|Created by Ken Levine|
Voice Armin Shimerman
First game BioShock (2007)
|Voiced by Armin Shimerman|
Creator Ken Levine
|Similar Big Daddy, Sander Cohen, Elizabeth, Yi Suchong, Robert Lutece|
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, and Walt Disney. The character has received significant praise from critics, with Electronic Gaming Monthly ranking him ninth on their list of top ten video game politicians. 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, his world of Rapture compared to the world of Galt's Gulch in the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged.
Concept and creation
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. 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.
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!" He considered Ryan a combination of historical figures such as Howard Hughes and Ayn Rand, though comparing him to John Galt, a character in Rand's Atlas Shrugged, in that he is more similar to a real person, making mistakes and having fear and doubts. Levine purposely named Ryan as he did, using a semi-anagram of Ayn Rand's name to establish the connection. During a questions and answers segment, a questioner stated that he did not want to kill Ryan, asking Levine, "Are still (sic) 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. Levine stated that he did not expect the "ugly comedown from the stratospheric highs" from the Andrew Ryan scene near the end.
Andrew Ryan has objectivist ideals, to a degree that they are the most important thing to him, more so than his own life. 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. Ryan also has a vast hatred for the religious, but more notably the altruistic, as he believes altruism to be the root of all evil.
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, with "parasites" being the only ones who would attempt to deny mankind that of free will. Ryan accentuates this belief to the extreme, denouncing all laws. One of Ryan's main ethics is that of free market, asserting that all industry should be kept completely unfettered by government intervention. 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.
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.
A strong atheist, Ryan disregards all forms of organised religion.
Role in BioShock
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.
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.
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 arch 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...".
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.
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.
He is ranked ninth in Electronic Gaming Monthly's list of the top ten video game politicians. 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. 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.
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". 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. 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".
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." 411 Mania editor Adam Larck agreed, praising the introduction Ryan gives to the player as they enter Rapture. Game Chronicles editor Mark Smith praised the voice acting of the game, praising Shimerman's commitment to the story and theme. Total PlayStation editor gave similar praise to Shimerman, commenting that he and Atlas' voice actor rounded out the cast. 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. 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".
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. Lou Kesten of the San Francisco Chronicle also made this comparison, comparing the name "Andrew Ryan" to the author, "Ayn Rand", in its similarity. Onyett agreed, describing him as a "Randian hero". He has also been compared to the eponymous character of Citizen Kane. Official Xbox Magazine editor Dan Griliopoulos likened his appearance to that of Gomez Addams, the father from The Addams Family. 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. 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.
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." The PlayStation Official Magazine placed him as the eight best videogame villains on PS3.