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BioShock is a complex game and contains many references to gaming, philosophy, and real world history.
References to Ayn Rand
- Andrew Ryan's philosophy, his name, and some of his history were based on Ayn Rand. His name is a partial anagram of hers. Both Andrew Ryan and Ayn Rand were originally Belarusian Jews from the Soviet Union, but moved to America to avoid the increasing tensions of Communism. Both created their own city to explore their ideas: Rand created Atlantis in Galt's Gulch in her novel Atlas Shrugged, while Ryan created Rapture.
- In a radio message from Andrew Ryan in Arcadia, we learn that he set fire to his own land rather than let it fall into public hands. This seems to be a direct reference once again to Atlas Shrugged, in which the character Ellis Wyatt sets fire to his valuable oil fields for similar reasons.
- During Rapture Central Control, Andrew Ryan starts a self-destruct sequence for Rapture, because he does not want to see Atlas take control of his city. In The Fountainhead Howard Roark dynamites the Cortlandt housing project when his designs had been altered.
- The name Atlas was inspired by the title of one of Ayn Rand's most famous books, Atlas Shrugged.
- A minor character in the game, Anya Andersdotter, shares the same characteristic Bob cut as Ayn Rand. Her name is also an anagram of the author's with letters added: AYN RAND converts to ANYa ANDeRsdotter.
- Ayn Rand's original last name was Rosenbaum, which is paralleled by the character Tenenbaum.
- The name Frank Fontaine was inspired by the title The Fountainhead.
- Posters can be found that say "Who is Atlas" are references to the regularly repeated expression "Who is John Galt" in Atlas Shrugged.
- Ayn Rand's philosophy, called Objectivism, greatly influences the story of BioShock. Objectivism is the idea that one should follow their own self-interest and profit from their own abilities and ambitions while being virtually uninhibited by others. This is the idea on which Andrew Ryan's city is based.
- Each bottle of Arcadia Merlot is embossed with the name "Fountainhead Cabernet Sauvignon," which may be another direct reference to Rand's novel The Fountainhead.
- On Jack's fake passport, his last name is shown to be Wynand. In Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, Gail Wynand is one of the main characters.
- Posters for the Pharaoh's Fortune Casino and Cinema Réal state that they are located in the Cameron Suites, a possible reference to architect Henry Cameron, a character in The Fountainhead.
- Howard Roark is the architect protagonist in The Fountainhead.
- D. Francon Antiques is a reference to Dominique Francon, another character in The Fountainhead.
- A patient in one of the pictures scattered throughout the Medical Pavilion bears a striking resemblance to Ayn Rand.
- In Atlas Shrugged, during a party, the protagonist Dagny is told by a woman about the tale of John Galt. She says that while sailing in the sea during a storm, he saw the shining towers of Atlantis. This could be what inspired the idea of Rapture, an underwater utopia very much like Atlantis in many ways. Following this, there are many mentionings such as Poseidon Plaza or Neptune's Bounty, who both had influence on the city in myths.
- The "Welcome to Rapture" posters[specify poster] found throughout the city use a similar font, color scheme, and background to the cover art of the Penguin paperback edition of Atlas Shrugged.
- ADAM and EVE are references to the Creation story in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. In Christian and Jewish belief, Adam and Eve end up ruining a utopia because of greed and ignorance.
- The word "Rapture" is a Christian term referring to an event that removes the "chosen" people in the world from society and transports them to paradise.
- Eve's Garden, one of Fort Frolic's many venues and the workplace of Jasmine Jolene, is an obvious reference to Genesis as well.
- To make the Lazarus Vector, Jack needs 7 Distilled Water, 7 Enzyme Samples, and 7 Chlorophyll Solution. The number seven is used very frequently in the Bible (over seven hundred times, in fact), and the name Lazarus itself comes from the biblical story of the man Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus. In the game, the Lazarus Vector raises Arcadia from "death".
