Am I the only one who feels a little let down by Bioshock's story/setting? It certainly serves the purpose of most video game stories: motivating the action of the game. I had come to expect, however, that Bioshock's story might be a little deeper, more literary than your average video game and in that respect I feel kind of let down.
The first thing that really bugged me about the story/setting was the anachronistic art design. Don't get me wrong, the art-deco art direction is simply superb, it just doesn't fit the post-war period in which Rapture was supposed to have been constructed. Art-Deco is synonymous with the Roaring Twenties, not Truman and Eisenhower's America. Granted, when art-deco design was popular it was viewed as ultra-modern and therefore appropriate for a utopia, but that would necessitate setting the game during a period about 30 years earlier than when it takes place. In order for the art-deco design to fit, Andrew Ryan's impetus for constructing Rapture should have been the Great Depression, not the onset of the Cold War. As it is, the art-deco design, while beautiful, feels inappropriate for a utopia constructed in response to the division of the world into US and Soviet spheres of influence.
The second major thing that bugged me was Ryan's Utopian vision itself. His Great Chain of Industry is nothing more than a repackaged Invisible Hand; his ideology is simply Classical Liberalism. Rapture's flaw was that it's dedication to free markets and individual responsibility created an underclass ready for exploitation by a demagogue like Fontaine. Mix in genetic modification and you have created fertile breeding ground for the civil war that destroys the city. The trouble is that any political thinker in 1946, when Ryan comes up with the idea of Rapture, could have foreseen the social problems to come in Rapture. Why? Because the exact same social problems had already developed in the US and Western Europe as the result of tight adherence to Classical Liberal political philosophy. Communism, like Fontaine's splicer army, was a radical response to the social problems of Liberalism. Likewise, Progressivism and Welfare Liberalism, which arose at the end of the Gilded Age in the 19th century, was the response taken by the United States to mitigate the social problems produced by strict adherence to free markets (hence the sweat of a mans brow being given to the poor). Ryan didn't like the solutions to the problems created by Liberalism, so his solution was to adhere more strictly to Liberalism and hope those problems don't reoccur. It was a stupid idea, and given that Ryan attracted the best and the brightest to his city, I would think at least one of them would see the conceptual flaw in his Utopian dream.
Another problem with Ryan's vision is this isolation of Rapture. If he wanted to produce a great commercial city founded on free markets, then he couldn't afford to wall his community off under the sea. Capitalism depends upon continually growing the market for your goods. If the market for the industries of Rapture was limited purely to Rapture, then economic stagnation would be the inevitable result. Rapture would've needed trading partners which makes building your utopia under the sea pretty self defeating.
Ken Levine mentioned in several interviews that Bioshock's story was meant to explore the consequences of people adhering to an ideology at all costs. In order for such a story to have resonance however, the ideology needs to be believable; that the utopia could be created needs to be a reasonable expectation. In other words, the audience needs to get swept up in the idea that the utopia really could've worked, which in turn gives emotional weight to the collapse of the dream. If a city's ideology is inevitably going to lead to social unrest, why should the audience care when that unrest occurs? It's like making a movie of a guy falling through air and splattering upon the ground. If it is a foregone conclusion that he is going to pancake then why bother getting emotionally invested in it? As it is, Rapture was doomed to fail and anyone who stopped to think about Ryan's vision could know that it wasn't going to work. Foregone conclusions simply aren't that interesting to explore.
At any rate, given how great the game itself is, the story really isn't all that important. Still, I felt a little disappointed that the story wasn't as engaging as the gameplay.
Still, it is nice that these discussions of theme and history are over a video game. As far as building under the sea, wasn't there a quote from Ryan that explained this?
Of course it is unfortunate that 90% of the story was told through tapes...tired mechanic I think.
it's a great game your insane
They had an entire explanation for the under the sea setting, however they ditched it for a better art direction (According to the making of DVD.)
Originally Posted by indyjones2131
Weren't the Buildings startet much earlyer as 1959 (the time the game plays in)?
I could remember a Model of early Rapture which stated 1946 an there was already one very tall Tower and some Auxilarybuildings which aren't built in 1 or 2 years in these times.
As the 2. part, maybe the people where too much impressed by what they saw that they wantet to believe? And it worked as long as there where people which could be forced into the dirty jobs with minimum wages, and the rich people where blinded by the spectacle in front of it.
And the part of the economy, isn't it like ancient Citystates they worked realy good without much trade outside their borders.
Sorry for my english, im not a native englishspeaking Person
Wow, an excellent analysation, bringing up some very valid points.
Seriously, I am impressed. Someone send this to Levine!