This article contains PLOT SPOILERS for the first Bioshock game.
You have been warned!
Bioshock is one of my top ten favorite game of all time (it’s #6). It’s fast, fun, atmospheric, and very well designed. As with any game, some elements click better than others (that darn research camera, grrr). But I’m not here to talk about game play elements. I’m here to talk about the plot. Or rather, the plot hole that has bugged me since I first played the game.
So, would you kindly sit back and enjoy the rest of this article.
Ah, if only it were that easy.
The command phrase “would you kindly” used in Bioshock is a brilliant piece of storytelling. It catches the player off guard, but fits in so well with all his or her past experiences. I didn’t notice how often Atlas used the phrase until the words were pasted right in front of me in bold red. The revelation that comes from the confrontation with Andrew Ryan is one of those gems of video game cinema.
Well, except for that whole episode with Atlas’s family.
So let’s think about this. The Atlas/Fontaine character has full control over the player with the “would you kindly” command phrase. As Andrew Ryan demonstrates, this phrase provides remarkable command power to the point where he marches the player around his office like a trained animal.
Remember the mission to save Patrick and Moira? The player tries to reach their bathysphere only to have it explode at the last second, presumably with Atlas’ wife and child onboard.
So, why did Atlas/Fontaine cook up an elaborate plan for his fake family to be killed by Ryan’s minions? Observant players will note he got the idea from a Sander Cohen production at Fleet Hall. Later in the game, Atlas/Fontaine says he fabricated the sob story to make the player sympathetic.
But why was that needed at all? Sympathy or no, Atlas/Fontaine held the player’s puppet strings. He could have said “Hey dude? Would you kindly find Andrew Ryan and kill him?” as soon as the player reaches Rapture. Why kill his fake family in front of the player?
The reason this is present in an otherwise remarkable game is probably one of the follow.
A) The developers knew about the plot hole and deliberately left it in. After all, having the family die helps connect the player to the story and gives Atlas’ later betrayal more punch. It makes cinematic sense, just not logical sense.
B) The developers caught the plot hole too late in the development cycle. Cutting it would have meant scrapping assets and levels near completion, wasting precious time and money.
C) The developers missed the plot hole completely. Well, no one’s perfect.
Regardless, Bioshock is a stellar game. It’s one of those games I can crank up to max difficulty and still have a blast playing. Setting splicers on fire, watching them run to water, then shocking them to death never gets old. And besides, anyone who played the fantastic System Shock 2 knew a twist was coming. I suspected Atlas was rotten from the start.
The Polito-form is dead, insect!
Now please excuse me while I wait by the mail slot for Bioshock Infinite.