- In the introduction slideshow to Rapture, Andrew Ryan says "And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city, as well." The phrase "sweat of your brow" is taken from Genesis 3:19, in which God tells Adam that outside the Garden of Eden only by "the sweat of thy brow" would he be able to raise food and survive.
- When Ryan contacts Jack early on in Rapture Central Control, he references the Bible saying, "Even in a book of lies, you can still find some truth." He then quotes the part he calls "truth" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). He also uses the early portions of Ecclesiastes 3 as a model to explain trying to destroy Rapture when he says, "A time to build, and a time to destroy!"
- If the player saved the Little Sisters during their playthrough, Brigid Tenenbaum will express her gratitude in the elevator to Frank Fontaine's penthouse in Mercury Suites by saying: "To save one life is to save the world entire…" This is an Jewish saying, from the Talmud (Mishnah Sanhedrin's 4:9). The actual quote reads: "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."
- Many locations in Rapture are named after elements of ancient Greek and Roman mythology (Neptune's Bounty, Apollo Square, Olympus Heights, etc.).
- The level name "Arcadia" was inspired by the Latin phrase "Et in Arcadia ego", which translates to "Even in Arcadia I exist." spoken by Death personified. The Utopian vision, Arcadia, is associated with bountiful natural splendor and harmony, so the phrase is a reminder that even in paradise things die. Early in development for the level Andrew Ryan was intended to say this phrase just before releasing the poison into the level. The line was later cut, but the name of the level remained.
- The tombstones in Arcadia each state that two persons are interred there. One's epitaph reads "John Maynard Keynes, son of Adam and Ada Smith." This references two British economists, John Maynard Keynes and Adam Smith. Smith originated the ideas of Free Market Capitalism and limited government intervention in the economy, while Keynes took the position that government intervention was necessary to head off market failures.
- The Rosie version of the Big Daddy is a reference to the cultural icon Rosie the Riveter, who represented working women during World War II. Rosies in BioShock also carry a "rivet gun" as a weapon.
- Several typewriter-like contraptions in Ryan's office have the brand name "Below Tree", which is a reference to the "Underwood" typewriter company.
- Diane McClintock may be a reference to Barbara McClintock, a geneticist who did work with, among other things, genetic recombination in corn in the 1940s.
- Sander Cohen may be a reference to the pre-WWI playwright, songwriter, dancer, and director George M. Cohan.
- Close to the end of the game, Frank Fontaine compares Brigid Tenenbaum to Florence Nightingale. Nightingale was the founder of the modern techniques of nursing and was one of the nurses who helped the injured during the Crimean War.
- Dr. Steinman shows envy and admiration for the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in the audio diary "Surgery's Picasso", found in the Medical Pavilion. Picasso is mostly known for his work as a painter, sculptor and the co-founder of cubism.
- Steve Barker uses Shakespeare as an example in his audio diary: Hole in the Bathroom Wall. William Shakespeare was a well known English author and playwright (1564–1616).
- Bill McDonagh mentions John Wayne in the audio diary: Guns Blazing. John Wayne was an American film actor, director, and producer. McDonagh takes up the actor when talking about the shooting which took Frank Fontaine's life. This refers to the movies Wayne was mostly known for: Westerns- and World War II films.
- The Baby Jane Splicer can be heard fantasizing about men comparing her beauty to Greta Garbo. Garbo was a Swedish-American actress, one of the world's most popular movie stars of that era.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the famous Austrian composer, is referred to two times in-game. First by Andrew Ryan in a radio message and later by Yi Suchong in his audio diary Mozart of Genetics.
- The Gatherer's Garden vending machines' advertising slogan mentions both Einstein and Hercules: "My daddy's SMARTER than Einstein, STRONGER than Hercules and lights a fire with a SNAP of his fingers." Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics and Hercules is a hero in Roman mythology, known for his great strength.
System Shock series
Setting and Storyline
- BioShock is known as the spiritual successor to the System Shock game series. Instead of the Cyberpunk theme presented in System Shock, BioShock utilizes a "Biopunk" (alongside a "Dieselpunk") theme, hence the title.
