The black water. The flames reflected in the waves. The descent. Basically every player who loaded up BioShock can remember the opening. It was dramatic, thick with atmosphere, and has lingered long in the memory. Because the wonder and wide-eyed intrigue that greeted those opening scenes extended beyond. Because we were entering Rapture, that great moldering underwater city. Seventy-seven years ago today: on August 21, 1945, Andrew Ryan announced plans that he was to build his city.
Rapture flourished in the beginning.
“I am Andrew Ryan, and I am here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? 'No,' says the man in 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," the great man said.
"Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture. A city where the artist would not fear the censor. Where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small. And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.”
But as we navigated those corridors, those darkly lit rooms, and descended the levels we discovered Rapture had crumbled, its inhabitants corrupted. We kindly followed instructions. We chose to harvest or not harvest Little Sisters. We coveted Plasmids.
Rapture had been built to provide a utopia, where man and woman could live free of political, social, and religious constraints. But were these constraints a limit on freedoms, and could Rapture truly be free of constraints when citizens and the Chairman manifested their own limitations? These questions were asked, seeping into the minds of players, as Big Daddies stalked the levels.
It is 15 years now since BioShock launched and changed gaming and those who played it. But Rapture lives on somehow, trapped in the recesses of our imaginations, shining brightly in the darkness, yet fading as we ascend to the light.
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