I have been trying to write about BioShock Infinite since about 1:30 AM on 2nd April 2013. That's roughly the time and date that I finished my first and only playthrough of the game. It's a game that means more to me than I am even capable of imagining, let alone describing. It's a game that I think about at least once in any given week. It's a game which I think is a genuine masterpiece; worthy of admiration and idolisation.
It's also a game that I think is so fundamentally flawed as to be almost irredeemable, and one that I find impossible to replay. I won't talk about those flaws right now, though. Not because I don't think they're important (I do!), but because people who are much smarter than me have already done much better jobs of it than I ever could.
Have you ever played a game that captured every single iota of your attention? For me, that game was BioShock Infinite. For the three days I played it, everything else sunk away.
I remember going to a party at a friend's house. I was doing all your standard party stuff: chatting, eating, drinking etc. But I wasn't really there. All I could think about was Booker, Elizabeth, and Columbia. Everything and everyone in that floating city seemed important. The party didn’t seem important. My life didn't seem important.
Let me make a quick digression. When I was young, I would often watch on-ride videos of roller coasters. If you're not sure of what that means, this is a good example. Put simply, someone sits on a roller coaster with a camera strapped to their hand, and films the experience of riding. As it turns out, there is a remarkably robust online community for this niche, with enough videos to last a younger me countless months of viewing.
It's not until recently that I've actually figured out what it was that appealed to me about those videos. Like BioShock Infinite, roller coasters have been designed to thrill and engage. Every twist, turn, and tumble is specifically positioned in order to keep the rider entertained. It's engaging, satisfying, and neat.
Obviously, real life isn't always engaging and satisfying, and it's definitely never neat.
The truth? I'm terrified. I'm terrified all the time, of everything. I'm terrified that I'm not important. I'm terrified that I'll never properly connect with anyone. I'm terrified that I'm never going to figure out what I really want to do, and that even if I do figure it out, I'll never actually be able to do it.
And underlying all that terror is the overwhelming guilt that the fact that I can feel any of these things means I am in an incredibly privileged position, and probably should have already found the answers.
But for those three days that I was playing BioShock Infinite, everything made sense. Every second felt worthwhile. Every moment was distinct and meaningful.
The truth? I'm scared that if I can never let go of BioShock Infinite, if I can never truly appreciate the purity of those three days that I spent playing it - rather than cursing the rest of my life for not living up to them - I'll never figure out what I want to do, who I want to be, and what's truly important to me.
I'll live the rest of my life attempting to attain the unattainable: a real-life experience which has been designed specifically to thrill, intrigue, and validate me. And one that has a satisfying twist at the end.
BioShock Infinite terrifies me. But maybe it's a healthy terror. Maybe it's for the best.
I may not always love it, but God only knows what I'd be without it.