Screenshot from the 2007 video game BioShock
Rapture is an underwater city that is the setting for the games BioShock and BioShock 2, and briefly appears in BioShock Infinite. The game's back-story describes the city as envisioned by business tycoon Andrew Ryan in the mid-1940s as a means to create a utopia for mankind's greatest artists and thinkers to prosper in a laissez-faire environment outside of increasing oppression by the world's governments. However, these ideals would not hold up to the mob, turning into a dystopia; and on the eve of 1959, a civil war broke out, leaving much of Rapture's population dead. The remaining citizens either became psychotic "Splicers" due to the effects of ADAM, a substance that can alter genetic material, or have barricaded themselves from the Splicers to protect themselves, leaving the city to fail and fall apart around them.
The player first experiences Rapture in BioShock, in 1960, a year after the fateful riots, as a man named Jack that has come to Rapture after a plane accident over the mid-Atlantic Ocean where the city was located; during this, the player comes to learn more about Ryan's motives and those that he struggled against to keep the city's ideals until the very end. In BioShock 2, the player takes the role of a "Big Daddy", a heavily modified humanoid in an armored diving suit, designed to maintain the city, and would soon come to serve the purpose of protecting the Little Sisters as they collect ADAM from "Angels", which are dead bodies that harbor significant amounts of ADAM; this takes place eight years after the events of the first game, and while Ryan has been killed, there remain those that vie for the vacuum left in his position of power.
Rapture makes a brief appearance near the climax of BioShock Infinite, which is otherwise set in a different dystopian city, Columbia. Downloadable content for Infinite will be set in Rapture on New Year's Eve 1958, a year before the events of the first BioShock and on the day of the civil war.
Concept and creation
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The concept of Rapture was the brainchild of Ken Levine, founding member and creative director of Irrational Games, (briefly renamed 2K Boston just prior to BioShock's release, but later returned to their former name). Ken Levine had studied the works of Ayn Rand, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley and other works of utopian and dystopian societies as part of his liberal arts degree. He had also had fascination with the story of "Logan's Run". Levine also considered the nature of the horror genre, noting works such as The Shining where there is the need for a feeling of loss for the horror to be effective.
Rapture is an underwater city, located in the north Atlantic Ocean somewhere between Greenland and Iceland. It is only accessible by a system of bathyspheres. The city was designed to be self-sufficient, growing and raising its own crops as well as using the surrounding sea life for food, and taking advantage of submarine volcanoes to provide geothermal power to its population. The city consists of many "skyscrapers", inter-linked by walkways and tunnels, with watertight doors between neighboring sections to isolate areas that become flooded from the rest of the city. The buildings, both inside and out, feature a distinctive art deco design motif, reflecting on the era during which they were built (the mid-'40s). In addition to living quarters, Rapture features shopping areas, entertainment venues, laboratories, manufacturing plants, medical facilities, and other common services provided by a functional city.
Though Rapture was built as a utopia for creative individuals to flourish, the city soon became a dystopia. Part of the downfall of Rapture was the discovery of ADAM, stem cells harvested from a previously unknown species of sea slug. Scientists in Rapture found that ADAM could be used to overwrite the human genome, allowing its users to literally "splice" super powers (such as telekinesis) into their DNA. The lead scientist, Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum, found that ADAM could be mass-produced by implanting the sea slug in the stomachs of young orphaned girls, who came to be known as "Little Sisters". As Rapture began to fall into social chaos, in part due to the mental instability that came about from increased ADAM use, the Little Sisters were mentally reconditioned to extract ADAM from the dead and recycle it. In order to protect the girls from ADAM-hungry lunatics, Dr. Suchong generated genetically-modified humans in armored diving suits, and assigned them to protect a specific Little Sister. These beings became known as "Big Daddies".
