Can Bioshock Infinite save gaming?


Bioshock Infinite just sounded like more of the same until I read about going back in time…to 1999.

What’s it mean to be a hardcore gamer?

I’ve always said that the “hardcore gamer” label is a relative term. Ask many of my friends and they’ll say I am a hardcore gamer because I play games more regularly than they do, but talking to others I might be considered somewhat casual…lets call it “midcore”…because I don’t play games for more than eight hours a day, not to mention I don’t play many mainstream games.

I love playing games, and I’ve played a lot of games in my life, but the amount of time I spend playing games isn’t what it used to be. Let’s face it, a full-time job and family can’t compete with a 17-year-old who has nothing to lose.  Thus the classification of “hardcore” should not be defined by the quantity of games played or the hours spent playing those games. The rank of “hardcore” should be reserved for the gamers that love punishment…that thrive on the challenge of games that are truly unforgiving. Unfortunately, most games today don’t offer that type of experience so I started to wonder if the era of the hardcore gamer was starting to fade out, that is until I read about Bioshock Infinite‘s added “hardcore” mode.

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite might end up being more than it seems.

Gaming like it’s 1999…I hope

Almost every game has a difficulty setting that goes from novice to expert, but more so that setting simply increases the number of enemies or at least how much effort it takes to kill them. That can be quite a challenge but more often than not the core gameplay stays the same. According to a Kotaku interview, Bioshock Infinite will have a mode dubbed “1999 mode” that turns the game into a one-way ride through gamer hell. It doesn’t sound like there will be any continues or save points to help limp your ass through the game, and you won’t have ammo raining from the heavens to keep you fully loaded. You’ll have to make choices and stick with them…no redos. This ain’t wiffle ball. The original Bioshock was one of the first games I owned when I got my Xbox 360 and it was a fun game that created one hell of a mood, but it was still forgiving. At no point during the game did I feel I was good at the game…and why should you when you can save your game and restart whenever you want?

Metal Gear Solid, one of my all-time favorite franchises, suffers from the same problem. Games like those have a great story, great visuals and lengthy gameplay, but there were times when I was playing MGS that I made it through a level or boss by shear luck (maybe even a glitch). When that stuff happened I didn’t ask questions or wonder how I did it, I just kept on going, desperate to reach the next cut scene. Does that make me good? No…it makes me lucky, and being lucky is nothing to brag about.

Since it sounds like this “1999 mode” in the new Bioshock sounds pretty serious, it’s probably safe to say that the mode will see you playing in small bursts. You’ll play for 15 minutes, die, swear, and then go do something else…and then you’ll come back an hour later and do the same thing (with more swearing). It saves you from having to set aside hours at a time to play a game. You shouldn’t have to carve out three hours at a time to be able to enjoy a game. When you have a game that can deliver some fun and challenge in less than an hour, you have a winner. It’s easy to point at old arcade and Nintendo games when you’re talking about short time play, but I think Bioshock Infinite has a chance to bridge the gap.

Bioshock Infinite

Will this game be more than just a pretty face?

Making a hard sell easier

I know that arcade games aren’t for everyone. I know those were a product of my gaming prime (which was way before 1999). Many of the games from back then were really one-dimensional. They were nothing but high score challenges and while I can enjoy those games, I know I’m the minority. Bioshock Infinite is a big budget title that is as mainstream as you get, so this game will be in the homes of millions of people, many of which may have never had the experience of a real challenge where your decisions mean the difference between life and death…and having to start over.

Selling today’s gamers on Defender and Pac-Man CE is difficult so I’m hoping that Bioshock can sneak in and introduce a “new” type of gaming to the non-hardcore gaming masses. I have to admit that I’m looking forward to seeing how a modern story-based game like Bioshock handles such an “old school” method of game design. Despite enjoying that first Bioshock game, I never played the sequel, nor was I really interested in Infinite until I read about this 1999 mode. I’m hoping it really pans out to be a 2-for-1 deal. If it turns out like I hope, Bioshock Infinite will have all the modern luxuries of gaming with the rewarding challenge of games long forgotten. It could be a game that you can actually be good at rather than simply stumbling through to claim victory.

Old school or hardcore? Whatever.

Even though I think the term “hardcore gamer” is for those that enjoy fast-paced video game brutality, I realize that I won’t win that fight. To most, being a hardcore gamer is about quantity, not quality. So I guess that leaves gamers like me with the label of “old school”, which I can accept but please understand that such a term means a lot more than a love for 80s arcade games and two-button controllers. Old school is not a time period, it’s a mindset, and I’m glad some big developers out there seem to recognize that.

(And if 1999 is now considered “old school”, I’m worried what label games pre-1999 will be given.)


About Author

Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.


  1. To be clear, 1999 mode is completely optional. The standard game mode isn’t nearly as difficult as 1999 mode. It’s just a bonus for gamers who want an extreme challenge.

  2. I’m sorry, but if I pay full price for a game these days, I expect to be able to finish it and see the game in it’s entirety. If I paid $60 for a game that is so difficult I’m not even able to finish it, than I’m gonna feel ripped off.

    That kind of crushing difficulty to games like Battletoads and Double Dragons back in the heydays only really worked in the SNES era where games were only a couple hours long to begin with, so starting from the begining is not necessarily the biggest deal breaker. Nowadays, games are on average 10 hours long. Expecting players to eventually power though the game with no save points and harsh as hell conditions is just plain unrealistic.

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