250 comments on “Bioshock Explained

  1. Dylan writes:

    Incredible, analysis. When I played through the game and thought about the meanings behind it, it seemed to all come back to a moral center. A world without morals, where there is no religion or right or wrong is doomed to fail. In the end, Andrew Ryan and Fontaine were really the same type of people. They both believed they were unquestionably right and broke away from conventional religious and societal morals. Ryan's idea of freedom which ironically took place in the most trapped, remote place in possibly the world was doomed because of his severe lack of standard morals. While Fontaine exploited, and manipulated others for his own personal gain.

    The first time I played through I chose to save the little sisters, to me it felt like it was really the only option and made the game a much better story. If I hadn't saved them, then what was the point in me being down there? I felt a little like a religious saviour, sent to Rapture under miraculous conditions (a plane crash) To play the role of the biblical figure, to save the ruined undersea utopia of it's godlessness.

    The good ending, in my opinion, was terrible, it seemed to stress of all things, family values, which I hadn't even considered when I was playing through the game. One line Tennenbaum says at the end goes something like this. "I think I know why you did this, to learn more about your family." I was shocked that a game this thought provoking would choose a line like that. I would say the real reason me and my character followed this to the end, saving all the little sisters along the way was because it was simply the "right thing to do." Which is precisely the kind of thinking Rapture had been void of and missing during it's existence.

    To sum it up the message I got from the game is this:

    "Welcome to Rapture, this is what happens when a society worships no gods, and has no principles of right and wrong."

  2. Dylan that's a very interesting take. I saw it as Ryan and Fontaine strove for (and achieved) a false godhood through their elitism. But, in light of your view, you could interpret that as essentially a godless world.

    "Welcome to Rapture, this is what happens when a society worships no gods, and has no principles of right and wrong."

    So the message you got is similar but different than mine. I like the idea esp. when you criticize Tenenbaum's silly quote, which I agree does not fit in the game. I argue that saving the little sisters because it is the "right thing to do" is judgement, and minor elitism, and leads to the same path Ryan and Fontaine followed. But one could very well interpret it otherwise… it's the slippery slope between knowing and believing you are doing a true good that we should beware of.

    You are right though, Rapture went in headfirst without morals. What we should be sympathetic to is that objectivists hoped the morals it should have had would have materialized if everyone in Rapture just served their own self-interest and self-improvement the best. That was a fool's hope.

  3. Tom writes:

    FYI, noisewar, Frank is also the name of Rand's husband, Frank O'Connor.

    Also, thinking about what you wrote, one thing that stuck out is that I haven't seen anyone make mention of one of Ryan's greatest lines from the game, "It wasn't impossible to build Rapture on the bottom of the ocean, it was impossible to build it anywhere else."

    On the surface such a comment comes off as obvious: he wanted to get away from governments so he built his paradise in international waters to avoid jurisdictions.

    But moments in the game makes it much deeper. You save enough little girls and Tenenbaum will tell you that like a candle, you are a light in the darkness [of Rapture]. And you hear the Splicers who found their former religious ways again apologizing to God, "Father, I'm sorry that I traded you for mammon [in the Bible, money, in Rapture, ADAM and greed], and look what it has gotten me!" and "He [God] can see us, even down here!"

    And we, the player, begin to see that Ryan's line is twofold. He means it in that his experiment of selfishness needs to be away from juridictional boundaries so people can live and create without "censorship" and "petty morality" and we see it as meaning that his world of capitalism unbound and focusing only on one's personal happiness would (in the real world, with real people) lead to the monstrosity Rapture became. It was impossible to build Rapture anywhere else because the world of the surface would not stand such an abomination.

  4. Anonymous writes:

    Also, just to point out, Jack did not arrive in Rapture on New Year's Eve 1959. The opening scene says 1960s, and if you listen to McClintok's(sp) audio tapes you hear about the attack at the New Year's Eve Party, and then her following audio tapes about her admission to a hospital and eventual her release and joining Atlas's resistance against Ryan, where eventually she is killed by "Atlas" after walking in on him confessing his true identity. This all takes place in the course of a few months (it is believed), or even as long as a few years.

  5. Richard writes:

    The argument over game as art is such a touchy subject, but I think the evidence of great critical analysis such as this is a good example that games such as Bioshock are on the right track. Of course, it also doesn't hurt to thematically draw from famous literary sources! But what makes Bioshock unique is naturally in the gameplay. Players are given this illusion of choice that you pointed out. The problem is, like all literature, the outcome is predetermined. Choice really amounts to nothing except to reveal the truth at the narrative's end. What freedom is there when you achieve one of two possible endings? I think Bioshock plays into this idea very well in its critique of objectivism. To me, that quality of depth that combines narrative and gameplay to reflect each other is something very special that we don't often see enough of in video games. Then again I still marvel at the concept of Shadow of the Colossus and its theme of blind faith. That game still gets to me every time I finish it.

