Andrew Ryan (BioShock)

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Andrew Ryan
BioShock series character
Andrew Ryan.png
Andrew Ryan in BioShock (2007)
First gameBioShock (2007)
Created byKen Levine
Voiced byArmin Shimerman

Andrew Ryan is a fictional character in the BioShock video game series developed by Irrational Games. He serves as the primary antagonist of the first half of the first BioShock and a minor character in its sequel, BioShock 2. Ryan is an idealistic business magnate in the 1940s and 1950s; seeking to avoid scrutiny from governments and other oversight, he ordered the secret construction of an underwater city, Rapture. When Ryan's vision for a utopia in Rapture collapsed into dystopia, he hid himself away and used armies of mutated humans ("Splicers") to defend himself and fight against those resisting him, including the player-character Jack within the first game.

Ryan was created by Irrational Games' Ken Levine, based on figures like Ayn Rand, Howard Hughes,[1] Citizen Kane, and Walt Disney.[citation needed] The character has received significant praise from critics, with Electronic Gaming Monthly ranking him ninth on their list of top ten video game politicians.[2] He is voiced by Armin Shimerman, whose voice acting was cited as one of the contributing factors to the success of BioShock as it won "Best Use of Sound" from IGN. Ryan has been compared to several different real-life and fictional figures, and his world of Rapture compared to the world of Galt's Gulch in the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged.

Concept and creation[edit]

BioShock director Ken Levine described Andrew Ryan as a character of ideals, in contrast to the game's other antagonist, Frank Fontaine, who has no ideals. Designing the encounter between the player and Ryan was a controversial decision for the developers, due to the question of what the player's motive is at this point. Ryan taking his own life to prevent Jack, the protagonist, from accomplishing this, was described as the "ultimate insult" by Levine. The scene took a long time for the developers to finish. Levine stated that they figured out who the character of Andrew Ryan is too early, adding that they underestimated the impact that this would make.[3] While he is saner than the opponents the players encounter before him, including a plastic surgeon who takes his ideal of beauty too far, he is as unmovable as they are, unwilling to change his ideals. When discussing how many people would get the good ending to BioShock, he commented that Ryan would not, choosing to take the easier path.[4]

In creating the world of Rapture, Levine imagined a utopia that its creators did not want the outside world to discover. Following this, he created the character of Ryan as its creator, giving him a "pseudo-objectivism and extremely capitalistic view on the world" as well as a fear of the New Dealers in the United States and communists in Russia would find it. Levine states that to him, Ryan's philosophies come from Art Deco, describing the style as, "Yes, we are men, and we control the universe!"[5] He considered Ryan a combination of historical figures such as Howard Hughes and Ayn Rand; and, though he compared Ryan to John Galt, he considered Ryan more similar to a real person, making mistakes and having fear and doubts.[6] Levine purposely named Ryan as he did, using a semi-anagram of Ayn Rand's name to establish the connection.[7] During a questions and answers segment, a questioner stated that he did not want to kill Ryan, asking Levine, "Are [we] still doomed to make games where we have to use plot devices to clean that up?" to which Levine responded that video games were admittedly linear, saying that it was hard enough to come up with one good plot, let alone multiple ones.[3] Levine stated that he did not expect the "ugly comedown from the stratospheric highs" from the Andrew Ryan scene near the end.[8]


Andrew Ryan has objectivist ideals, to a degree that they are the most important thing to him, more so than his own life.[4] He has an enormous hatred of what he refers to as "parasites" consisting mainly of people who support left-wing political viewpoints, namely socialism and communism.[9][10] Ryan also has a vast hatred for the religious, as well as the altruistic, as he believes altruism to be the root of all evil.[11]

Ryan is a strong supporter of meritocracy. He believes that all individuals have the right to keep what they earn and the place to live without government interference,[12] with "parasites" being the only ones who would attempt to deny mankind that of free will.[13] Ryan accentuates this belief to the extreme, denouncing all laws.[14] One of Ryan's main ethics is that of free market, asserting that all industry should be kept completely unfettered by government intervention.[15][16] But Ryan is also a vociferous dictator, ruling without government interference. He keeps the city on tight curfews and martial law when the civil war starts and the people start killing each other.[17]