- Rapture, a state-of-the-art underwater city populated with the brightest minds in the world, is similar to the Von Braun in System Shock 2, a state-of-the-art starship populated with bright scientific minds on its maiden voyage. The discovery of a strange new organism (Sea slugs/Annelids) leads to the downfall of both settings.
- In the level Welcome to Rapture, Atlas says to the player, "Now, would you kindly find a crowbar or something?" This is likely a reference to BioShock's spiritual predecessors, System Shock and System Shock 2, in which the very first weapon player finds is a short-range tool (Lead Pipe and crescent Wrench, respectively).
- However, it could also be a reference to the Half-Life series, where the most used melee weapon is a crowbar.
- Additionally, in the Half-Life expansion Opposing Force, the first weapon you get at Black Mesa is a wrench that swings slowly and hits hard.
- However, it could also be a reference to the Half-Life series, where the most used melee weapon is a crowbar.
- Atlas, who guides the player through most of the game and the revelation that he is actually the mobster Frank Fontaine, parallels SHODAN, the Artificial Intelligence with a God-like complex in System Shock 2, who takes upon the identity of Dr. Janice Polito in order to earn the protagonist's trust. SHODAN, however, abandons her false identity after the body of the real Dr. Polito is found halfway through the game and continues to guide the player until the very end of the game, where she reveals the scope of her plans.
- As Atlas, Fontaine was also manipulating the player into disposing of Andrew Ryan, the mayor and founder of Rapture, just as SHODAN was manipulating the player to subdue the Von Braun's A.I., XERXES.
- Brigid Tenenbaum is a research scientist who helps the player in the later part of the game. System Shock 2 has a similar character, Dr. Marie Delacroix, who helps the player defeat SHODAN, providing valuable information via audio logs scattered in cyberspace before her death. Both women made revolutionary discoveries in their fields (Tenenbaum's ADAM genetic properties and Delacroix's Faster Than Light drive), and both speak with European accents (respectively German and French). Delacroix also refers to the Annelid eggs and parasitic worms as "the children", much like Tenenbaum does with the Little Sisters.
- Dr. Steinman's behavior is like that of Mark Miller from System Shock 2. Miller, being under the influence of the Annelids (an alien race artificially created by SHODAN), received a "revelation" to make the human body "practically indestructible" through a radical series of cybernetic enhancements. With that knowledge, he butchered and altered at least 16 female staffers into hostile Cyborg Midwives tending to the Annelids' eggs. Midwives' hairstyle is similar to that of the Baby Jane Splicer models.
- The Happy Noodle Asian Food brand found in Rapture is present in System Shock 2 as a spinning advertisement on top of the building outside the game's training center.
- The music heard in the Medical Pavilion's connecting tunnel is the same used in the halls of the Hydroponics Deck in System Shock 2.
- The Cocktail Lounge glass design from System Shock 2 is reused.
- Several System Shock 2 gameplay elements have also been reused:
- Psionic abilities are similar in nature to Plasmids and their use. Psi Points can be recharged with Psi Hypos, just like Plasmids with EVE Hypos.
- Security systems and Replicators (vending machines) can be hacked and for each try, require a disposable quantity of Nanites. This currency is also used for buying items from Replicators, modifying weapons and general repairing. In early concepts, ADAM was to be used as a general currency in BioShock and would have been required for hacking as well.
- Research does not require a camera, but can grant permanent damage bonus against a specific enemy type, if done on its scavenged body part. Some items also have regenerative properties once researched, similar to Spider Splicer Organs.
- Most maps in System Shock 2 feature a single Quantum Bio-Reconstruction Machine, which acts like the Vita-Chamber, typically for the cost of a few Nanites. However, they need to be activated first (tuned to the player's genetic code, like Vita-Chambers) before use.