  6. anonymous writes:

    An amazing read sir! I found myself as provoked by your analysis as I was the games' story. When I reviewed the game two weeks ago (before launch) I wrote my thoughts about it before finishing it. Not unusual, considering the time constraint. I consider though, that as a player, I choose to save the Little Sisters, for one simple reason…

    It's what I would do. I played through KOTOR the same way. It's quite possibly why I may not enjoy GTA as much as many others. Blame my parents , or accuse me of having a Superman complex (many have) but despite that these characters are virtual-realistic, I still feel compelled to play as who I am—a savior, a hero. How odd. I may play through again, and execute the filthy urchins, just to see what happens. Isn't it unusual that it never crosses my mind to play games of choice any other route? Does that mean I have free will to do good, or that I am a slave to my programming?

    In the end, can't that be said for us all? Even when we do good, is it not for some selfish reward? We hold a door open for someone, are we not somewhat peeved if they don't thank us? The reward of feeling good about ones self, is still a reward, isn't it? How often are we actually selfLESS in our generosity. Many donate to cancer societies because we knew someone who has the disease. We buy girl scout cookies because they taste good. Thus, we are a slave to emotion; that small tingle that brews within us from doing the Right Thing. The Decent thing.

    Now, is that being a Slave to my upbringing? Isn't that the reality my parents built for me? Is that always beneficial? I would say no. No, it is not always beneficial. From personal experience, I have seen the pure act of being kind, of trying to save, lead to hellish nightmares when the world around you does not share that same philosophy… in the short term. Like Earl though, I believe in Karma…

    …Can one uphold the belief that both Destiny and Free Will can coexist? I see proof in both arguments on a daily basis. If Neo made the choices to become The One, he still fulfilled the Destiny of becoming the One. He had free will, but that freedom lead him to his Destiny. A preordained path that even the slightest change in his decisions would have brought crashing down the entire prophecy. Was he a slave, or was he free? Wasn't he… and possibly all of us… both?

    Holy COW, that's what a great article you wrote, now I AM getting all deep and sh*t, lol!

  7. Anonymous writes:

    great analysis here, I enjoyed the read!

    just as an aside, I'm an amateur occult researcher and I tend to notice messages through symbology

    when the game begins, when you exit the bathysphere, look up at the symbol on the ceiling

    the freemasonic square and compass are subtly displayed in Ryan's industry symbol, this wasn't done by accident IMO

    Andrew Ryan's elitism and "man can become God" philosophy also belongs to Freemasonry, not publically promoted by the Masons perhaps, but this is the crux of their beliefs once the covers are pulled back and you look beyond the intitial Masonic degrees

    a lot more obvious are the references to paganism, satanism, and human sacrifice as seen in the Arcadia/Farmer's Market part of the game and others

    don't get me wrong I don't believe the game to be promoting these things, quite the opposite, I feel they are exposing some ugly truths that are often hidden but very much a part of reality

    the game apparently has many layers of meaning and symbolism, some serious thought and planning must have went into it, kudos!

  8. Jenny writes:

    Although i find the analysis of the game to be accurate, your analysis of ayn rand and any of her novels is so far off the mark i question whether or not you have actually read any of her novels.

  9. Anonymous writes:

    Agreeing with Jenny above.
    Objectivism is not a system that allows capitalism to run rampant free from government and morality. Ryan fails the ideal in the first minutes of the game when he says they are free from "petty morality". Morals are an incredibly integral concept to Objectivism and having none is … well exactly the opposite. No government? Read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal to see that government has an ESSENTIAL place in the Randian "utopia". What we see is the degradation of a system that is a mix of anarchy and … corporatism.

    In essence, Ryan's detachment from government (democratic republic) and removal of any morality show how Randian ideals can be perverted and shows WHY Rapture went wrong. Ryan was a man that didn't understand what he was getting into and wanted the power all to himself.

  10. Anonymous writes:

    "Agree with Jenny,"

    When Ryan says they will not deal with petty morality, he's talking about morality in the PETA, human testing sense. Why fetter themselves with what would be illegal on the surface? He says nothing about Randroidian morality.

    Did you play the game? There is a form of government, too, in a council. Though the game never gets into what it is or how it functions, it does at least shield itself from the "no government" attack.

  11. Anonymous writes:

    Does "Choosing to save him means doing his bidding." really mean you did his bidding, or that you did the "right" thing?

  12. To address Jenny,

    Ryan did not enter Rapture without morals, just what he called "petty" morality. This is evidenced by the fact that there was law enforcement, government, etc. What happened was that as his city fell under assault by those without morals, he felt compelled to give up his own to survive.