Ryan coined his own economic philosophy which he named the Great Chain of Industry, or simply the Great Chain, similar to the "invisible hand of the market" metaphor coined by Adam Smith. Ryan conceptualised all of society as bound together by an invisible, intangible "chain" of economic inter-relations. This great, invisible chain of industry only pulls society in the right direction when all pull on it to serve their own interests, i.e. in a totally free market completely free of any government regulation (similar to Ayn Rand's views of totally unregulated capitalism). This principle extended to the point that Ryan opposed regulation for basic quality control or safety, on the grounds that the "Great Chain" of the free market would ensure that a stable level of quality was maintained without outside interference. As a practical result, after fifteen years this plunged Rapture's economy into a race to the bottom: every product was made as cheaply as possible and at the lowest quality, meaning that the only way any one business could turn a profit was to also sell low quality products at inflated prices.[18][19]

A strong atheist,[20] Ryan disregards all forms of organised religion.[21]

Role in BioShock[edit]

The player only encounters Ryan once in person throughout the entire BioShock franchise, with most of his appearance being made via radio transmission and audio diaries. Ryan is always seen with his hair slicked back and sporting a smart suit and necktie. In an image the player encounters of Ryan during the Welcome to Rapture and Rapture Control Centre levels, he can be seen wearing a black fedora.[22]

Ryan's first appearance in the franchise is in BioShock, the first installment of the series. He created BioShock's world, Rapture, as a means to escape from such constraints as religion, communism, and altruism. Rapture eventually fell apart after the scientist Brigid Tenenbaum discovered a substance she later named "ADAM". While the initial properties of her new discovery were confusing, she later diagnosed that when "ADAM" was injected via a hypodermic syringe into the arm, it allows the user to "bend the double-helix" and provides what could be described as "superpowers." However, the long-term effects of ADAM soon became obvious later, as the substance is highly addictive and both mental and physical deterioration begin to occur.[22]

When Jack (the player's character in BioShock) arrives in Rapture, Ryan views him as a threat, initially believing him to be a government agent, most likely sent by the Russian KGB or the American CIA. Ryan attempts to do whatever possible to kill Jack, who is aided by Ryan's nemesis, Atlas. Over the course of the game it is gradually revealed to the player that Jack is actually Andrew Ryan's illegitimate son. Ryan had sexual intercourse with a young female stripper named Jasmine Jolene, resulting in her pregnancy, though Ryan was not aware of this. Throughout Rapture's history Ryan had frequent encounters with a smuggler named Frank Fontaine, who later became a leading figure in Rapture's genetic arms race towards the end of the 1950s. Fontaine decided to take advantage of this opportunity, and paid a high-ranking employee of his, Brigid Tenenbaum, to purchase the embryo from Jolene, which Jolene agreed to simply because she "needed the money." After Andrew Ryan became aware of this, he brutally murdered her, leaving her corpse on a bed in the Eve's Garden strip club. Fontaine later named the child, "Jack", and ordered a scientist under his employment, Dr. Yi Suchong to accelerate Jack's growth, and make him vulnerable to several mental techniques; one such technique was to force Jack to perform any requested action by pronouncing the phrase "Would you kindly...".[22]

When Andrew Ryan and Jack finally meet, Ryan states that Jack was his "greatest disappointment." Ryan gives a short monologue, explaining his past to Jack, and saying how little he differs from a simple slave. According to Ryan, "In the end, what separates a man from a slave? Money? Power? No... A man chooses, a slave obeys." Ryan hands Jack his golf putter, and then asks Jack, using the "would you kindly" phrase, to kill him, which Jack is forced to do.[22]

Ryan also appears through audio diaries in BioShock's sequel, BioShock 2, which give the player an expanded insight into Ryan's history and ideals.[23]


Armin Shimerman provided the voice for Andrew Ryan. He has received praise for his portrayal, contributing to BioShock winning Best Use of Sound from IGN.

He is ranked ninth in Electronic Gaming Monthly's list of the top ten video game politicians.[2] IGN editor Charles Onyett described him as "anything but a prototypical villain", describing him as having a bottomless ambition for creating a city at the bottom of the sea. He added that while his words resemble "totalitarian propaganda", players cannot help but sympathise with him.[24] During a discussion about the potential plot of the game's sequel BioShock 2, editor Hilary Goldstein said that Ryan should reappear in it, and that while it should be in a new area, it should still have connections to him. Onyett called Ryan a key element, and if not included in the sequel, there would be a dramatic loss of personality. He claimed that much of Rapture's personality comes from Ryan, and it would have much less of an impact without him. Editor Ryan Geddes agreed, adding that he felt there was more to Ryan than Rapture. Editor Nate Ahem suggested that the game's sequel, BioShock 2, could potentially put the players in the role of Ryan, to explore the story of trying to create a perfect world and having it crumble beneath their feet.[25]