When the player experiences the city, roughly one/ten years after the collapse of its society (one year in BioShock, ten years in BioShock 2), the majority of Rapture's population is dead; the few that survive have either become psychotic "Splicers", or survivors that have barricaded themselves from the Splicers. While most of the city's automated systems still operate, large swaths of the city have become flooded, while others have been damaged beyond repair, either as a result of the bloody civil war that tore Rapture apart, or as a consequence of the Splicers' ADAM-induced psychotic episodes. ADAM harvesting Little Sisters, accompanied by their Big Daddy protectors, continue to wander Rapture during the player's experiences in the city.
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Rapture was formally founded on November 5, 1946.
As described in the games' backstory and through in-game audio recordings, the city of Rapture was envisioned by the Randian business magnate Andrew Ryan, who wanted to create a laissez-faire state with no ties to the rest of the world to escape increasingly oppressive political, economic, and religious authority on land. The city was fully completed in 1951. Scientific progress flourished in Rapture, leading to rapid developments in engineering and biotechnology, such as the invention of ADAM, thanks in part to the brilliant scientists that Ryan brought to the city.
Though residents were hand-picked for their success on the surface, as time passed, the gap between rich and poor increased. This was exploited by Frank Fontaine, a businessman in charge of the plasmid industry who secretly established an illegal smuggling ring with the outside world while simultaneously creating charitable organizations to manipulate the underclass. A violent attempt to overthrow Ryan reportedly killed Fontaine, but the player's experience in BioShock reveals that Fontaine survived, disguising himself as the lower class hero 'Atlas'. On New Year's Eve of 1959, Fontaine/Atlas and his ADAM-infused followers began a new revolt against Ryan that spread throughout Rapture. Ryan in turn began splicing his own forces, and his paranoia had reached such a level he was hanging dozens of people, mostly innocent, in Rapture's main square. As the war disrupted production and supply, every ADAM user in the city eventually went violently insane. By the end of the 1959 revolt, Ryan's utopia had become a dystopia, and only a handful of non-mutated humans survive in barricaded hideouts.
In the events of BioShock, a man known as Jack (the protagonist that the player controls) ends up in Rapture after a plane crash in the middle of the ocean leaves him close to the city's bathysphere surface terminus. In the course of the game, it is learned that Jack is Ryan's illegitimate son, and was purposely brought to Rapture to be used as a cat's paw against the founder by Fontaine/Atlas. When Jack finally meets Ryan, the latter is well aware of Jack's identity and mental conditioning, and orders Jack to kill him, ending his life on his own terms and rejecting the control Fontaine has over his son. Fontaine leaves Jack to die, but he is rescued by Tenenbaum and her Little Sisters, and together they attack and kill Fontaine.
In the power void left by Ryan's and Fontaine's deaths, a new figure, Sofia Lamb, arises in the following decade. In contrast to Ryan's belief of empowering the individual, Lamb's ideals are favoring the collective, and she is able to build "The Family", a cult-like following of the remaining citizens of Rapture to achieve her goals. During the events of BioShock 2 (which takes place eight years after the events of the first game), the player takes the role of the first prototype Big Daddy, Subject Delta, as Lamb's plans progress to their final completion to extend The Family to the surface. The destinies of Delta, Lamb, and Eleanor, Lamb's daughter and Delta's original Little Sister, are determined by the player's action during the game, though the endings involve escaping a section of Rapture flooded by Lamb. The fate of Rapture is left open after the completion of the game.
More details about the origins of Rapture are provided in the novel BioShock: Rapture, a prequel novel by John Shirley, released in 2011. The novel tells the backstory of the creation of Rapture, the underwater city's deterioration and civil war following the coming of plasmids. The novel ends shortly before the story in the first Bioshock game begins. Though Shirley enhanced Rapture's story and added new characters the novel does not contradict the game and was developed with the oversight of Ken Levine, the game's designer. The novel was originally called BioShock: the Rise and Fall of the Ryan Empire.
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In reviews for BioShock, many reviewers praised the representation of Rapture. Charles Herold of The New York Times wrote that the city was "a fascinating creation" and that there was something "both wonderful and disturbing" in exploring the ruins of Andrew Ryan's creation.
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