Time to take a look at one of the masterpieces of interactive storytelling, and determine what it thinks of the philosophies it explores.
Part 1: Summary – 2:52
Part 2: Backstory and Objectivism – 13:31
Part 3: Summary (cont.) – 26:02
Part 4: The Twist – 35:00
Part 5: The Third Act – 50:44
Part 6: Bioshock and Objectivism – 1:00:32
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hello and welcome to Games's Lit 101 i gotta say i am really really excited for this one when a rational Games released Bioshock in 2007 it was met with nearly universal and very high praise the atmosphere the story the philosophical themes the setting the mind-blowing plot twists it was just brilliant it will forever have a spot in my top 10 favorite games so needless to say I've been looking forward to this one for a long long time I mean what I actually taught this class it was in high school and this game was rated M so I couldn't actually use it so I I've been itching to talk about this one for years but before we get started I do have to note a few things first I've strived to keep this show appropriate for all ages it is an educational series after all so I want it to be something that wouldn't feel out of place in a classroom setting that said Bioshock is rated M and it's rated M for a reason so some of the game footage in this analysis is going to include some adult language and some fairly graphic violence secondly since this analysis is much much longer than previous ones I actually have a number of links down in the description that will link you to different sections of the analysis so if you want to skip around for whatever reason or access a specific part of the analysis just refer to those down in the description thirdly and finally I know I have a habit on pontificating on how horrible it is to watch these analyses without previously having played the game because spoilers and I have explained my stance on spoilers in full detail in a previous episode that said for the purposes of this analysis specifically let me make this absolutely clear Bioshock is meant to be played it simply cannot be done justice and even the best summary and while there are a great many reasons the most powerful is this Bioshock has one of if not the most well executed plot twists in the entire medium of video games and much of its impact is based on your own personal experience of play additionally the backstory to this game is fairly complex and so I'm going to spend a decent amount of time in this analysis explaining a lot of things that the game itself tells with expert pacing and environmental design my summary will not and for that matter literally cannot contain all of the interesting techniques that make this story work so well even watching this game be played would be too short yourself the incredible experience of actually playing it so please do not ruin this for yourself by listening to me tell you about the story before experiencing it for yourself so that's really all the warning I can give you so let's go the game opens with our player character Jack on a plane in 1960 they told me son you're special you were born to do great things you know what they were right [Applause] and interestingly enough that's the last time we hear Jack's voice in the entire game I've talked in a previous episode about the silent protagonist as a form of the projection protagonist the whole idea is to let you easily slip into his roles so from now on he never actually talks and that makes it a little easier to believe that we are him this sense of agency is absolutely key to the game for reasons that we'll go over as we continue through the story so for now sit back and enjoy one of the greatest openings and video game history and boy you come to underwater the wreckage of the plane sinking to the ocean floor around you as you desperately swim to the surface despite being in the middle of the ocean you find safety on a small island with a lighthouse as you enter music from the 40s is playing softly and a statue looms above you with a banner reading no gods no kings only man you work your way through the lighthouse as it lights to guide your way until you reach a small pod you enter and it plunges you underwater to an unknown destination as a video begins to play I am Andrew Ryan and I'm here to ask you a question is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow no says the man Washington it belongs to the poor no says the man in the Vatican it belongs to God no says the man in Moscow it belongs to everyone I rejected those answers instead I chose something different I chose the impossible I chose city where the artist would not be in a sense where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality where the great would not be constrained by the small with a sweat your brow grant you can become your city as well oh just get over becoming about splicing on [Applause] man I love that open it I mean it with all the visual fidelity we have in games these days it takes a lot to impress us now you know we've come a long way from just being awed at how huge Midgar is in the opening video of Final Fantasy 7 we've seen it all at this point and it takes a lot to impress but this doesn't solely rely on visual splendor though that's certainly a huge part of it Andrew Ryan's monologue here is excellent and lays forth a basic foundation for the philosophy the game will be exploring before revealing – an excellent soundtrack a sprawling underwater city founded on principles of absolute freedom and unbridled progress there's an immediate sense of wonder at this impossible city and the ideals from which it's sprung but unfortunately it quickly becomes clear that this is anything but your salvation someone you grab a radio from the bathysphere and speak with Atlas a man who explains that he moved his family to rapture when it was intended as utopia but it's not what it once was and he now must reach them in order to escape with them in a submarine wanting just as badly to get out of here you agree to help him or at least it's assumed so jack is a silent protagonist after all but in games like this your silence and compliance is considered to be consent now at first we don't actually know what happened here only the basic reasons why Andrew Ryan created it in the first place and the fact that it seems to have gone completely to hell since then the first hours of the game is riveting and disturbing discovery of raptures beauty and its ruin objects and corpses are strewn about and crazed people roam the halls with little more purpose than brutalizing others they come across a mother cries over an empty carriage flying sentry BOTS patrol the halls and water leaks in from the crushing expansive waters that surround the city this first sequence in rapture is when you're hit with the brunt of the game's atmospheric power the Art Deco styling dramatic lighting and excellent sound design all contribute to the feeling of simultaneous wonder and fear curiosity and oppression you work your way through rapture following ad Lass's directions to Neptune's bounty and fighting off some of the crazed people with nothing but a wrench until you find a vile and disturbingly large syringe naturally upon seeing a giant needle with strange glowing liquid inside