hello all. i wanted to post the remedy to my problem.
what i failed to initially address was that, when my pc froze, i was still able to hear the game music. a friend of mine suggested that my audigy 2 zs was the culprit. he mentioned that creative was notorious for bad interrupt requests and that the music was still playing even after the game crashed because the irq was in a sort of loop. thinking about it, it made logical sense. so what i did was move my soundcard to a different pci slot so that a different irq was used. behold, the hard freezes that had been plaguing me had come to a stop. now i can play bioshock and the ut3 demo endlessly without my system hanging.
i hope this helps out anyone with a creative sound card and nvidia 8800 series video card.