I finished Bioshock last night. In the end, I appreciated many things about the game a great deal.
But I never really learned to play it.
I think there is a more fun way to play the game, but I never taught myself how to do it. Dying without consequence and proceeding to wear enemies down was too easy and path-of-least-resistance-y, as nothing provided any incentive to act differently. Progress was always being made, but it meant I never cared all that much about doing well in battle. Even more so as resources often felt scarce, and getting through battles by repeatedly delivering a few hits, then dying and continuing got its own weird economic incentive as it saved some ammunition.
(I realized you could beat yourself through the game using just the wrench and the patience of a savant, fortunately I never quite sank to that level.)
I am pretty sure that with slightly different incentives I would have put a bit more time into choosing the right weapons and ammunition, planned my attacks a little bit more, and learned to use the space and environment better. Instead, fights were sometimes fun when they went my way but more often than not an annoyance.
I almost feel as if I cheated. Or was cheated. There is even better gameplay in there, hovering just out of reach.
I have watched all of the director's commentary videos I picked up during the game. Many interesting things are in there (material like that is really my thing), but nothing about this particular thing. But it is clear Irrational care and think a lot about all parts of their games, so my suspicion is that I sort of fell in cracks accidentally created between solidly designed systems working together in unexpected wasy. Perhaps missed because developers and testers were experienced gamers to a large extent?
It is fun to speculate. At least I did well in the last to levels, so perhaps I did pick something up by then.