of it you leave it alone and why would you do that randomly jabbing the needle into your wrist is probably the most confusing scene in the entire game if only because it seems like a completely stupid thing to do mostly because it it is that's actually really stupid but stupid though it may be it does actually make a bit of sense and I'll explain why later the thing you injected into yourself is a plasmid it alters your genetic code to basically grant you superpowers in this case you can throw lightning from your hands you get a variety of plasmas as you play through the game and can only use them based on your supply of Eve which you find throughout the game to replenish your ability to actually use your plasmids think of it like ammo for your superpowers though of course you're far from the only one who can use things like this they are all over rapture after recovering from the shock of having your genetic code rewritten you continue on and something strange careful now would you kindly lower that weapon for a minute do you think that's a child down there don't be fooled she's a little sister now somebody went toward a sweet baby girl into a monster whatever you thought about right we're all on the surface well I don't count for much down and rapture those little sisters they carry Adam the genetic material that keeps the wheels of rapture turnin everybody wants us everybody needs us Big Daddy the little sisters and Big Daddy's are the most recognizable elements of Bioshock and for good reason these little girls genetically engineered to the point where they're arguably no longer human and doomed to gather genetic material from the dead protected by deadly creatures whose wail like moans echo throughout the dying halls of rapture will go further into what's up with the little sisters as well as how they factor into the major theme of parenthood in the game later on once the Big Daddy is gone you continue following ad Lass's lead but just as you're about to enter Neptune's bounty and alarm sounds the door slams shut in your face and crazed people referred to as splicers by Atlas begin attacking and you get caught in a room where you're trying to get away Andrew Ryan appears on a screen accusing you of being sent by the CIA or KGB before leaving you to the splicers thankfully Atlas gets the door open and you escape so we have a row in utopia insane superhumans and a leader that seems to have gone mad with power and a god complex but interestingly enough the majority of Bioshock story actually takes place before the events of the game itself and it's told to us through audio Diaries that we find scattered throughout rapture these audio diaries were at the time of raptures creation a fairly novel concept and it seems that people took to recording their memories and ideas in this way rather than something more traditional like a pen and a notepad and now the little snippets we get from these audio Diaries fill in the back story of rapture from Ryan's original intent to the eventual fall of the city the audio diaries are used to space out the little tidbits of backstory we get as we progress through the game so we gain a greater and greater understanding of the history of rapture which is incredibly important to the story that we are actually experiencing in the game itself now that said my goal here is to give a clear and understandable summary of this story not necessarily to recreate the original presentation so I'm going to take this opportunity after the basic introduction of the game to give a clearer picture of the history of rapture and the four major figures involved in it Andrew Ryan was born in Russia and saw the Russian Revolution as a boy in 1917 his childhood in Russia convinced him of one major thing great men shaped the world as the result of their own work and effort and anyone who relied on others or on government was a parasite he moved to America at the age of nine having heard of the Freedom and opportunity available there and enjoyed the capitalist society for a long time he amassed a great deal of wealth and fame and he loved the country that allowed him this however over time the United States began requiring more of those with wealth and power in order to help those who didn't have it in Ryan's mind those people were weakened undetermined and it was immoral for him to give what he had rightfully earned to feed these parasites possibly the defining moment of his character pre rapture at least was when the government tried to secure a large plot of land he owned for a national park claiming it was God's country and that it belonged to the people in response rather than letting him have it he burned it to the ground the philosophy that Andrew Ryan seems to a forum for himself over the years is Iran's philosophy of Objectivism now objectivism simply cannot be explained in as many words as I have to explain it to you and full disclosure I'm personally not really a fan but I'm going to try and give you the basic ideas faithfully and objectively as possible I'm Rand author of such books as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged believed in a pretty pure form of rationalism the only truth is that which we can see and understand and that truth is absolute what we can observe and prove exists and what we cannot does not rational thought is the only valuable method of judging anything in this world when applied to social and moral issues this philosophy led Randa to believe that the only moral good is for man to act in his own self-interest not to the direct detriment of others so for instance killing someone else to put yourself further ahead would still be considered immoral but self-sacrifice for the good of someone else would also be considered immoral so charity for instance is actually considered immoral from an Objectivist perspective everything you do must be for your own gain a trade of equal value that benefit you in the end to give of yourself without getting anything in return is actually just as wrong from this perspective as taking from someone else without giving anything in return following from that the only function of government is to ensure that the parasites thieves murderers freeloaders etc are properly punished for holding back society and doing harm to others it's a laissez-faire system of capitalism in which the government cannot actually force anyone in it to give of themselves in any way so for instance the minimum wage requirement or welfare in any form would also be considered wrong art is viewed in a similar way it's a necessary element of life and it takes rational thought and effort thus according to objective ISM non-representational art isn't actually art at all and good art objectively good art no less is actually that which strives to accurately represent reality and rational things and especially that which portrays man is a free creature in charge of his own destiny and of course it's not to be limited whatsoever by any legal or moral boundaries so in short objectivism dictate that self-interest chosen of man's free will is the basis for morality and any social structure must facilitate this by in no way limiting mankind's choice aside from ensuring that they do no harm to other free men some all right there's our little philosophy