The Destiny Moment: Why Oh Why Did Bungie Call Them Splicers?

By Steven Petite

A film splicer is a device that connects physical lengths of film into one. Obviously, the lengths that are normally connected are ones that will form a cohesive unit when matched. Maybe the film canister ran out, and two reels need to be reformed, or maybe an addition to a project was found later. But a film splicer could also connect two entirely different moving stories. As long as the types match, the strips can be linked into one.

This process isn’t all that different from art. Works of art aren’t created in a vacuum, and as Harold Bloom once said, “Influence is simply a transference of personality, a mode of giving away what is most precious to one’s self, and its exercise produces a sense, and, it may be, a reality of loss. Every disciple takes away something from his master.”

And so it’s rather fitting that as I began to play through Destiny: Rise of Iron, I stumbled upon a point of interest that brought me to the practice of film splicing.

The last relayed message before landing my ship in The Plaguelands: “The Fallen are a symptom. SIVA is the disease.”

I trekked into a dilapidated building, and Shiro-4 said, “Guardian, there’s a dead vandal near you. Can you give me a scan?”

Ghost proceeded to scan the corpse and said, “He’s Fallen, basically, but armor is enhanced, weapons have been modified, cybernetic enhancements.”

“Most Fallen Houses have a sect dedicated to this sort of thing. They’re called Splicers. They’re like body hackers, bioengineers,” Shiro-4 replied.

“It is worse than I feared. The Splicers are not only using SIVA to transform this place, they are using its technology to transform themselves.”

When I wandered away into the heart of the Fallen nest, I couldn’t help but think about the name chosen for these new types of enemies: Splicers:

Splicers are the main enemies in BioShock and BioShock 2. They are violent, deranged individuals, sometimes with mechanically enhanced limbs. Born from the excessive consumption of ADAM, the substance which replicates and changes potent stem cells in the body, Splicers are the symptom just like the Fallen.

Like ADAM, SIVA was originally considered a breakthrough, a way to reassemble and recalibrate humanity into a new age of prosperity. Unfortunately, like all things that are too good to be true, problems arose that quickly turned into catastrophes.

Now, with these glaring background similarities, why would Bungie choose to call these new enemies Splicers?

While the name is totally fair game, because a character name alone cannot be copyrighted, and is certainly not representative of sole intellectual property, the question I ask more so pertains to optics?

How many people are sitting down with Rise of Iron right now? Millions, probably. Out of those millions, how many will be transported to the depths of Rapture when Shiro-4 identifies the enhanced Vandal as having been manipulated by Splicers?

BioShock isn’t an obscure game by any stretch of the imagination, and the variants of Splicers aren’t forgettable video game enemies. It is regularly considered one of the greatest games of the last generation of console gaming, and has been a staple of discussion in gaming communities and publications since its release over nine years ago. And because of the release of BioShock: The Collection earlier this month, many who are playing the new Destiny expansion are probably also returning to Rapture or visiting the world for the first time.

I found it to be incredibly (and perhaps irrationally <Editor’s Note: Pun Alert!>) distracting to be forced to compare these two game worlds because of the shared name. Wouldn’t it have been better to use a name that wasn’t already embedded in the minds of millions? But I suppose they at least kept up with the tone of the Splicers that we all know in Rise of Iron.

Linguistically, it seems that the word splicer, unlike its synonyms (join, connect, braid, entwine, knit, mesh, marry), has been deemed by not only one, but two, big colossally successful video games, as an inherently bad combination of two parts coming together as one.

Whether or not Bungie was conscious in their choice of names, the resemblance between these two types of Splicers is somewhat uncanny.

I’m brought back to the idea of influence. Gamers will forever remember the Splicers roaming the tunnels and corridors of Rapture. BioShock is a part of the modern videogame canon (as Harold Goldberg wrote in his narrative history book). Aspects of canonized works have always been retold and rehashed. Art is a series of molding together original ideas with preexisting conventions and forms.

The concept of Splicers in Destiny: Rise of Iron will always bring me back to the world of BioShock. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Steven Petite often writes  The Moment column for the New York Videogame Critics Circle. 




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