topic, I stumble to your blog. I found your article:Paper Topic though very limited are fascinating it’s a first sign that actually somebody does the research of video game in the same perspective as I did. Honestly I’m in the middle of frustration to convince my professor that video game study have other different focus rather than just the video game violent effect and educational purpose. Perhaps you can help me discuss about video game study and semiotics more intensely through email? Kind regard.


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