    More importantly, Ryan did not enter Rapture with the intent of gaining absolute power. Bioshock is telling us that Randianism is easily perverted, not that Ryan began with perverted ideals. It describes a state, not a process, and to get to the objectivist ideal, Ryan felt pressured into forsaking his beliefs (temporarily) to save his city.

    Jenny, please tell me where I have mis-analyzed her work, it would greatly help my understanding.

  13. Tom writes:


    I question your assertion that "Ryan did not enter Rapture with the intent of gaining absolte power."

    The fact that there is a long hallway supplicants must walk down to seek his time/attention/etc. as well as the fact that they must then enter this palacial expanse of rooms before getting to him in his inner sanctum that just also happens to have the only sure way to destroy the entire place as well as being set off from the main power grid of Rapture itself indicates he's already broken his idea of there being no "Gods or Kings" in Rapture. He's already it's king so-to-speak from the way he set himself up instead of starting at square one, and he's its god in the sense that only he has the power to destroy utterly what he had wrought. There's a reason even in the beginning of the game itself there's a statue of Ryan holding the "No Kings Nor Gods" banner: he's also above them.

    It's sort of the same argument that can easily be made against followers of Rand (and easily ignored by them for it's very factuality) and that is that Rand had a "salon" with followers of her system hanging onto her every word in her chosen home of New York. What no one takes to task is that if these people are following her thoughts only, then they are mooching her morality and looting her ideas and she's allowing these people in her inner circle to commit these acts of what she calls immorality because she likes the attention.

  14. Thank you Tom, I love your responses btw.

    While I want to say that there are alternate explanations for the architecture and for why Ryan is situated on the core, let's forget about that for now. I agree that the huge bronze busts of his likeness everywhere is the very kind of hypocrisy that the cultists of Rand tend to show, but objectivism does offer a lot of excuses for egoism.

    Actual, physical power, however, is another story. Ryan only fancies himself a king with all the trappings. But throughout the dialogue in the game, it's clear that his power is actually very limited. He is at the mercy of the capitalism of Frank until he gains ADAM for his own faction, he coerces the police to do his bidding only indirectly, and he himself says

    "But I will make no proclamations, I will dictate no laws."

    as he lets people run amok splicing themselves into monsters, which he clearly disagrees with. Going through his audio files, you could argue that he did too little even as he saw things sour, and that his lassiez-faire attitude is what led to the war.

    The iron-fisted Ryan you see in the game is what the original Ryan made himself into when he lost control of Rapture; he didn't ruin Rapture with control.

  15. Tom writes:

    I see what you are saying, but will point out that in the beginning, Ryan did have actual, physical power. Remember, Ryan began with Ryan Industries; Fontaine didn't have Fontaine Futuristics, yet, only Fontaine Fisheries. Now, I will say that Fontaine was a conman from the start and was probably already looking for the holes to exploit in the structure of Rapture, but it wasn't until Tenenbaum came to him after being turned away from Ryan himself that he was able to do so as quickly.

    Fontaine indicates that he had always been a conman and preferred a smart mark over a dumb one, indicating he came to Rapture to take individuals for their worth; when Tenebaum came to him with the project that even Ryan had turned down, I would argue that it was only then he saw the potential to hustle not just various citizens of Rapture, but Rapture itself.

    Why that matters, is, for the few short years before Tenebaum happened upon her discovery and Fontaine saw its value, Ryan was effectively Rapture's king. He held the most buildings and money (I believe he says he purchased buildings and 'fish-futures'), lived to excess (which Peach was griping about), and not because he did it by coming to Rapture tabula rasa like everyone else. Thusly, I would argue, simply because of the way Ryan started with advantages (his reasoning probably being that he started a city of new elightenment and beginnings for other people–not himself), the reason he let his idea of lassiez-faire run was because he had already removed himself from the possibility of being the victim (until Tenebaum and Fontaine) of such policy. When one has the distinction of being above the disadvantages of certain policy, it becomes quite easy to put those ideas into practice.

  16. Fotis writes:

    Interesting interpretation of Bioshock. I quite agree that this is one of the few games which really ask for a deeper interpretation like yours, but I don't agree with your focus on seeing it as a criticism of objectivism.
    But it is Dylans statement about the ending which I wanted to comment on. He writes: "The good ending, in my opinion, was terrible, it seemed to stress of all things, family values" – Well, you could have seen it coming 😉
    The opening cut scene starts with the ego sitting in the plane and remembering his family (keeping a parcel on his knees with the written instruction across "Would you kindly not open it" ). The image, we later learn, the implanted image, of his family flashes before him repeatedly during the game.
    Atlas entices his help by pointing out that he needs him to get back to his (= Atlas) family and later on Atlas cries for revenge for the lifes of his family.
    In one of the rooms above McDonough's Tavern (I think) there is a dead couple. They seem to have committed suicide after loosing their daughter Masha who became a little sister.
    So family plays a very important role from the beginning and it is only consequent that the positive ending is one where the ego dies as the 'big daddy' to all the little sisters now grown women. Maybe it is a question of age but I don't think that this is a let down or intellectually not on the same level as the reflections on society, because family can be seen as the core of any social system and with its demands as the first counter-part to any striving for individualistic freedom and evolvement. As so often in this amazing game this thought is inherent in the game play by giving you the choice with the little sisters: if you choose to kill them you definitely evolve further.

