- “Would you kindly'… Powerful phrase. Familiar phrase?”
- ― Andrew Ryan[src]
"Would you kindly" is a phrase that was programmed to function as a trigger for the post-hypnotic suggestions programmed into the mind of Jack. The system was created by Dr. Yi Suchong and was used by Frank Fontaine, posing as Atlas, to control Jack's actions while guiding him through Rapture to achieve his plans for killing Andrew Ryan.
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The phrase is first seen on the gift from home Jack is holding during the flight at the beginning of the game. The message is only fully seen later through a flashback which reveals that the contents of the package included a letter containing the trigger phrase along with coordinates for bringing down the plane near the Lighthouse, the surface entrance to Rapture.
Acting as Atlas, Fontaine contacted and guided Jack as soon as he reached the city. Fontaine used the control phrase sparingly; for instance, he never commanded Jack to harvest Little Sisters, allowing him to choose freely whether to harvest or save them, probably so Jack would not suspect his manipulations. Using too much of this specific phrase might have tipped his hand and revealed his true identity to Ryan and Brigid Tenenbaum (who worked in collaboration with Suchong on Jack's body), among others.
Not long before Jack was able to reach him, Ryan pieced together the plot against him and the mind control phrase's power over Jack. During their final confrontation, Ryan demonstrates it to Jack and then uses it to force Jack to kill him, illustrating the personal philosophy he maintained all his life: "A man chooses, a slave obeys."
Later, Fontaine tries to use the phrase to force Jack to commit suicide, but this fails because Tenenbaum has already removed the trigger and others from Jack's mind while he was unconscious in her sanctuary.
Fontaine, however, answers to this by utilizing another trigger phrase: "Code Yellow", which according to him is supposed to order Jack's heart to stop beating in order to kill him. However, because the heart is an autonomous muscle that acts independently from the brain, the phrase only results in Jack's maximum health being lowered on multiple instances until he can obtain an antidote to rid himself completely of Fontaine's mind control.
Usage Throughout the Game
- Apollo Air Flight DF-0301: At the beginning of the game, in Jack's letter. "To Jack, with love from Mom & Dad. Would you kindly not open until…" It is later revealed that the package contains a pistol, and the rest of the note has geographic coordinates on it; that is where Jack is to use the pistol to hijack the plane and bring it crashing down near the Lighthouse.
- Welcome to Rapture: Before Jack picks up the radio, Atlas says "Would you kindly pick up that shortwave radio?".
- Welcome to Rapture: Before Jack picks up the Wrench, Atlas says "Now, would you kindly find a crowbar or something?".
- Welcome to Rapture: When Jack first encounters a Little Sister, Atlas says "Careful now…would you kindly lower that weapon for a moment?".
- Neptune's Bounty: After Jack finishes photographing the Spider Splicers in the level, Atlas says "Head over to Fontaine Fisheries when you're ready, would you kindly?".
- Arcadia: If Jack takes too long before making the Lazarus Vector then Atlas will say "Would you kindly get this thing crafted already? Air's only getting thinner down here."
- Fort Frolic: After Jack confronts Sander Cohen, Atlas says "Would you kindly leg on over to the 'sphere and get on down to Hephaestus?".
- Hephaestus: After Jack enters level, Atlas says "Now, would you kindly head to Ryan's office and kill the son of a bitch?".
- Rapture Central Control: Scrawled in red spray paint on the wall with the photos just outside Ryan's office, where the audio diary "Mind Control Test" is located. On the audio diary itself, Suchong says "Break that puppy's neck, would you kindly?".
- Rapture Central Control: When Andrew Ryan controls him with the words, with commands like "Sit, would you kindly…", ultimately leading to "Kill!", causing Jack to obediently murder Ryan.
- Rapture Central Control: After Jack kills Andrew Ryan and retrieves his genetic key to the city's master controls, Atlas says "Now would you kindly put it in the goddamn machine?!".
