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The Video Game City Week: Rapture got the monsters it deserved

We all make choices...

Cities need infrastructure, architecture, people to fill the streets. They need parks and hospitals and hundreds of other things. But a lot of video game cities need something more: monsters! Today, Vivek looks at one of the real classics.

Rapture's Big Daddies

As a fan of Batman, you’d expect my favourite city to be Gotham City in the Arkham series. But… "I rejected these answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose Rapture!"

The underwater city of Rapture in Bioshock is my favourite city in games, and it’s due to the presence of the iconic Big Daddies.

Try to cast your mind back to Bioshock. What do you think of? Easy for me: the introduction of the Big Daddy in that game was utterly terrifying, watching it easily turn a splicer into chum using its drill demonstrated the true strength, speed and power of this terrifying brass-clad monster. The constant threat of these lumbering mini-bosses adds an intensity to the game as they will easily summon the Angel of Death to separate you from your earthly body. So nasty.

Run, I reckon.

They’re iconic. I’m sure that anyone who has played Bioshock remembers the sound of those diver's boots thumping around Rapture. The booming thud, thud, thud letting you know that a Big Daddy is close.

And I think the reason they work is down to AI. The Splicers of Rapture automatically attack you, but this lumbering, terror of the deep is more complicated. They are not hostile on sight, unless first attacked or if you get too close to their Little Sister, the children they protect as they go about their harvesting. As long as you give the Big Daddy space, he'll leave you alone, allowing you freedom to determine the precise state which you fight the Big Daddy in and giving you the chance to prepare the environment with life-saving traps.

As a result, fights with Big Daddies never feel cheap or frustrating: each time you tackle a Big Daddy it is your own choice. This type of player agency and fluidity elevated immersion by humanising the Big Daddy. It makes Rapture feel alive.

Of course, you cannot talk about the city of Rapture without mentioning the creator, Andrew Ryan. He wanted society to rule itself with, “No Gods or King. Only Man.” He wanted to focus on scientific advancements above anything else. The horrific creation of Big Daddies and Little Sisters are directly linked to the scientific innovations of ADAM and Plasmids that Ryan oversaw. However, the heavy reliance on Plasmids by the inhabitants of Rapture caused them to become insane.

And more: Plasmids are the things that draws together the three factions that exist within Rapture, the security, the splicers, and the Big Daddies. Given the power to manipulate your enemies somewhat, say by hypnotising a Big Daddy to aid you, Rapture feels increasingly real, a place with rules and consequences. And at the heart of it all? You guessed it. Thud, thud, thud.

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About the Author
Vivek Gohil avatar

Vivek Gohil


Vivek Gohil is a gaming accessibility consultant and comic nerd. If he's not out killing aliens or smashing faces, then you'll find him gaming using his adapted controller.

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