    Bioshock seems to be one of the first games which really merge a popular appeal with the depth of serious art. Quite an achievement.

  17. soundofsatellites writes:

    I'm afraid i'm not going to be able to do any constructive comment per se, first because it's way late and i'm feeling lazy; second because i'm quite clueless when it comes to objetivism since I haven't read any of Rand's work.

    Anyway, I agree with Fotis: family is indeed present trough the game and the good ending (as weak as both endings can be) is the only one that actually gives a kind of coherent closing to the story. The facts pointed by Fotis, and the subsecuent plot twist when you confront Ryan actually disintegrate de character's identity regarding his own past & his family -i don't know, perhaps i'm reading too far away- So ending the game with Jack having a family of it's own for good doesn't seem to outrageous to me.

    That said, are a couple of things about bioshock that i've been thinking but had no time to develope.
    First: I'm not exactly sure how was rapture actaully working. The council or goverment of the city is never explained in all the detail i've would like to -to make a comprehensive reality that endorses why & how the randian utopia could be feasible. How was the political life in Rapture? Who held legality, legitimacy and authority? On what grounds? i mean how these people who held the power justify it? What kind of fictions -in Kermode's sense- were built around to give sense to the world, if rapture was to be a break to the surface world (and thus, the way people comprehend and explain reality and society)?

    The second is regarding the narration in Bioshock. Quoting Richard:
    "Players are given this illusion of choice that you pointed out. The problem is, like all literature, the outcome is predetermined. Choice really amounts to nothing except to reveal the truth at the narrative's end" This is one of the main problems I've been thinking regarding games. Whenever interactivity implies changing a story, you're determined to branch it. Well, it's impossible to determine all the things a player would try to do with a game. The complete player freedom could be like the MMORPGs, and stories are very difficult to maintain there, eventually, becoming a sort of everyday thing. The MAIN problem with the story in a game is a game's own nature: interactivity. I remember reading some article by Ron Gilbert were he adressed this issue in a very accurate way.
    So closing up maybe and just maybe, free will & freedom of choice are tainted concepts when talking about a game, and somehow with every character in general (how much freedom a written character whose actions are strictly defined has?). I'm thinking out loud regarding the end of NATURE AND NURTURE in the article.
    "In the final fight, Jack willingly (free will) becomes Tenenbaum’s slave. […] Was it true free will? Or were Tenenbaum’s ambitions, or some form of residual programming, or just the desire for revenge equally decisive? Why does the player keep playing at this point, knowing the whole story already?" WAS IT TRUE FREE WILL? As a player, how I cannot choose to forgive Fontaine, why I cannot choose to try to escape rapture and curse them all?

  18. Anonymous writes:

    If one plays this game and listens to the audio logs, one gathers that this game has strong antipathy towards neo-paganism, gays, libertarianism, humanism, objectivism, and atheism. Add to it piles of bibles, martyr imagery, and people bemoaning their damned fates with bible verses, and this game seems like thinly-disguised Christian Fundamentalist Hate Literature. The sweet irony of all is that Christian Fundamentalists HATE the game too, because they can't see past the evils of violent video games realize it is batting for them.

  19. Tom writes:


    This link is, in the end, next to useless when discussing the game:

    “Another outline of an interpretation of Bioshock:

    The author picks and choose what information he wants for his argument. I.e. the issue with “ghosts” (explained in the game as genetic memories the player is receiving due to the ADAM his body is taking in coming from multiple sources all over Rapture). The person writing the article basically dismisses all the games explanation in favor of what he has chosen to believe about the “ghosts.” This does not make for even mediocre research; ignoring or manipulating the facts as one sees fit makes for blatant lies and wrong conclusions.

  20. Thanks for a very interesting discussion guys.

    I just wanted to comment on your observation that video games like Bioshock don't really support the free will they discuss since the game itself is finite, the endings decided, the story limited to a small range of outcomes, few of which really recognize what the player has done.

    You are absolutely right, but I don't find anything wrong with it. A moral parable about even something like free will requires a finite point. You could see a game as one instance of the message the author wants to get across. In this sense, the story in Bioshock has already happened, you are just re-enacting it, and the specific actions you make are just interpretations you make of the story. There doesn't need to be free will.