- Olympus Heights: Immediately after leaving Tenenbaum's Sanctuary, twice, spoken by Fontaine. "Go get stepped on by a Big Daddy, would you kindly? Huh? I says, would you kindly go get stepped on by a Big Daddy?" (By this point, Brigid Tenenbaum has cured Jack of the phrase's hypnotic suggestion, so it had no effect on him).
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In "Means of Control", Lamb reflects over the news of Ryan's death at the hands of Jack. She is also somehow aware of Jack's mental conditioning and ponders the idea of taking advantage of it for her own agenda. In "Gil's Place in the Plan", it is revealed that Sofia had implemented behavioral constraints inspired by "Project W-Y-K" on Gilbert Alexander that would make it his instinct to serve what she had defined as the "common good", and become the first "Utopian" she idealized.
It is likely that in spite of being strongly inspired by its achievement, Lamb had managed to dig up very little about the nature of the mind control used to manipulate Jack, including the exact words of the trigger phrase and the mechanism of the mental control conditioning itself. This can be inferred by the context in which "Project W-Y-K" was mentioned by Lamb; implying it to be behavioral conditioning via a gauntlet of various platforms in psychiatric treatment. It is evident that Lamb's project had some results, as she had managed to place Augustus Sinclair under her thrall when he was captured and converted into an Alpha Series Big Daddy, and having him attack Subject Delta against his own will.
Burial at Sea - Episode 2
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While trapped in Fontaine's, some of Atlas' men back up in the city attempted to track down something referred to as the "Ace in the Hole". They kept Atlas up to date on the search by sending him messages via morse code, but they were unsuccessful in finding the Ace; Tenenbaum was presumed either dead or in hiding, and Suchong was protected by Ryan.
When Elizabeth is forced by Atlas to retrieve the "Ace in the Hole" from Suchong's lab, she manages to locate it and decode it using the Vigenère cipher before giving the code to him. Through a series of visions, it is revealed to the player that the phrase is "Would You Kindly". Elizabeth sees through multiple visions the future of Atlas, seeing his downfall as Fontaine by Jack's hands, as well as Sally being among the Little Sisters rescued by Jack. Knowing this, she willingly gives it before Atlas kills her, with Sally remaining by her side.
Behind the Scenes
- Unused audio files reveal that "Would You Kindly" would have been said an additional time in Apollo Air Flight DF-0301, by a plane hostess with a southern accent.
- The "Would You Kindly" board in Rapture Central Control was inspired by the film The Usual Suspects, where the police officer discovers who Keyser Söze really is, which is similar to the revelation of Atlas' true identity.
- Before the phrase "Would You Kindly" was chosen, the developers also considered the word "Excelsior", a Latin phrase for "Over God",  and the Latin phrase "Cedo Maiori" (I yield to a greater person).
- During the first half of 2006, Hellquist wrote an outline script for each area in the game that Levine could work from when he came to write the first draft of the dialogue. Hellquist had the idea of making the control a spoken phrase. Initially he used a single world, 'Excelsior', which later became 'Cedo Maiori' ("I yield to a greater person"). But these phrases too obviously signalled Atlas's treachery. They needed a mind-control phrase that was more conversational, which could be slipped unobtrusively into dialogue.
- As the team prepared to show off the game at the E3 games conference in 2006, Levine began to work on a marketing tagline for the game. He settled on, "Would you kill people, even innocent people, to survive?" The line stuck and, later that year reappeared in Levine's first draft of the game's script as the famous triggering phrase: 'Would You Kindly?'
- An Excelsior reference still remains in the game in a poster for Excelsior Elevator Repair.
- Unknown plane hostess (southern accent): "Excuse me, sir, excuse me… Excuse me, sir, your tray table? Would you kindly—"
- Ken Levine on BioShock: The Spoiler Interview at shacknews.com
- BioShock: The Collection - Director's Commentary - Excelsior
- Rapture leaked: The true story behind the making of BioShock published on EuroGamer on September 18, 2016