- The overall gameplay model of BioShock is identical to that of System Shock 2, where the player can hack vending machines and security systems, upgrade weapons and skills, gather background information from audio logs, and utilize different types of ammo and "magic spells" in the form of Psi powers/Plasmids. BioShock excludes some of the RPG elements from System Shock 2, including character statistics, inventory management, and weapon degradation.
- Both games had two types of currencies. System Shock 2 has Nanites and Cybernetic Modules, while BioShock has Dollars and ADAM. The Nanites and Dollars can be used at Replicators/vending machines and for hacking, and to use Surgical Units/health recovery stations. The Modules and ADAM can be used to upgrade the character's stats, as well as new Psi powers/Plasmids.
- Both games feature Hypos for replenishing powers, which look very similar to each other. System Shock 2 also has Med Hypos, which are mentioned (but not used) in BioShock.
Looking Glass Studios - 451
- The "0451" code used to open the first locked door in BioShock (and the only one that can't be hacked) is a reference that has been used in several games made by previous employees of Looking Glass Studios since the creation of the System Shock games, considered the spiritual predecessors of BioShock. The number was originally thought to be a direct reference to Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, in which it represents "the temperature at which book-paper catches fire and burns", but it was latter revealed in multiple interviews with Warren Spector (creator of Deus Ex, System Shock and other games) that 0451 was really the door code to access the LookingGlass Technologies (later: Looking Glass Studios) offices.
- In System Shock (released in 1994) the very first door locked with a keypad uses a 451 combination.
- In its sequel, System Shock 2 (released in 1999, on which Ken Levine participated), the very first door locked with a keypad uses a 45100 code.
- In Deus Ex (released in 2000 and made by Ion Storm, a company with several previous employees of Looking Glass Studios such as Warren Spector and Harvey Smith), 0451 was a code to open a locked armory in the first level and could only be obtained with a specific choice. The code is featured twice afterward, to unlock a van and a door later in the game.
- In its sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War (released in 2003), though the number does not appear as a code it is used as the room number of the first unlockable door of the game.
- The reference has then been perpetuated in the later games of the Deus Ex and BioShock series, but also through other games whose developers worked on both of them:
- In BioShock 2 (released in 2010), the code 1540 (0451 reversed) opens the first locked door in the first level.
- In BioShock Infinite (released in March 2013), the first and only code required in the game to open a locked door is 0451.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution (released in 2011), the code 0451 was the first to appear in the game and was needed to access an elevator. It is used again as the first code of the game's add-on The Missing Link. Also, a direct reference to Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury is made through an announcer, asking for "detective Bradbury in office 451."
- In Dishonored (released in 2012 by Arkane Studios), the first safe combination in the first mission is 451. It is worth-noting that its co-creative director, Harvey Smith, also worked on System Shock and the first two Deus Ex games.
- In Gone Home, (released in August 2013 by The Fullbright Company, a video game studio founded by Steve Gaynor and other former members of 2K Marin), the first code to be found is 0451, which unlocks the top drawer of a file cabinet.
- In Firewatch (released in February, 2016), the player comes across a Supply Cache (Cache A44) which he can unlock with the code 1-2-3-4. The preset lock number the box has is 0451.
- In The Novelist (released in December 2013 by Kent Hudson, who worked at Ion Storm on Deus Ex: The Conspiracy and Deus Ex: Invisible War, as well as at 2K Marin on BioShock 2), the location of the house is 451 Torrington Road.
- In Prey (released in May 2017 by Arkane Studios), the code to the office of the protagonist on the Talos I Space Station is 0451.
- In We Happy Few (released in August 2018 by Compulsion Games), the code is used to lift a quarantine in the Parade District of Wellington Wells
- In Half Life: Alyx, a luggage ticket for the North Star Hotel has the number 0451 on it. This ticket can be found hidden in a locker inside the Quarantine Zone.