Gamasutra editor Leigh Alexander ranked him the third most affecting character of 2007, behind GLaDOS from Portal and player-created characters such as in massive multiplayer online role-playing games. Leigh calls him a "cautionary example of the danger of pure philosophy", adding that while he begins as the primary antagonist, players sympathise with him once it becomes clear that he is so "bitterly wrong".[26] Adam Volk of Gamasutra described him as a fascinating take on the mad scientist character, adding that if more developers steer away from stereotypes of the character type, these characters could easily rival those in film, television, or novels.[27] In the book "Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God", author Craig Detweiler calls him an "obvious reference to the objectivist writer and philosopher Ayn Rand".[28]

Onyett praised Shimerman for his portrayal of Ryan, calling him a "joy to listen to" and adding that he would "give Stephen Colbert a run for his money."[24] 411 Mania editor Adam Larck agreed, praising the introduction Ryan gives to the player as they enter Rapture.[29] Game Chronicles editor Mark Smith praised the voice acting of the game, praising Shimerman's commitment to the story and theme.[30] Total PlayStation editor gave similar praise to Shimerman, commenting that he and Atlas' voice actor rounded out the cast.[31] Worthplaying editor Brian Dumlao commented that Ryan's voice "conveys ... the struggle of a man whose ideals are being threatened by a rival businessman", and praising the delivery of the actors to why the story is so good.[32] In their Game of the Year awards, IGN praised the voice acting, citing Ryan's speech he delivers to players as what convinced them. They awarded BioShock "Best use of sound".[33]

He has been compared to several other characters in fiction and real life. Ryan's world of Rapture has been compared to that of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Blog Critics editor described Ryan as arrogant, greedy, and naive, adding that these traits led Rapture to destruction.[34] Lou Kesten of the San Francisco Chronicle also made this comparison, comparing the name "Andrew Ryan" to the author, "Ayn Rand", in its similarity.[35] Onyett agreed, describing him as a "Randian hero".[24] He has also been compared to the eponymous character of Citizen Kane.[36] Official Xbox Magazine editor Dan Griliopoulos likened his appearance to that of Gomez Addams, the father from The Addams Family.[37] IGN editors Phil Pirrello and Christopher Monfette described him as being more communist than Vladimir Lenin, the first head of state of the Soviet Union, also comparing him to Italian philosopher and writer Niccolò Machiavelli.[38] While discussing potential actors who could portray Ryan in the upcoming BioShock film, IGN editors chose Anthony Hopkins as the perfect choice for the role.[39]