less and again it's super basic and I imagine there's some philosophy buffs and Iran fans out there who aren't particularly happy with it but look this episode is already absurdly long anyway alright so there are a ton of great resources online if you want to really look into it and fully understand what objectivism is as you may have figured out by this point Bioshock is heavily heavily based on Objectivist concepts whether it ends up supporting or opposing objectivism in the end we'll talk about as we get through this analysis but the whole concept of rapture is a society based on pure objectivism so then back to Ryan the thing that broke him completely was the use of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at this point he reasoned the parasite could now destroy anything they could not take this world was forfeit and so he used his entire fortune to build a new one he gathered the best and the brightest thousands of brilliant accomplished people and gave them a proposition a city with no legal or moral limits where their work could achieve greater success than the parasites would ever allow those he saw worthy he took to his great city and in reference to that fact he named it rapture and for years it prospered just as he expected it experienced exceptional economic success and unprecedented scientific advancements then it began to fall apart the rise and fall of rapture has four major players Andrew Ryan obviously Frank Fontaine Brigid Tenenbaum and Yi soo Chung and it's a fairly complex series of events that I'm going to try and boil down to it the most important parts to make it a little easier to digest though I'll mostly be covering su Chun and Tenenbaum later when they both become more relevant to the story of the game itself the first thing worth noting as it will become important later is that a lot of people of the working class were brought to rapture in order to build it in the first place now since rapture was based on a philosophy that rejects the idea of supporting others there was nothing in place to help these people reintegrate back into society once their job was done the result was a fairly large population of people just kept in low quality housing and left up to their own devices since Ryan's assumption and for that matter his philosophy was that they should just fend for themselves they would have to find work themselves and work their way up to support themselves now this is going to become important later so remember that the most important thing to happen to rapture was the discovery of Adam Brigid Tenenbaum a brilliant scientist who saw rapture as a chance to do good after she regretting li participated in the infamous experiments in Nazi Germany discovered and as of yet unseen sea slug with secretions that held the secret to immense amounts of genetic alteration when she searched for funding most scoffed at her but she eventually made a deal with a ruthless businessman named Frank Fontaine in which he had the rights to all profits extending from her discoveries her experiments yield to tremendous things she could cure diseases and fundamentally change how an organism worked in various ways seen as a rebirth for Humanity this substance was dubbed at later it was discovered that the sea slugs when implanted into the stomach of a human host formed a symbiotic relationship that produced exceptionally higher amounts of Adam strangely and unfortunately enough however the only viable hosts for this process were young girls so in hopes of mass-producing Adam Fontaine opened the little sister's orphanage advertising it as a place for impoverished families to send their girls for care into education of course the orphanage was just a front for the production of Adam the girls sent there would have the slugs implanted into them in secret Tenenbaum was kind of troubled by this but really just wanted to keep them in a vegetative state at least but unfortunately it was discovered that the production of Adam only works so long as the host was awake and active this mass production made it possible for Fontaine Futuristics to make and sell a variety of products based on Adam most notably plasmids which altered the human body in such a way is to grant superhuman abilities better yet the supply of Adam was plentiful enough that these products were quite affordable at this time Ryan praised Fontaine for his success after all he had risen to power and well through his own ingenuity and effort Gregory don't come whining to me about market forces and don't expect me to punish citizens for showing a little initiative if you don't like what Fontaine is doing well I suggest you find a way to offer a better product now Ryan didn't know how Adam was produced but he began to suspect Fontaine of a number of other crimes ranging from murder to smuggling and indeed the only reason Fontaine's production of Adam was financially feasible for him was because of the money gained from the smuggling ring he began soon after arriving in rapture which would bring various items from the surface including Bibles and other items of religious significance down to the homesick denizens of rapture of course that's very much against Ryan's vision for rapture not because of Objectivism as it would dictate that he allow free trade without any restrictions but because rapture only would work if it's completely separated from the outside world Ryan wanted it to operate independently free from the corrupted processes and the parasitical philosophies of the world from which he Payne the methods of fontaine success brought him from respectful businessmen to wanted criminal and Ryan's eyes because the success he enjoined came at the expense of the well-being of the other people around him which is quite telling of one of the issues Bioshock seems to take with objectivism as we'll discuss more when we go over the game's final stance on such philosophical matters Ryan instructed his security chief to put an end to Fontaine smuggling ring and Fontaine was eventually killed in a shootout with Ryan's men Ryan took over Fontaine Futuristics after that and discovered the little sisters he was appalled and immediately shut down the orphanage and thus also the production of the little sisters but recognizing them as a necessary evil he opened the little wonders educational facility keeping them there for safety as well as the benefit of soojeong's experiments it was eventually realized that the production alone wasn't providing enough Adam to the city so sue Chong created the Big Daddies by taking convicted criminals essentially lobotomizing them and used mental conditioning to bond them to the little sisters allowing them to wander the halls of rapture and gather Adam from the dead recycling the supply yeah at this point I think it's safe to say the grap sure has gotten pretty messed up and that's not even talking about characters like dr. Steinman or sander Cohen yet we'll get to them in a bit for now the situation with Fontaine had created a good deal of civil unrest and the people of rapture were increasingly unhappy with Ryan's leadership and eventually of course someone else came up to stir up the masses a little bit more Atlas remember what I said a while ago about the working class of rapture being left to fend