Other Video Game References
- An obvious reference to the game Pacman can be found on the floor of the Worley Winery in the Farmer's Market. A round of cheese with a wedge taken from it forms the shape of Pacman, placed before six round bullet holes, representing the dots eaten by Pacman for points.
- If you take a look at the gun Turrets, specifically the boxes the guns are mounted on, you can see that the name on the side of the boxes is "Irrational Vegetables And Fruits", referring to the company Irrational Games—BioShock's developers.
- During the opening sequence in the plane Jack is seen glancing at his wallet. Upon closer inspection, one can see an Irrational Games business card in one of the pockets. The person standing between the older man and woman in the family photo at the top of the wallet is the Lead Designer at Irrational Games, Bill Gardner.
- In Sander Cohen's projection booth in Fort Frolic, a reel of movie tape spins in the projector, showing the Irrational Games logo.
- On the wall to the left of the "Would You Kindly" board in Rapture Central Control is a calendar from 1959 open to the month of January. The top part contains a picture of sailboats labeled "The Calm Before the Storm, 1940 Mauricio Tejerina." Mauricio Tejerina was a member of the BioShock development team.
- Before acquiring the wrench as your melee weapon, Atlas asks Jack to "find a crowbar or something". Crowbars are an iconic weapon in the Half-Life series, and are also the first weapons to be obtained.
- Frank Fontaine and Julie Langford mention two real-world magazines: The Saturday Evening Post and National Geographic.
- One of the books found throughout Rapture is titled Applied Headology. This may be a reference to Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, wherein headology is a form of psychology that relies on the principle that a person's beliefs can change their personal reality.
- In Fort Frolic, there is an audio diary left by Martin Finnegan called "The Iceman Cometh," an allusion to a play by the same name written by Eugene O'Neill in 1939.
- Although the names are not mentioned in-game, the names of the sound files used by the Splicers seem to be meaningful, and several of them appear to be references:
- Baby Jane may be a reference to the eponymous character from the film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
- Lady Smith is possibly a reference to the Smith & Wesson Ladysmith, a revolver designed for women.
- Rosebud may be a reference to Citizen Kane, wherein the titular character's last word is "Rosebud," a reference to lost innocence.
- The Houdini Splicers are named after the famous Hungarian-American magician and escapologist, Harry Houdini.
- Alongside various pieces of art direction, there are several direct references to the 1980 film The Shining.
- The name "Never-land" is used by Andrew Ryan to describe Sander Cohen's state in Fort Frolic. Neverland is a fictional island, home to Peter Pan.
- The quote "The power of Christ compels you!", said by the Waders Splicer model, is a reference to the 1973 film: The Exorcism.
- Frankenstein's monster, featured in the 1818 novel Frankenstein/The Modern Prometheus written by Mary Shelley, is referenced twice during BioShock: Atlas uses the term "Tenenbaum's little Frankensteins" to describe the Little Sisters, specifically the first one the player can choose to harvest or rescue in the Medical Pavilion. Julie Langford calls the trees she supposedly will be bringing back to life with the Lazarus Vector project, her "Franken-tree". Frankenstein's monster was created by Victor Frankenstein. The unnamed human-like monster was created by putting together body parts taken from graveyards and butcher shops, and then brought to life.
- In a 2007 interview, creative director Ken Levine cited the 1994 Coen Brothers film, The Hudsucker Proxy, as an inspiration for BioShock's style and design. The opening and final scenes of the film take place on New Year's Eve 1958, which is the same night that the Civil War started in Rapture.
- Ken Levine has stated that the character of Frank Fontaine was partly inspired by Keyser Söze from the film The Usual Suspects. In the film, Keyser Söze is a crime lord whom every criminal is afraid of and is described as a "boogeyman" like Fontaine is in Rapture. The scene where the police officer looks at the bulletin board and figures out who Keyser Söze actually is, also inspired the "Would You Kindly" board in Ryan's office.