IGN later put Andrew Ryan at number 10 in their list of the Top 100 Videogame Villains, saying, "The force of his personality and clarity of his vision is admirable throughout the game. Rapture wouldn't be nearly as interesting without Ryan and his complementing the action and exploration, shouting propaganda and taking every opportunity to broadcast his world view."[40] The PlayStation Official Magazine placed him as the eighth best videogame villain on PS3.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Exclusive: Ken Levine on the making of Bioshock". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b Scott Sharkey, "EGM's Top Ten Videogame Politicians: Election time puts us in a voting mood,” Electronic Gaming Monthly 234 (November 2008): 97.
  3. ^ a b "GDC: Ken Levine Speaks: Empowering Players to Care About Your Stupid Story". Gamasutra. 20 February 2008. Archived from the original on 16 October 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  4. ^ a b Remo, Chris (30 August 2007). "Ken Levine on BioShock: The Spoiler Interview". Shacknews. Archived from the original on 16 October 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  5. ^ "Rationalizing Rapture with BioShock's Ken Levine". GameSpy. 25 June 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  6. ^ Gillen, Kieron (20 August 2007). "Exclusive: Ken Levine on the making of Bioshock". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  7. ^ Harmen, Stace (13 December 2012). "BioShock Infinite's Ken Levine: of sounds and pixels". VG247. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  8. ^ "Opinion: When Should Games Say Goodbye?". Gamasutra. 21 July 2008. Archived from the original on 9 November 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  9. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: In 1919 I fled a country that had traded in despotism for insanity. The Marxist Revolution simply traded one lie for another. Instead of one man, the Czar, owning the work of all the people, ALL the people owned the work of all of the people.
  10. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: On the surface, the Parasite expects the doctor to heal them for free, the farmer to feed them out of charity.
  11. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: What is the greatest lie ever created? What is the most vicious obscenity ever perpetrated on mankind? Slavery... the Holocaust... Socialism... NO! It's the tool with which all that wickedness is built. Altruism. Whenever anyone wants others to do their work, they call upon their altruism. 'Never mind your own needs,' they say, 'think of the needs of ...' of ... whoever. Of the state. Of the poor. Of the army. Of the king. Of God.
  12. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: Doctor Suchong, 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. The thought of sacrificing it is abhorrent.
  13. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: If Atlas and his bandits have their way, will they not turn us into slaves? And what will become of free will then?
  14. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: I founded Rapture to be free of law and god... to live among those for whom work is our wage!
  15. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: There has been tremendous pressure to regulate this Plasmid business. There have been side effects: blindness, insanity, death. But what use is our ideology if it is not tested? The market does not respond like an infant, shrieking at the first sign of displeasure. The market is patient, and we must be too.
  16. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Jim: Hey, Mary, everything okay? / Mary: Did you hear that Andrew Ryan took control of Fontaine Futuristics? I'm hopping mad! / Jim: Slow down there, little lady. / Mary: Sorry, Jim, but I'm real upset. We came to Rapture to get away from government muscling in on private businesspeople. / Jim: Sure thing, Mary. But Andrew Ryan didn't 'take control' of anything. The government council just assumed stewardship of Fontaine Futuristics until all of Frank Fontaine's crimes and betrayals against the people of Rapture are sorted out! Pretty soon everything will be back to normal. / Mary: Really? Well, that's a weight off my shoulders! / Jim: Remember, Mary, doubting the Council only emboldens the bandits. – Propaganda playlet heard throughout the city, describes how Rapture was founded on free market ('We came to Rapture to get away from government muscling in on private businesspeople').
  17. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: 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. – Andrew Ryan, offering marketing advice, which is highly capitalistic.
  18. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan [src]: There is something more powerful than each of us, a combination of our efforts, a Great Chain of industry that unites us. But it is only when we struggle in our own interest that the chain pulls society in the right direction. The chain is too powerful and too mysterious for any government to guide. Any man who tells you different either has his hand in your pocket, or a pistol to your neck.
  19. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: Mr. Porter, let me be the first to congratulate you on the founding of Rapture Central Computing. The Great Chain only grows stronger with each pair of hands laid upon it.
  20. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: I believe in no God, no invisible man in the sky.
  21. ^ Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games. Andrew Ryan: 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 the Vatican, 'it belongs to God'.
  22. ^ a b c d Irrational Games (21 August 2007). BioShock. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games.
  23. ^ 2K Marin (9 February 2010). BioShock 2. Xbox 360/Microsoft Windows. 2K Games.
  24. ^ a b c Onyett, Charles (16 August 2007). "BioShock Review". IGN. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  25. ^ Haynes, Jeff (22 October 2008). "What We Want in BioShock 2". IGN. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  26. ^ "Gamasutra's Best of 2007: Top 5 Most Affecting Characters". Gamasutra. 12 December 2007. Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  27. ^ "Applying Robert McKee's "Story" to Video Games". Gamasutra. 21 August 2009. Archived from the original on 8 November 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  28. ^ Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God – Google Boeken
  29. ^ Vote, Todd (17 September 2009). "Best Video Game Voice Acting". 411mania. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  30. ^ Smith, Mark (29 November 2008). "BioShock – Overview". Game Chronicles. Archived from the original on 2 November 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  31. ^ Waits, Nick (25 November 2008). "BioShock finally comes to the PlayStation 3". Total PlayStation. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  32. ^ Dumlao, Brian (2 November 2008). "PS3 Review – 'BioShock'". Worth Playing. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  33. ^ "IGN Best of 2007 – Best Use of Sound". IGN. Archived from the original on 28 December 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  34. ^ Rainey, Tim (8 October 2009). "A Demand for Deeper Video Games". Blogcritics Gaming. Archived from the original on 12 October 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  35. ^ Kesten, Lou (22 August 2007). "Vid-Games: `Madden' Mania; `Shock' Waves". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 10 October 2009.[dead link]
  36. ^ Colin (21 August 2007). "BioShock Review". Game Revolution. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  37. ^ Griliopoulos, Dan (24 August 2007). "BioShock Review". Official Xbox Magazine. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  38. ^ Pirrello, Phil; Christopher Monofette (12 May 2008). "Big Screen Big Daddy". IGN. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  39. ^ "BioShock: The Movie!". IGN. 20 August 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  40. ^ "The Top 100 Videogame Villains – 10: Andrew Ryan". IGN. 20 August 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  41. ^ "10 of the best videogame villains on PS3". PlayStation Official Magazine. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2013.

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