BioShock 2 was released on Tuesday of last week. It is an enjoyable game and very similar to its 2007 predecessor, but I’m sure there will be a review of it in the Features section soon. Instead, I’d like to write about the game’s setting and theme. While the central story of the game has taken a more emotional than philosophical turn this time around, it still takes place in the defunct, dystopian city of Rapture, which itself was created based on the philosophy of objectivism.
Rapture is a city built under the ocean in the 1960s that was meant to be an escape from the rest of the “parasitic” world, as declared by its founder. Rapture is a community in which an individual’s greatest asset is oneself, and his/her value is measured by the work one performs. It is survival of the fittest, both before and after the fall of Rapture. In Rapture, science is the catalyst of destruction. Rapture fell because its inhabitants practiced objectivism.
The backstory of Rapture is based upon Atlas Shrugged, a novel written by Ayn Rand in 1957. Fed up with the government, corporations, and the people who participate in each, the most powerful leaders in the country begin to disappear to found a society based on their collective values of reason and self accountability. The plot is similar to BioShock, but the outcome is entirely different. In Rand’s world, science is the tool that the protagonists use to augment and advance their society, while the rest of the world falls into disarray.
Objectivism is the thread that links both works. Objectivism holds that the only way to learn about reality is through reasoning and that the purpose of life is to be happy. In order to be happy, individuals must have absolute freedom. In order to live, each individual must support himself. Objectivism is a religion, a philosophy, a set of beliefs, a cult, and a way of life. It is firmly open to interpretation by the individual, and it encourages skepticism. The only person you are responsible for is yourself. Objectivism is drastic and overly simplistic.
The dramatized worlds of BioShock and Atlas Shrugged explore opposite outcomes of the same philosophy. Whether or not you believe in the tenants of objectivism, they are well worth your time to explore. At the very least you will read a good book, play a fun videogame, and acquire a new lens through which to view the world.
Editor’s Note: “The Latent Spark” is an opinion column granted by the Editorial Board to the College Libertarians.