for themselves and low-income housing after their jobs actually building the city we're complete well as you might imagine those people were pretty easy to rile up and it did not take long for Atlas to end up inciting raptures civil war and this was really the beginning of the end for rapture chaos erupted and people spliced themselves up to the point of insanity it's easy to see how rapture got into its current state based on all this information so I'm not going to bother accounting all the details of the civil war but there is one more important thing to go over before we can continue with the story of the game itself the point where Ryan completely gave up on his vision for rapture even if he could never actually bring himself to admit when the Civil War had been raging soo Chong developed an option for Ryan to stop it lease the plasmids they produce with pheromones to put the splicers under his control dr. su Chong frankly I'm shocked by your proposal if we were to modify the structure of our commercial plasmid line as you propose to have them make the user vulnerable to mental suggestion through pheromones would we not be able to effectively control the actions of the citizens of Rapture free will is the cornerstone of this city thought of sacrificing it is a poor it however we are indeed in a time of war yep Atlas and his bandits have their way will they not turn us into slaves and what will become a free will then desperate times call for desperate measures this effectively put rapture ruin desert was back under Ryan's control and trapped Atlas and his family here until of course a nun spliced stranger happened upon raptures front door so hopefully that surprisingly long summary of the back story of rapture hoped you gain a clearer understanding of those events than when you were trying to piece them together from the scattered audio Diaries in the game itself which brings us right back to the events of the game after the narrow escape from Ryan's pheromone controlled splicers Atlas continues leading you throughout rapture along a longer route the player comes across Tenenbaum as she kills a splicer threatening a little sister note of course that though we just went through that summary and know her background this is the first time the player meets her turns out since creating the little sisters Tenenbaums guilt began to catch up with her as rapture descended into chaos she began taking in the little sisters and developing a way to cure them restoring them once again to normal little girls she now acts as their mother figure and has been working to rescue and care for as many as she can Atlas tells you to kill the little sister and take her Adam you'll need it to survive here and he reasons that the little sisters are too far gone anyway they're not little girls anymore just monsters killing them would be a mercy Grilli and would help you survive Tenenbaum begs you to show mercy and gives you a plasmid she developed it allows you to safely remove the slug from the little sisters without killing them and the choice is left up to you and man if this image of the little girl backing away from you and fear doesn't make you at least a little uncomfortable I don't know what will this scene is beautifully framed we'll talk more about the moral choice system in Bioshock when we can look back on it in the context of the whole game but it's one of the three most often criticized elements of Bioshock and rightfully so though it does have some positive things offer to the game as well for now we're going to go through this analysis assuming that you don't kill little girls because seriously don't kill little girls unfortunately the second major criticism of the game and it's not as big a thematic issue but on a basic level that's probably the most problematic is the pacing and plot development of act 2 it basically consists of a bunch of fetch quests kill this guy find that thing fix this system photograph this stuff you spend most of the game being blocked from any of your actual goals by random kind of unnecessary plot developments until you get past them and move on to the next stalling tactic the good news is that however problematic this presentation may be it's at least done fairly well it makes replays kind of arduous but honestly I didn't even notice it the first time through the game because all of these little tangents do at least develop the backstory and setting of rapture now I'm just gonna do you a favor and skip to the relevant plot points but there are actually two of these little tangents that I think are worth going over the first is that of dr. Steinman he was a plastic surgeon the best in rapture when Adam became commonplace and splicing became a regular activity Steinman was famous for fixing up the scarring that wanton splicing caused but as time went by and the potential of Adam became clearer that wasn't enough for him there was a time I was happy enough to take off of water to turn a real circus freak into something you can show in the daylight but that was then when we took what we got but with Adam the flesh becomes clay what excuse do we have not to sculpt and sculpt and sculpt until the job is done he began to see himself more as an artist and then a doctor and took inspiration by hearing the goddess aphrodite in his head when Picasso became bored of painting people he started representing them as cubes another abstract formed the world called him a genius I've spent my entire surgical career creating the same tired shapes over and over again the upturned nose the cleft chin the ample bosom wouldn't be wonderful if I could do with a knife that old Spaniard did with a brush because he basically went completely insane he began using people as his canvas if you will whether they wanted him to her not as time went on he went even deeper into his insanity and his attempts to create a new standard for beauty with the power of Adam resulted in many a gruesome death before you put an end to it this actually happens before you even encounter the first little sister Bioshock wastes no time in exploring what happens when a society eliminates morality and selflessness in favor of unbridled artistic freedom and scientific progress you eventually make your way into Neptune's bounty and the dock where ad Lass's family waits in a submarine but as you approach ryan addresses you the radio the sub destroyed and atlases family dead you pursue the only option left available to you we'll find the bastard we'll find them our hair is hard out after yet more of the runaround you run into the second side quest interesting enough for me to mention sander Cohen he blocks out the radio signal so you can't communicate with anyone that says he'll that you through his domain fort frolic if you help him finish his masterpiece annoyingly enough said masterpiece requires killing his four proteins all men who studied under him at some point and it's mildly hinted may also have been his lovers at one point or another scattered around his domain are plaster statues that are actually real people killed and plastered over because Cohen is a freaking lunatic after killing each of his targets you take a picture so he can hang it in his masterpiece Wow Cohen is not actually very good at what he does is he sheesh