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BioShock cover

The cover art of BioShock depicting the game's creator and, in the background, his little sister.

BioShock is an award winning and largely divisive first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational and released by 2K Games in 2007. The game is set in the underwater city of Rapture in 1960s and centres around the exploits of a convicted pervert and mass murderer, ‘Jack’, whose character is based on that of Ken Levine, the game's main developer. It is regarded to be one of the greatest games ever made due to its shocking content, adult themes and political satire.

edit Introduction

BioShock spoiler

The game opens with the main protagonist Jack on a night time trans-atlantic flight to an unknown destination. A short clip, where Jack is seen using an empty bag of Quavers in an odd way, is followed by the scene of Jack's plane crashing into the Atlantic ocean and killing almost everyone on board. Jack manages to survive the crash, unlike all of his black co-passengers, and whilst swimming away from the floating wreckage and bobbing decapitations spots a darkened lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. Balls freezing, he quickly swims over to it and enters the front door to realise he’s inadvertently discovered the entrance to the hidden underwater city of Rapture. With no other choice, he descends into Rapture and is immediately confronted with blabbering duo Andrew Ryan and the Atlas The Sneaky Paddy.

edit Plot and setting

edit Rapture

The beautiful Art-deco city of Rapture was single handedly designed and built by Andrew Ryan and his legion of ADAM powered Big Daddies.

edit Political statements

Although primarily focussed on the ‘biological aspect of human behaviour’, Bioshock features a political undercurrent throughout the main story. This element to the story is formed around the constant bickering of the main two drama queens - Andrew Ryan and Atlas.

According to various game magazines, that awarded BioShock the "Game of the Year", the game developers reconsidered and rediscovered main philosophical truths, such as the fact that power corrupts. The critics could not make an analogy between any ruling politician and Andrew Ryan (or even Atlas), mainly because the only underwater city known to the humanity is Atlantis, which has not been very active recently. They came to the conclusion that the video game designers predicted a kind of regime that would be recurrent in the near future.

Ken Levine, when asked about the possible relation of BioShock to the 20th century dystopian fiction, such as Orwell's 1984, told the press:

Cquote1 What is "1984" anyway? It's an out-of-date, short adventure feuilleton with a very ambiguous language, which definitely lacks in flashy graphics. In this way, our game is certainly a better substitute to the not-so-deep literature of the 20th century. Cquote2

edit Main characters

edit Andrew Ryan

Based on British political favourite Oswald Mosely, Andrew Ryan is the arrogant right-wing hard nut of Rapture who speaks a good deal of common sense, especially when referring to the holy scripture of Mein Kampf. His verbal outbursts throughout the game become more and more frantic as he tries to convince you, Jack, that his enemy Atlas is a misguided buffoon who has his money grabbing hands in the pockets of the poor.

Cquote1 Brother Jack, my comrade in struggle:

I am Andrew Ryan, and I'm here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to sweat of his brow? 'No!' says the man in the Vatican, 'it belongs to God's representative on Earth.' 'No!' says the man in Moscow, 'it belongs to the President.' 'No!' says the man in Washington, 'it disappears, according to the Second Law of Capital Circulation.' I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose... Rapture. A city where the revolutionary would not fear the government; where the criminal would not be bound by petty morality; where the great would not be constrained by the socialist! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.


edit Atlas The Sneaky Paddy

The games polar opposite to Ryan is Atlas, who with his lefty wishy-washy ideals, and long winded speeches about the merits of The Communist Manifesto, is the stuff of nightmares. His Irish tinker’s accent gives him an untrustworthy edge which grates with Ryan’s bombast leaving the player unsure of who to trust and he, like Ryan, becomes more and more obsessed with convincing you that Ryan is an uppety pleb with his feet firmly stood in Hitler’s kitchen.

“It's time to end this little masquarade. Selling my line of work takes on a variety of aliases. Hell, once I was even a little China man for six months. But you've been a sport, so I guess I owe you a little honesty. I had a lot of business partners in my life. But you... Of course, the fact that you were genetically conditioned to bark like a cocker spaniel when I said, "Would you kindly", might've had something to do with it, but still. Now as soon as that machine finishes processing the genetic key, I'm gonna run Rapture, tits to toes. You've been a pal, but you know what they say: Never mix business with friendship. Thanks for everything, kid. Don't forget to say hi to that Nazi worm Ryan for me.”