- Ayn Rand, on Wikipedia
- Atlas Shrugged, on Wikipedia
- The Fountainhead, on Wikipedia
- Objectivism, on Wikipedia
- Radio Message in Olympus Heights
- Talmud on Wikipedia
- Talmud on Wikiquote
- Roman Mythology, on Wikipedia
- Aphrodite on Wikipedia
- "Et in Arcadia ego" on Wikipedia
- Arcadia on Wikipedia
- "Arcadia Demade", designer commentary by BioShock developer Jean-Paul LeBreton on his blog, vectorpoem.com
- John Maynard Keynes, on Wikipedia
- Adam Smith, on Wikipedia
- Rosie the Riveter, on Wikipedia
- Underwood Typewriter Company, on Wikipedia
- Barbara McClintock, on Wikipedia
- George M. Cohan, on Wikipedia
- Radio Message in Olympus Heights
- Florence Nightingale, on Wikipedia
- Pablo Picasso on Wikipedia
- William Shakespeare on Wikipedia
- John Wayne on Wikipedia
- vo_babyjane_idle: "What's that, fella'? You think I'm prettier than Garbo, huh? Well…"
- Greta Garbo on Wikipedia
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on Wikipedia
- Albert Einstein on Wikipedia
- Hercules on Wikipedia
- System Shock, on Wikipedia
- Cyberpunk, on Wikipedia
- Dieselpunk, on Wikipedia
- Biopunk, on Wikipedia
- System Shock 2
- Looking Glass Studios, on Wikipedia
- System Shock, on Wikipedia
- 0451, July 18, 2008 on Hit Self-Destruct
- Let's Play Deus Ex with Warren Spector, Sheldon Pacotti and Chris Norden on YouTube
- Deus Ex, on Wikipedia
- Ion Storm, on Wikipedia
- Information about the in-game codes from "0451" blog entry, July 18, 2008 on Hit Self-Destruct
- Pacman, on Wikipedia
- BioShock 2 Intro clip on Youtube, at 0:35
- Image of Jack's wallet at The Rapture Archives
- Post by Joe Faulstick on the "A small picture showing you Irrational actually never "died" :)" thread in the Irrational Games Forums
- Radio Message in Point Prometheus
- Julie Langford's Audio Diary: What Won't They Steal
- Headology on the Discworld & Terry Pratchett Wiki
- The Iceman Cometh play, on Wikipedia
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? film on Wikipedia
- Smith & Wesson Ladysmith handguns on Wikipedia
- Citizen Kane on Wikipedia
- Harry Houdini on Wikipedia
- Ken Levine on Twitter
- Aeternum Ars: Bioshock artist Dave Flamburis' portfolio (Archived Version)
- Radio Message in Hephaestus
- Neverland on Wikipedia
- The Exorcist on Wikipedia
- Based on the following exchange in the Medical Pavilion in BioShock:
Brigid Tenenbaum: "Stay away from her, or it is you who will be shot next."
Atlas: "Easy now, Doctor. He's just looking for a wee bit of ADAM, just enough to get by."
Brigid Tenenbaum: "I'll not have him hurt my little ones."
Atlas: "It's okay, lad. That's not a child, not anymore it ain't. Dr. Tenenbaum saw to that."
Brigid Tenenbaum: "Bitte, do not hurt her! Have you no heart?"
Atlas: "Aye, that's a pretty sermon coming from the ghoul who cooked up them creatures in the first place. Took fine little girls and turned them into that, didn't you? Listen to me, boyo: you won't survive without the ADAM those… things… are carrying. Are you prepared to trade your life, the lives of my wife and child, for Tenenbaum's little Frankensteins?"
Brigid Tenenbaum: "Here! There is another way. Use this, free them from their torment. I will make it to be worth your while, somehow."
- Julie Langford's Audio Diary: The Lazarus Vector
- Frankenstein's monster on Wikipedia
- Brush Up for BioShock originally at Gametap.com; archived at archive.org
- The Usual Suspects on Wikipedia
- Ken Levine on BioShock: The Spoiler Interview on shacknews.com