you well maybe he's better at poetry a wild bunny hi sander Cohen I want to take the ears off but I can't I hop and when I have I never get off the ground it's my curse my eternal curse I want to take the ears off but I can't it's my curse it's my fucking I want to take the ears off well alright then though actually Bioshock is probably trying to say something here about the way that objectivism views art I mentioned a bit ago in my absurdly brief overview of Objectivism that the philosophy views art as something that has inherent an objective value but that value is judged based on its realism and value to the society and since objectivism values things like free will and the empowerment of the individual art that portrays these things is really the only thing worth being called art in the first place which interestingly enough might actually disqualify Bioshock considering the defining scene of the game in a few moments it's noted in some of the audio Diaries that Cohen is considered a nutjob by a lot of people even before he completely lost it but Ryan always liked Cohen might not be a good artist but he appealed to Ryan's desire for art that spoke to the triumph of the human will and that of his City of course as well and it probably helped that Cohen had a distaste for the derivative to an account peppers latest musical insult worthy artisan rapture why you continue to devote column inches to this musical gremlin is beyond my imagination where she is not derivative she's boring where she's not boring she's obvious where she's not obvious she's dangerous he made art that portrayed real topics in a victorious light and did so while refusing to be the same as those who came before him he sounds like Ryan's kind of guy even if he sucked now obviously at this point Cohen much like Steinman is not actually following the tenants of Objectivism or even really his own originality he's certainly putting himself above others but he's actively and arbitrarily hurting others to get there in both cases the complete freedom granted them by raptures Objectivist principles became something twisted and horrible after getting through Cohen's twisted circus you continued through some more fetch quests that get you closer and closer to where Ryan is holed up Ryan desperate not to lose rapture to you activates a destruct sequence before outright taunting you I'll be it in a cryptic fashion even as the problem lies sometimes you fight through there's a deer season for all things now that I see but but I know I cannot raise my hand against you but know this you my greatest disappointment does your master hear me atlas you can kill me and you will never have my city just before entering Ryan's office you come across this room with the words would you kindly paint it over all these papers stuck up on the wall and you come across two audio Diaries one accounting the results of an experiment and enhanced growth rates and another notably more disturbing one on psychological conditioning you got a party she's very pretty break her neck for me what like that sweet panic make that puppy's neck after this kind of confusing discovery you move forward into the office of Andrew Ryan I'm not even going to narrate this part all right allow me to emphasize once again that if you're watching this analysis and haven't played Bioshock for yourself you are about to see one of the greatest scenes in this entire medium of video games and if you get done watching this scene and go well that didn't seem like the greatest scene of all time that's because you haven't actually played the game and aren't experiencing this in its intended context all right so even if it can't have the same impact which it certainly can't in this context I can't stand to talk over it so here you go the assassin has overcome my final defense and now he's come to murder me in the end what separates a man from a slave money power no a man chooses a sleigh you think you have a farm yeah a crush and then this place was there really a family did that airplane crash or was it hijack forced down forced down by something less than and then something bread sleepwalk through life until they are activated by a simple phrase spoken by their kindly master was a man sent to kill for a slave a man chooses a slave obeys come stop would you guide me would you kind powerful phrase familiar phrase would you kindly would you kind to get this huge acclaim fine tiny head to Ryan's office and killed the son of a bitch sit stand would you kindly Ron a man chooses a slave obeys ah juices Oh Oh hurry now Barbara genetic he feel what you clearly put it in that goddamn machine nice work by or [Applause] I'm there great rain oh I'm little kid the names of a group on that Wow okay if you've played the game before you know exactly why that's so great if you haven't played the game and you just watched that I hope you have even some little concept of the significance of what you just saw but either way let me explain to you exactly what makes this brilliant it's a good plot twist just from a narrative perspective obviously but there are many layers to what makes it work beyond just it was unexpected and deftly foreshadowed to start I'll have to explain the backstory leading up to this part it's all detailed in audio Diaries and save some of the most important pieces of this narrative puzzle for after the scene we just saw so I'll just go over it alright now Jasmine Jolene was a chorus girl and Cowen's shows on the surface before Ryan invited her to rapture upon arrival she started working in fort frolic specifically at the exotic dancing establishment Eve's garden Ryan continued his correspondence with her and she became his mistress the fact that Ryan liked her so much was even used in the advertisements for East garden at some point Jasmine ended up pregnant with Ryan's baby she hesitated to tell Ryan himself and she ended up confiding in a friend instead Fontaine having bugged her room found out about it and since dr. Tannenbaum to offer jasmine and Dean let them extract the unborn fetus for a large sum of money Ryan would never know Jasmine wouldn't have an actual pregnancy and she would be able to support herself financially without relying on Ryan's continued patronage and goodwill of course she didn't know Fontaine was behind the request unfortunately Ryan did eventually find out and in a fit of rage murdered Jasmine I find this outburst rather interesting for Ryan I mean Jasmine's actions were honestly perfectly justifiable under Ryan's own ideals she made a choice that put her ahead without directly harming anyone and obviously she had no idea there would be any negative repercussions for Ryan and Ryan's usually pretty good and acting based on his principles rather than his emotions and yet this sets him off and drives him to a crime action Ryan cracks more and more on his principles as rapture falls into ruin but not only does this take place before any of that actually begins but it's a decision made out of rage rather than out of necessity I can only guess it had to be a combination of betrayal by someone he felt close to and the stress of Fontaine's increasing power of a rapture in any case it seems that even Andrew Ryan isn't completely immune to these types of emotional decisions