    Or maybe free will isn't what we think it is. Free will, to me, is the freedom to make choices, not the freedom to achieve any consequence you want. Christians would argue that given the choice between orgasmic heaven and the damnation of hell, you choose your fate, and therefore have free will. Others would say that proposition is not a choice to begin with. But even my ardent atheism has come around and now I do consider the actual choice you possess to be free will— it's just at the mercy of a greater will than yours, God, gravity, or a game someone else made.

  21. There is some very interesting analysis and discussion in here. I particularly like the issue of how we see choice built into gaming, and that you have at least certain freedoms.

    For my two cents – the elements of exploration in gaming are generally limited by the willingness of publishers to devote resources to creating the worlds. The richer the programmer-intense environment is (which Rapture certainly is), the greater the preference to keep the player on a set of in-world rails. In doing so, the number of redundant branches that need to be modeled is far smaller, making better use of programmer time per player experience.

    Obvious – I know, but there are ways to build 'choice' elements into this. Great example of where this worked well (albeit still in a limited way) is STALKER, from earlier this year. The end point was physical confrontation in the same place, regardless of the actions taken to get there – but the resolution of the narrative was based on different aspects of the player's interactions. Did you amass wealth? did you overpower the resident gangs? did you build a reputation for helping people or wiping them out? Depending on how different conditions were met – there were 7 possible outcomes.

    Compare that to the polar endings for bioshock of 'did you rescue all' or 'did you harvest any'. Not that STALKER's in game rulings were exactly perfect, but think about the possible narratives if they built a few more options out for Bioshock – you harvested the first set of sisters, but upon learning of your actual identity you 'reformed' and saved the last 5. Should you still get the 'happy' ending? Maybe Jack is shown older and tortured by his failure to save them all?

    What if you played through choosing to keep yourself 'pure' by adding only the minimum of plasmids? Leaving in the bathysphere having 'shut down' the abomination of the city; While if you spliced dozens of plasmids during the game – the end shows you committed to a life in Rapture addicted to ADAM, and reliving the lives of all the 'ghosts' you have the memories of?

    Ok – so I may not have the best creative options here; but the idea of linking the end outcome to your style throughout the game has to be better than just a Y/N at the critical moment.

    As one other aside (and I am stealing from the GFW podcast), when you are introduced to the rescue/harvest concept – Tenenbaum tells you there will be a reward for helping the girls. This may have been a better morality question if that wasn't in there – you get 80 to save them, 160 if you don't. That's it – your choice to take the 'moral' path will make life harder in game. Even if the gifts do in fact turn up – just don't tell us, let the trade-off be made on the raw merit.

  22. Tom writes:

    Ekfud, I think the reason they had to make the "Tenebaum giving a reward to the player" idea more fleshed out is to make it seem criminal in the utmost to kill the girls as opposed to merely bad for the watchdog groups who would raise enough stink anyway. When you go to forums around the time Bethesda is releasing Oblivion and there're threads with people whining about how quest characters will only get knocked out when they want to slaughter them mercilessly, think of what simply leaving the idea of saving or killing th girls blindly up to the players would have done.

  23. Morningoil writes:

    Great essay! I agree with you that Bioshock – perhaps uniquely among games – merits serious thinking and analysis, and I agree with you that the ending sells the game short very badly. But still it's fantastic.

    I don't agree with you as to the way in which it critiques Randian philosophy. I do not believe the mistake of it is so much in riding rough- (or maybe slip- 🙂 ) over subjective conditions of knowledge (although epistemological foreclosure is a key device through which its fundamental lie is perpetrated), since I am a small-o moral objectivist (and, if we are going to use terms of art, a cognitivist). What it gets wrong is in its failure to recognise that untrammelled freedom is anathema to freedom: for, for Andrew Ryan to be completely free, he must necessarily make others unfree. The broad outline of Bioshock's critique or Randianism is thus surely this: Ryan claimed to be creating heaven by repudiating the obligations of each to others; the necessary consquences of which are in fact oppression, strife, hatred, failure – hell. And that – objectively speaking – altruism really is necessary for people to get on and do things like build underwater cities that don't quickly run amok.

    But hey, that's just me 🙂 I love that someone wrote a game we can say stuff like this about 🙂

  24. Saroor writes:

    I am not certain if anyone has mentioned this, but I found it interesting that Fontaine's revolt occurred very close to the time (perhaps the exact time, I am a bit sketchy on the chronology) as Fidel Castro's in Cuba.

  25. Adam Seale writes:

    On family…

    Maybe because that's the one structure of mutual trust and support that even a Randist can believe in.