edit Would You Kindly…

Throughout the game, whilst being torn from left to right and back again, Atlas, the sneaky paddy, frequently uses the phrase ‘Would you kindly…” when asking Jack to perform a request for him. Usually, Atlas asks Jack to perform many tasks over and over again leading the gamer to believe that he may actually be a robot. So Jack repeatedly beats women to death, burns men to the ground and rapes Little Sisters and Big Daddies, to prove to his guide that he is worth of his attention.

edit Other characters

Other notable characters in the game are so-called Bid Daddies and Little Sisters. It is not completely clear what relationship links a Big Daddy to a Little Sister, and whether a Little Sister is a little sister or a little daughter. The game developers said that she was both. Critics immediately claimed that the game "presented an original insight into an incestuous relationship".

edit ADAM

To complicate matters, the naturally occurring sandwich filler ADAM is made free to all citizens in Rapture. Already famed for properties which allow humans to shoot fire from their finger tips, ADAM is the main source of food throughout the game and as a result gives Jack some unnecessary side effects such as stomach cramps, projectile vomiting, the shits and so forth. Fortunately, the powers to ignite, freeze or electrically zap the crazed bastards that inhabit Rapture comes in handy during the game, as does the ability to produce an instant erection when entering one of Rapture's many brothels.

edit Background and release

BioShock BDLS

While the original concept was almost entirely rethought and rewritten, some aspects of gameplay and storyline still come from the space verison of BioShock.

On the 25th of January 2007, only a few months before the game was officially released, the Irrational Games team kidnapped a dozen of twenty-years-old men, delivered them to their headquarters, where they were handcuffed to the only chairs of the building. They were all seated in front of game platforms, a couple of joysticks and the BioShock video game. An hour later, under the triggers of the developers' revolvers, the guests gave their impressions of the game. The most repeated comment was that the gamers found it difficult to pass all of the BioShock's levels with banded eyes. Some also found the handcuffs disturbing.

When, after many threats and kicks, the guests uttered some constructive criticism, the developers already turned reluctant to accept any. In addition, the gamers had criticised everything they could - Atlas' accent, Jack's appearance and the insufficient amount of light in the city of Rapture, which was never meant to be sparkling as Paris at night.

However, a day before the release, Ken Levine decided to use the least harmful pieces of advice. For instance, Rapture turned from an abandoned space station inhibited by jellymen (a kind of creatures invented by Levine himself) into an underwater city, and Atlas acquired an Irish pronunciation. The members of the Irrational Games, which at the time employed almost twenty people, realised that the long hours of their painstaking work have come to an end, when they were finally liberated from slavery and the game was published.

The reviews from the press were mostly positive, with only a small number of critiques having accentuated the fact that the game still was not lighted properly, due to its underwater nature.

edit Cultural references

BioShock SC

Many paintings that can be found in Rapture have a clear Biblical motive.

With an abundance of references to culture, history, literature, contemporary video gaming and BioShock’s creators, the game is practically impossible to understand for the outsiders.

For instance, each of the references to the Bible alone allows at least ten possible interpretations of the game’s real meaning, and one can be found at every corner. Number 7, widely used in Genesis, is omnipresent in BioShock. For example, if the player spares the lives of seven Little Sisters and then opens the door of the “Eve’s Apple” brothel seven times in a row, seven days later he will have a revelation.

Levine claims to have started memorizing the Old and the New Testament one year before the game’s release, even though he does not mention the fact that he finished this only three years later on his vacation trip to Tenerife.

Ayn Rand, a 20th century American philosopher, whose Capitalist theories have had a major influence on Irrational Games team’s marketing strategies, is also frequently mentioned. Explicit references to Ayn Rand include her posters hanging on the majority of Rapture’s walls, and implicit ones are mostly the same posters, only hung upside down. Actually, BioShock’s main creator’s supposedly fake name, Ken Levine, is a partial anagram of Alisa Rosenbaum (Ayn Rand’s real name), as well as of John Galt—the protagonist in Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged.

edit BioShock

The games title is an in-joke created by the design team at Irrational. Soon after finishing the development of the game, Ken Levine, lead designer, script writer and developer at Irrational, realised that it contained so many shocking adult themes such as prostitution, mass murder, mutilation, frequent accounts of perverse pseudo-sexual acts, acts of unregistered Mormonism, fire tubing, one man one egg, WonTon Bilgetanking, elbow mode and the now banned beef drip, that a suitable title must be derived from his wife’s initial impression to the concept:

Cquote1 I think it’s biologically shocking on every level, dear. Cquote2
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