in any case this is where dr. Yi soo Chong comes in the baby boy that resulted from this deal was experimented on in order to make him grow stronger and faster than your average person but su Chong specialty was psychological conditioning he's the one who basically programmed the minds of the little sisters and Big Daddy's if you recall and he practiced his techniques on the boy as he grew up training him to respond obediently to the phrase would you kindly thus that disturbing puppy murder from a bit ago sometime before Fontaine faked his own death in that shootout he had the child of Ryan and Jasmine smuggled out of rapture as a sleeper agent with implanted memories of his family and life on the surface Fontaine resurfaced under the name Atlas and incited the rebellion that led to raptures civil war but when Ryan's pheromone laced plasmids had put all the mad splicers under his influence Fontaine had to activate his backup plan thus that package we saw in the opening which told Jack not to open it until specific coordinates the coordinates of raptures lighthouse at which point Jack hijacked the plane and brought it down surviving the crash due to his genetic enhancement and going down to rapture so Atlas or Fontaine rather has just been manipulating you this entire time and you know why that's brilliant because it's more than just a twist on the story Bioshock is telling us it's actually a twist on us on the player it used our active role in the story our expectations and understanding of how video games work to trick us in video games we're used to following instructions whether it's Cortana telling us where to go and what to do or subtle environmental clues directing us toward a certain path we're used to continuing on to where there's more play more story more content because that's what we're meant to do that's what we do to play more of the game and as long as it gives us even just a a bit of narrative reason to do so we don't question it better yet the open nature of Bioshock helps create an illusion of choice and free will we choose to explore beyond where we need to go we choose to save or harvest Louisville sisters we choose to work with Atlas because there's not really a better option all games are structured of course as I talked about on the show before but that bit of freedom combined with the excellent atmosphere and world building was all we needed to feel like we were exploring a world we had agency and it turns out we didn't have anything of the sort the game works hard to make jack a projection protagonist you can step into he never talks after the opening the game only takes control away from you twice in the entire game once to make sure you see Tenenbaum when you first encounter a little sister and when Ryan reveals how little you actually control not counting the plasmid at the beginning because you're the one who picked it up the automatic use of it is yet another bit of commentary on our willingness to blindly follow in games though there's also a really nice moment early in the game when atlas tells you to kindly lower your wrench and you comply automatically so when Ryan takes control the feeling of not being able to control your actions is entirely foreign to you when incredibly uncomfortable I don't think I know anyone who wasn't desperately pressing buttons during this scene trying to stop themselves from killing Ryan but to no avail so wait wait oh my gosh was was Cohen stupid rabbit poem about this like you want to take the ears offer the control but you can't and when you hop or you know you're pressing buttons trying to do stuff you can't nothing actually happens I a what even in any case this is the thing that makes this twist so incredibly well accomplished it's setup and foreshadowed and all the usual narrative ways of course and trust me there is a lot of that set up in foreshadowing but more importantly it uses the players interaction to immense effect this isn't just surprising because it's an unexpected turn in the story it's surprising because you the player genuinely feel played because you have been it's the kind of meta-commentary that not only serves its story ball but actually reaches out to hit us directly by making us think about the media we're consuming to begin with about the assumptions we make both in everyday life and in the games we play and that's amazing so then back to the narrative surrounding the twist we'll move on to the rest of the story in a second but I do want to briefly talk about Ryan's motivations here as that seems to be something that confuses a decent amount of people and it's a super interesting capstone on the life of a super interesting character let's not mince words here this is a suicide on the part of Andrew Ryan but it's also two other things firstly it's death on his own terms with his pride relatively intact but secondly and more importantly in his mind at least it's proof of everything he believes and it would have been even if Jack had managed not to kill him he said before that you are his greatest disappointment because his own son is nothing more than a slave to the parasites by having you killed him at his own command he's demonstrating his superiority over you he is a free man and you are nothing but a slave your inability to choose for yourself renders you less than human less than him and he demonstrates this with abundant clarity with his dying breath had you managed not to kill him though he would have seen the triumph of the human will over the attempts of the parasites to lock it down and control it and for that matter you would be his best bet at taking rapture back in full either way it ends year and his point is made so really grinds actions here are the actions of a man desperate for validation rapture didn't work and Ryan has already been did on almost all of his principles but in each case he explains it away and just excuses it off as the weakness of others all of his actions were necessary a reaction to the weakness of the people around him and in the end he arranges even his own death as proof of his beliefs so that he wasn't a man whose vision ultimately failed he was a martyr who was shot down by men too weak to take any agency in their own lives to add insult to injury the game gives you one last order from Atlas alright now we put it down here the game puts you directly in Jack's position you know you've been betrayed and you probably don't want to do what you're told anymore even if it will save your own life but you have no choice Jack's conditioning overrides his free will here and the game won't move forward until you do what you're told Fontaine six the security on you and you're led to safety by a little sister remember earlier I mentioned there were three major weaknesses to Bioshock the first two were the binary moral choice system and the structure of act 2 and now we're coming up on the third and final major flaw in BioShock storytelling act 3 it has some major problems but it's also not without its merits so let's dive in you wake up in Tenenbaums hideout where she keeps the Little Sisters she's saved she explains to you some of the backstory I just went over and says that she's done what she can to free you of Fontaine's influence but to free yourself fully you'll need a