    The 'good' ending starts with family, the first step out of a world that scorned order and focused only on the individual.

    One individual joins the family. The family joins the clan. The clans join into a society. The societies join into all civilization.

  26. Ambrus writes:

    Excellent. Just have to say that this is great to read. When I played through BioShock I would say I was 'aware' of the effects and themes, but not in such detail. And it really does warrant this level of analysis, mainly due to Levine's incredible enthusiasm and willingness to invest so much thought-provoking material into a game.

    Does it make a great game? I don't know… I, like many people here, thought the ending was poor. Similar to what 'anonymous' wrote towards the begining of the threads, I also approached the saviour/harvesting of the Little Sisters by doing what I would have done myself: I killed them all, to get more ADAM and try and survive. It's the one aspect of the game that forces you to make a decision (which is not necessarily the same as free choice, as has been discussed), and what I would have liked to see more of in this game is a similar kind of manipulation of the character, but in an environment that was more open to the player's decisions. A situation whereby, yes, you do affect the world around you but, no, this does not necessarily mean you can control it. As it stands I am still simply running around, killing splicers, quick-saving and then carrying on with the story. No matter how deep that story is, it still hasn't reconciled the 'game' with the 'art'.

    For this reason it seems to me that BioShock for sure addresses Ayn Rand and Objectivism (and all else that has been discussed) but it cannot in itself offer anything more than this, hence the troubled endings. What it does offer is still remarkable, though: it is the first game to truly understand what it is.

  27. Blueb85 writes:

    I loved the essay! i love the game, i am late in the game as i am just starting it and probably only halfway through. However i got online to find out what was the deal with all the Christian themes, through the dialogue the characters are saying, songs like, "Jesus loves me…" and the boxes of smugglers crates filled with crucifixes and bibles, like someone was on a missions trip in rapture or something but it was to late. Maybe i am off in thinking that, i dont know but in trying to gain a better insight of all this i do have to say i love your essay on the game. To the individual who said Christian fundamentalist HATE this game, i dont know who your talking about, i go to a Bible college and grew up in church and everyone one of my friends, and myself LOVE this game!!! I am sure there are some religious not just Christian individuals that would write the game off due to the complex and violent nature of the game but dont stereotype people because a few protest with dislike. thats all.

  28. George writes:

    there are also many other christian symbols littered throughout the game, such as the random crosses, and there are crucified people also throughout the entire game… the most memorable one for me is the one that says smuggler above it, with a bible and some crosses at the bottom… to me, this says that being in rapture is Ryan's own twisted religion.

  29. Anonymous writes:

    next time you are in the medical pavilian, turn around 360 degrees and look at the hatch, look at the handle and read the incription, (it will bolow your mind!)

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  31. Dylan writes:

    It seemed to me that Ryan idolized the idea of having no morals, thinking that it would lead to greater advances. but after listening to his Audio Diaries it is apparent that he is disgusted and dissaproving of what rapture had become, Ryan was hypocritical and brought down by his own philosophy. he was a genius, and the idea of genius not being constricted by morals appealed to him, but i think somewhere during the fall of rapture, he realized his foolishness, and thats why he lets you kill him. but dont listen to me, im just a lowly highchool kid. hell, i dont even study phsycology.

    btw this is a great discussion. i played bioshock and came of with the sense that it ws a deep and brilliant game. i searched the internet because it existed on so many levels that i knew there would be many different and interesting opinions on it, but all i found where forums with people writing: hey noobs this game owns!!peace out! thankyou

  32. Ouwen writes:

    I was wondering, could you explain the quote Ryan says at the start of the game?

    "Is a man not intitled to the sweat of his brow?"

  33. Hey Ouwen, that phrase basically asks shouldn't a man have the right to the results of his hard work? The world Ryan left, like ours, is one where corporations, criminals, governments, etc. take those things from people whenever they can.

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  35. Tijs writes:

    I'm Iin the middle of the second game and didn't play the first.
    I've been reading all your dialogues on here, and I must say that its all very interesting, even if you take it outside the game.

    Thanks for the interesting discussions!!

  36. Anonymous writes:

    "Is a man not intitled to the sweat of his brow?" means that "you should get your money for your work"

    what Ryan didnt see is how, without a government, big business eats up the little man.

  37. Anonymous writes:

    Wow, what a treat to read … Thanks to everyone! (esp. Lorenzo for his great interpretation!)

    I just finished BS2 and felt the need to read what others are thinking about the Rapture universe…

    I absolutely loved the amusement park ride – where the "sweat of your brow" line is very graphically explained 😉

    I really hope the future of games will give us lots more of this (I was thrilled to read that the designer for Bioshock was also involved in the Thief series).

  38. Anonymous writes:

    Wow! this was a very cool article. Loved the game and this really layed out the thoughts behind this game. Thanks for the write up. It was a very good read.

  39. Ðноним writes:

    That's good that people are able to take the business loans moreover, it opens new possibilities.

  40. Anonymous writes:

    For all of you who are saying that the family theme comes as a curveball….you simply failed realize that the family theme had always been in present in the relationship between the big daddys and little sisters.

  41. josh writes:

    I feel like there was not enough discussion directed towards the way Fontaine recruited men and women for his army… He opened up what was basically a homeless shelter to essentially recruit individuals to fight for him against Ryan. I feel like Fontaine lead to the demise of Rapture by incorporating a need for collectivism amongst free individuals. He welcomed poor, needy individuals in to his shelter, and then warped their minds in to believing that the free life that they currently lived actually wasn't free. I don't think the game proved why objectivism is unrealistic… I think if anything it proved that it can be great until people stop believing in the system.

  42. josh, isn't it unrealistic that people will believe wholly and irrevocably in a system then? A fundamental flaw in Objectivism is the idea that all it needs is universal faith in it's so-called "reason" to work, which is so very unattainable.

  43. horatius writes:

    If an institution depends wholly on "FAITH" to function, isn't that akin to religion? How is religion different from Objectivism? Both profess absolute truths, and thereby fail.

  44. Anonymous writes:

    wow long discussion makes me think a whole lot more into the morality and plot of the story

  45. Bartz Fact0r writes:

    There is some really deep analysis here that I really appreciate, especially considering that I myself am I huge fan of the BioShock universe. I heavily agree with the notion that family is a theme in BS based on many accounts that I had noticed but were in fact already presented long before I came across this article. I thought it seems like family is a MAJOR theme is this game, particularly in its opposition to the very foundation of Objectivism. As a high school junior I have not had an astonishingly deep insight into Ayn Rand's policies but one of the major guidelines of Objectivism states something along the lines of "Individuals must make choices that will benefit themselves in the long-term".
    Firstly, the Little Sisters, aside from connecting with the obvious theme of "family", act as a direct opposition to Randian ideals because of their notion of "free will" but also because of what a family seems to mean in this universe. Rapture seems to follow many pro-Objectivism standards, but it appears that being in a family itself goes against the guideline of Objectivism as stated above. When you make a decision to miss an opportunity for political or monetary gain to make a family function, perhaps a soccer game or little Timmy's birthday party, you move against Rand's ideals by making a choice to be with family, which is in a sense a "collective". Being a child of Ryan himself, it seems that even with your character's birth it shows that Ryan cannot totally resist this idea of a family and therefore himself gives into collectivism.
    Secondly, by playing the second BS (which I beat only a few weeks ago, after having time to speculate on the game's outcome) you see again that a strong movement of family does not lie with Objectivist claims. However twisted it may be, Sofia Lamb's "Family" certainly does appear to be a bit of a conflicting force with Ryan's ideas and again presents family as a theme, in which Delta and Eleanor push against the circumstances and traditional idea of family they have been instructed to uphold and choose to be with each other and live happily (although the ending does not allow this future to become possible; damn you, Lamb).
    To be completely frank, during my first playthrough of BS1 I had almost completely forgotten about the idea of family still being present except for the obvious Sister-Daddy and Jack-Ryan bonds. I beat BS1 when I was in the 7th grade, but many of these notions along with observations accumulated overtime have cemented the idea for me: family, however disguised it may seem along the context of BioShock's plot, is certainly a present and incredibly important theme in Irrational Game's universe.
    I apologize for the rant, but you make excellent observations and I am sincerely glad you wrote this article. Look at all of this speculation and collaboration you've made possible! As my WoW companions might urge me to say, "gratz" on a job well done.

  46. DAn writes:

    I find that this was an oversimplification of a philosophic difference raised by Randian objectivism.One main tenet is that every man must stand alone.

    If you put all the Bibles into context with the period PRIOR to the game, it makes sense as a stand against the Stalinist revolutions (though they were misrepresented- Stalin's rule and the agricultural issues that arose was the mass starvation, not people leeching power off of others).

    Personal opinion: since it was a simplification of objectivism and rationalism, the only major query present is: "Which definition of Free Will do you follow?"

    Even in an objective society, or a rational society, an antithesis is naturally raised, and that barring the bias that stays evidenced in every person.

    Biblical Free Will states that you're able to choose based on objective and rational guidelines (sadly, humans have kinda ripped THAT apart) and use your subjective power to weigh the ethical guidelines provided. We can all kill- but training someone that it is morally and ethically wrong to kill means that the meaning of the choices they make change. it becomes a "but should we?"- all the moreso if someone IS religiously inclined, and believes that God has a personality- if God has a personality, "Should we break the rational and objective guidelines? what benefit comes of it?"