serum that souchong developed and so your quest begins to rid you of this curse to take the ears off if you will I still can't even believe that this scene intended bombs nursery is probably the best thing about the moral choices system in the game the little sisters who react differently to you based on your actions if you've been harvesting them they whisper about how they're supposed to stay away from you but if you've been saving them you hear them talking about how you rescued them I know for some people they went through the game treating the little sisters like any other game mechanic you get more from harvesting them so you do the thing that gets you further ahead but this is the scene that convicts those people for their decisions and it resulted in some players restarting the entire game to undo their horrible actions though now's as good a time as any to talk about the problems with the moral choice system two issues in particular the first of which being that this is quite possibly the most unsubtle choice I have ever seen in a video game I mean you can excuse the way your actions all you want but at the end of the day the entire concept of the moral choices in this game is whether or not to murder little girls there's not really a gray area there anywhere which means the choice itself says little about you as a person you're either a good person a terrible person or just a person who doesn't take videogames seriously enough to actually care about anything but trying to win which isn't evil necessarily but certainly isn't a good thing and definitely is what Bioshock is meaning to appeal to the other major issue is that theoretically doing the right thing is supposed to be the more difficult path and that makes sense often in fiction evil is represented as the easy route to power that hurts others along the way and leaves you unprepared to actually handle the power you've gained is the dark side stronger no this your motion back again but despite what the game may imply your rewards are actually far greater if you save the little sisters than harvest them because they leave you gifts every now and again that in total give you more atom plasmids and gene tonics so in the big picture there's not really good choice at all don't kill little girls and you get ahead in the game awesome that undercuts the whole point of the moral choice to begin with which is definitely a problem but you know what I'm also going to posit that it's actually thematically appropriate for this game specifically and don't get into all the reasons why in the conclusion but for now note that Bioshock rewards altruism and selflessness so you're off to gather the components necessary to free yourself fully from Fontaine's control it's another fetch quest of course but at least it's pretty relevant to the story and the bit where he orders your heart to stop is actually pretty tense and interesting you also get this great audio diary detailing soojeong's death clinical trial protector system plot amid a lotta 255 practice our own client Orion industries a very frustrating day I can't seem to get the damn Big Daddies to imprint on the little branch the protection Bondy – just enough forming a potato kick it away maybe if I modify the genetics should sure sequence to allow full turn get out man that's some satisfying irony that guy was a douche you eventually get the serum made up of course and move on to dealing with Fontaine now that you're free and coming for him he starts splicing up trying to become powerful enough to kill you when you come for him but there's one more really interesting bit before the final encounter you need a little sister like an actual still active little sister to open the way to Fontaine which means becoming a Big Daddy at least enough to make them follow you and open the door which of course means more fetch quests as we gather the necessary components followed by an escort mission by this point the runaround is kind of tedious and after the amazing scene in Andrew Ryan's office we can't really help but feel like we're kind of spinning our wheels of it for this last hour or two of gameplay but annoying is the fetch questing is I really feel like there's something pretty cool about taking on the look in the role of a Big Daddy not because it's cool to be a Big Daddy but because of what it represents essentially jack is taking on the role of these girls father figure the relationship between the Big Daddies and Little Sisters has always been a disturbingly confusingly heartwarming one and I will never not be sad at that moment when a little sister is crying over their protector and father figure when you kill a Big Daddy depending on how the player has been treating the little sisters this could be either kind of a bittersweet and heartwarming implication or actually a really disturbing one but either way it's a really nice symbol and feeds further into the game stance into the tension between selfishness and altruism that objectivism presents we'll go more into that in a minute but the time you reach Fontaine he's spliced himself into insanity and looks like a man out of Mythology interestingly enough he actually looks similar to Atlas like the man holding the world on his shoulders Atlas make of that what you will and in a frankly rather plain and uninteresting boss battle you eventually kill him then the good ending happens because you didn't kill little girls they offered you this city and you refused it and what did you do instead I've come to expect of you you saved them you gave them the one thing that was stolen from them a chance a chance to learn to find love to live and since the end what was your reward you never said but I think I know a family that ending is way too short which may just be another instance of developers putting minimal effort into narrative sequences that don't lead directly into more gameplay but you know I really like it anyway it's real sweet and it really plays into the themes of parenthood and family that I'll talk about a little more in a minute there's also an evil ending but it's basically just the type of stuff you'd expect you abused the little sisters and use your control over rapture to take over the world with an army of splicers or try at least many say that doesn't really make sense and I'm inclined to agree but mostly it's just a lackluster ending with little more meaning than if you're evil you'll do more evil things that boss fight that ends the game is just far too pedestrian for lack of a less pretentious sounding word it just feels like a major letdown after the game blew our minds in Ryan's office in no small part to how utterly typical it feels in comparison and indeed this is a problem for the third act as a whole to some say the game should have just ended after the scene in Ryan's office but honestly that just would have been a horrible ending we did need closure after that it just could have been done a lot better ultimately I think the major problem of the third act is that it fails to continue the subversion of the plot twist the scene in Ryan's office pointed the finger directly at us the player and chastised us for just going along with whatever we were told instead of thinking and choosing for ourselves but the third act doesn't really