    I think that the historical and "viewpoint" undertones were more of the physical clues in the game (even down to the clowns as sales machines), and that the theory of objectivism is only created once the whole picture is figured out

  47. John Galt writes:

    BioShock is a retarded critique of Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy. It's as if the people who wrote BioShock browsed the cartoon version of the Cliff's Notes of Atlas Shrugged and forgot to actually read or understand a single thing about objectivism.

    In actual objectivism, elite thinkers EARN things. They work hard at it. They don't have to rely upon less-skilled workers. In fact, it is just the opposite, and the same is true in real life. Let's say I invent something; a new, better way to extract clean water from air. Usually, this is borne out of my own struggle and lifelong dedication to rational thought and study. Taking that idea and spreading it to the masses enriches everyone. People that work for the company who makes the new water device choose to do so. That idea, borne out of struggle, now employs hundreds of workers. Perhaps, during their struggle the workers figure out a new, better way to make water from air and they can start their own company and compete. In each case, people define their own path in life and have a choice to be rational, think, create and work hard for a living.

    People who criticize the objectivist ideal for being wrong because it is an idealism are missing the point, like the entire BioShock game. Accepting compromise in your ideals lead down the path towards socialism and fascism, which is where we are today. And in real life, millions of people die at the hands of the elites who run those societies.

    To be so ignorant as to condemn Ayn Rand, especially NOW, during the rise of another fascist regime in America, is to doom us all to serfdom. Let's see how ideal it is when the central planners decide you are expendable because you slothful, ignorant fucks who only play video games can't justify your "carbon footprint." Idiots.

  48. John Galt, your arrogance and ad hominems at the human race, so typical of Randians, is really a needless, stereotypical vanity. Refusing any "compromise" of one's ideals is what has historically lead to socialism and fascism. The problem with all Randian thought is the pre-supposition that all your a priori "truths" are above the very rational, logical discussion their ideal citizenry should espouse. In fact, science has show time and again that human behavior is anything but wired for a Randian world.

    Now, I grant you that Bioshock is not an amazing philosophical argument against Randian principles. It's just a game, riffing on the objectivist theme and paranoia of the age; it's entertainment. It's also perspective. So spare us the high-horsed rhetoric… that very censorship of anything less than what YOU feel is brilliance will earn you no believers. If you were a true Randian objectivist, you'd show us through your *achievements* where we've failed, not with your borrowed ideas and idle internet insults.

    In short, believing in a philosophy of superiority doesn't make you so.

  49. Peter Francisco writes:

    Thank you for a great analysis of a great game! It's nice to hear a voice as refreshing and stimulating as yours.

  50. Anonymous writes:

    Internet Advertising and marketing is likely one of the few on the flooring that permits an individual to wait decrease prices and compete effectively with someone who is not in the company. You spot, simply because it's at the line, does not mean you could have a business relationship.

  51. Anonymous writes:

    The meaning i got from this nightmare is "Your choice is never truly your own. Your will is tainted by even existing. To have true free will would to not exist."

  52. Sam writes:

    Hello from 2012 (Odd how great games can have such lasting impacts, huh?)! I thoroughly enjoyed your explanation of this very thought provoking game! In support of one argument of Ryan casting aside his morals for the best in Rapture, there is a tape in the Farmer's Market of Ryan deciding to use the ADAM to make people open to suggestion, which is one reason he's able to control the splicers himself. Upon my first playthrough, I agreed with most of your ideas presented here. However, I saw a connection between Ryan and Fontaine as a conflict between Capitalism and Socialism. Ryan clearly presented a capitalistic idealism through his following of both Smith and Rand. Fontaine was the people's man, he fought for the working class. However the game shows the horrid atrocities of both. In a socialist society, we have the splicers who've gone crazy and often fight each other for any and all ADAM. On the other hand, we have capitalists that established monarchies in business because others could not feed off another's idea, these elitests let the working class suffer. Either side they chose, the splicers suffered through the greed and selfishness of others. In a society that was ideally selfless as people worked for themselves which, in turn, benefited society, selfishness reigned true as people like Fontaine abused the system. In addition, Fontaine's world made people think they had a choice, that they could choose to better themselves through exploitation of others, yet they only made him stronger and hurt others. Ryan alike, made people think they had many choices, yet the elites forced the layman to work for them and made it impossible for their choice to lead anywhere but to the bottom of the ladder. Sorry if my ideas seem a bit off, I'm not sure how to phrase it other than the faults of Capitalism versus Socialism. Perhaps the faults of government today would be better. One side proposes free market, the actual outcome is one of exploitation. Was Hobbes or Locke correct? I think the game argues for human nature being "tainted". Bioshock isn't just a political critique but a human one, too.

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