change that at all it just changes who we're listening to I honestly think even one simple choice would have improved this sequence greatly give the player the option to just leave rapture after putting the serum together I mean the whole idea of this point of the story is that we're breaking free of Fontaine's control but really even after that our choices are just being dictated by Tenenbaums guidance this isn't like the similarly subversive spec ops the line where the only right choices not to play we're supposed to play this sequence and it's supposed to be us taking control of our own lives and exerting the free will we thought we always had but without actually giving the player any will of their own in this part it just kind of falls flat in any case that's a Bioshock I've covered most of the relevant information throughout the summary but there is still one major question that deserves to be looked at what does Bioshock ultimately say about objectivism ken levine himself has said that Bioshock was meant to be an exploration of the danger of extremes rather than an indictment of Objectivism specifically and while I do value authorial intent I also think it's possible for a work to end up meaning something more or even something different from what it was intended to mean and Bioshock is pretty clearly opposed to Objectivist ideals not just because rapture failed after all Ryan himself managed to explain that away as the weakness of man and the persistence of the parasites but rather because of course rapture failed because of the weakness of man man is kind of imperfect a society based entirely on Objectivist ideals is based on the assumption that an entire community of people can operate solely on their own self-interest and still operate peacefully without doing harm to anyone else around them you can argue whether that's an inherently self-defeating concept but the simple fact is that humans aren't perfect an entire community based on that kind of self-centeredness eventually fell into ruin because it's kind of inevitable that someone like Fontaine would come along and of course you'd have conflicts of interest between people like Tenenbaum and Jasmine and Ryan or even Sophia Liam from the second game and the game showed quite clearly what complete freedom from moral and legal limitations did to people like Cohen and Steinman it's worth noting the symbolism of the fact that the substances that allow you to use plasmids are called Adam and Eve this is a clear reference to the biblical story of the fall of man in which sin is introduced into the world when the first two humans believe that they will become like God if they disobey the one rule he gave them for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil so the genetic material that brought about raptures success as well as its failure is named after the to humans who brought about mankind's ruined by trying to play God there is no way that symbolism is unintentional but regardless of whether you believe objectivism could work as a philosophy or a social structure we're here to look at what Bioshock says about it and Bioshock has some very clear themes of sacrifice and altruistic behavior both of which run wildly contrary to Objectivist principle this is what I was talking about when I mentioned earlier that the moral choice system in Bioshock is thematically appropriate risking your life and your own well-being in order to help the little sisters is actually rewarded and you're better off for it in the long run so in bioshock choosing to help someone else at cost to yourself is actually better for you than just acting in your own self-interest this position is also shown very strongly and clearly in the game's themes of parenthood Parenthood inherently requires the giving of oneself for the benefit of the child and it's a recurring theme throughout Bioshock especially in the comparison of dr. yi su Chun and dr. Brigid Tenenbaum both of whom were instrumental in both the creation of the little sisters and Jack himself su Chong works with the children purely for his own benefit he doesn't care about them at all he simply works for the furthering of his scientific goals in his career in the end of the fact that he only cares for himself rather than the girls he's working with is what leads to his wonderfully ironic and very much deserved demise Tenenbaum on the other hand started off the same way largely due to her ability to distance herself from the moral implications of her work from back when she survived the Holocaust by helping the Nazis with their experiments but interestingly enough something eventually kicked in for her that never did for su Chong maternal instinct make no mistake Tenenbaum is portrayed as the better of these two people and she's the one who abandoned all of her attempts at scientific progress in order to help young girls she felt she had wronged yet again altruism is glorified while selfishness is met with nothing but depravity and eventually death ultimately Bioshock reveals its stance against objectivism not only in how it portrays its characters and scenarios but in how it treats the player you're rewarded for putting the needs of others above your own thus glorifying self-sacrifice and completely opposing the whole idea that acting your own self-interest is the highest moral good even though I noted some major criticisms of the game and though the game plays generally pretty great there are some problems there that I didn't even go over in this analysis Bioshock is honestly still one of the greatest video games ever made it's one of those works that accomplishes so much and does so much right and just has so much power and depth that ultimately it's pile of flaws are completely dwarfed by its towering Colossus of achievements whoo all right I think that about covers it I mean not all of it because Bioshock is large and complex and objectivism even more so but with how long this episode already is I think it's best that I return to Bioshock later if there is more to be said so I hope you learned something and can better appreciate one of the great works of our time if you enjoyed this analysis please subscribe and check out some of my other videos and of course if you would like to see more analyses of this length and complexity then please consider supporting the show on patreon more support means a lot more time and effort that I can dump into this series so the link for that is down into the description if you want to help out next week we're going to talk about how games like fatal frame and dead space and still the horror of the games into the mechanics themselves and next time on literary analysis well you know we've had some heavy stuff the last few games we've analyzed so let's try something a little more fun and fluffy next time on literary analysis we're going to take a look at the first Halo game and see how compelling presentation can overcome a relative lack of depth to still deliver a very interesting story so until next week class dismissed this child is my Savior my reason to be underneath all my crashing weight she's safe in the sea a lumbering Hulk aside a Dalek and gentle a fine of terrible power of the sea a broken man a cheater II country of the sea there's no red just for me you