Andrew Ryan was born Andrei Rianofski in a village near Minsk, Russia. In 1917 he witnessed the revolution that established the Soviet Union, and in 1920 his whole family was murdered by agents of the state. His childhood experiences in his home country helped shape his belief in objectivism. He believed that the modern world was created by great men who strove to make their own way. But when “parasites” took control of that world, they destroyed it.
In 1923 he fled to Britain and studied at Oxford University. He then emigrated to America where he founded Ryan Industries who produced steel products and weapons. For a time, Ryan loved and embraced America due to the wealth and prosperity that it awarded his intellect and determination. In the stock market crash in 1929, Ryan was barely affected. However, the social programs in the 1930’s would test his beliefs. He believed that anyone who benefited from others, while not contributing themselves, was a “parasite”; he thus despised the ideals of charity and generosity. He believed that a man could only own what a man earned.
When Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, he felt that his ideals had been completely compromised. That governmental “parasites” now could destroy anything that they could not seize. He took his whole fortune and created the city of Rapture: a place where “the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great not be constrained by the small”. He built it in the only place where parasites couldn’t get to him, at the bottom of the ocean.
Ryan’s response was to use his entire fortune to build Rapture; a community where “the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small,” in the only place he felt the parasites could not touch — the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. He created a shield company on the surface named Warden Yarn (an anagram of his name), and through it he conducted business with suppliers, such as Orrin Lutwidge’s Scarlett Sovereign Import and Export, to receive materials necessary to build his city. When Rapture was completed, Ryan filled it with several thousand of the world’s best and brightest, and for a time, it was everything he dreamed it would be, a paradise of freedom and prosperity. From 1946 to 1958, Rapture experienced tremendous economic progress, and solid political stability.
As Ryan predicted, citizens in Rapture created a culture of entrepreneurship that was unrivaled, with numerous businesses established and unprecedented scientific advancement, culminating in the discovery of ADAM by Brigid Tenenbaum. The full implications of the Plasmid market were not immediately appreciated by Ryan, who dismissed the concerns of men like Rosenberg and Bill McDonagh. Ryan’s failure to understand the ramifications of the burgeoning ADAM-based culture resulted in the rise of a little-known Fishery owner named Frank Fontaine.
With Rapture at its apogee, Ryan ensured that his greatest supporters maintained control in various sectors of the city. This included Sandler Cohen in Fort Frolic and J.S. Steinman in the Medical Pavilion. Ryan also hired a man named Carlson Fiddle to build Ryan Amusements: a theme park that doubled as a propaganda tool for the children of Rapture. Ryan himself provided narration to many of the rides and animatronic set pieces which attempted to warn children of the evils of the surface. This theme park embraced the city’s new ADAM-culture, exalting Plasmid technologies like Incinerate! in the Hall of the Future section of the park.
However, by filling a city with ambitious experts, trained geniuses, and breakthrough artists, Ryan set up a top-heavy class system with most Rapture citizens feeling that essential jobs such as food processing, cleaning, simple maintenance, etc. were beneath them, and thus were often ignored (as Frank Fontaine put it: “Someone had to scrub the toilets.”). This led to widespread dissatisfaction when these jobs were neglected and an eventual economic collapse throughout Rapture. The social conditions resulting from the economic collapse allowed Frank Fontaine to establish the influential but undermining Fontaine’s Home for the Poor and also allowed Atlas to rise to political power and openly challenge Andrew Ryan’s leadership.
Furthermore, in order to keep Rapture safely hidden from the parasites, Ryan strictly forbade contact with the surface, inadvertently creating a market for Smuggled goods, which in turn led to the rise of Frank Fontaine’s criminal enterprises. At Rapture’s outset, Ryan intended this law to be Rapture’s only one, but in the end, it proved to lay the groundwork for Rapture’s decline and then divisive civil war.
Ryan received challenges from other sectors as well. A seemingly benign psychologist named Sofia Lamb, whom Ryan had invited to Rapture to help the citizens deal with psychological issues stemming from the isolated environment, began to speak out openly against the Ryanist philosophy. Lamb espoused a collectivist, altruist philosophy that could not be more different from Ryan’s. Ryan engaged Lamb in debates about various topics in an attempt to win back public support, but the crowds were usually in Lamb’s favor. Lamb’s followers represented a legitimate challenge of their own, and Ryan eventually removed Lamb altogether by having her incarcerated at Persephone Penal Colony.
Sensing that “the Great Chain was pulling away” from him, as he was to relate in one of his audio diaries, Ryan finally realized the threat that Fontaine posed and began to take steps to curb his influence. Trying to get to the heart of Fontaine’s smuggling operation, he had some of his security forces, such as Sullivan, try to investigate Fontaine and his men. Although these efforts were largely successful in breaking the back of the smuggling operation as a whole, Fontaine himself remained elusive, always managing to be “where the evidence isn’t.” The frustration of this situation affected Ryan deeply, causing him to begin to turn away from his own beliefs. Despite considerable uproar, Ryan implemented a highly unpopular law, sentencing convicted smugglers to death.
Sometime in 1956, an Eve’s Garden exotic dancer by the name of Jasmine Jolene became impregnated by Ryan. Once again showing his gift for foresight, Frank Fontaine made arrangements to purchase the embryo from Jolene, who claimed to “need the money.” By that time, Ryan had much of Rapture’s security and infrastructure coded to his own genetic frequency to combat the growing threat of the destabilized society. Fontaine realized that Jack, as the child was named, could be a powerful ally. Jack would share genetic code with Ryan, giving Jack access to secure areas that only Ryan and his relatives had access to. When Ryan learned what Jasmine Jolene did, he killed her in a fit of rage.
With the smuggling operation in its death throes, Ryan sought a decisive conclusion to the Fontaine question. Ryan authorized putting an end to Fontaine and the remainder of his operation. An unrepentant Fontaine chose to, as Bill McDonagh put it, go down like “John Bloody Wayne” in one last stand. As the famous Rapture Standard headline proclaimed: “Ryan takes down smuggling operation … Fontaine and thugs killed in fiery shootout!” on September 12th, 1958.
Unbeknownst to Ryan, his arch rival concocted a scheme to fake his death. As Fontaine was later to relate in one of his Audio Diaries: “Ryan wanted Frank Fontaine dead, I just gave him what he wanted. As Atlas, I got a new face, a clean record, and a fresh start.” Although Frank Fontaine was dead, out of his ashes emerged Atlas, an adversary that would prove much more dangerous than Fontaine ever was. Though Fontaine was correctly looked on as a thug by much of the Rapture public, Atlas was beloved, and for many he represented a legitimate alternative to the increasingly tyrannical Ryan.
In the aftermath of Fontaine’s perceived death, Ryan took a step that proved to be yet another betrayal of his philosophy, the nationalization of Fontaine Futuristics. Although he built Rapture to escape the sort of “big government” that would take over private industry, Ryan now engaged in precisely the same behavior. This move shook Rapture to its core, and proved to be a turning point in its decline. Even his long time friend, Bill McDonagh resigned from the Central Council in protest of this move.
Rapture’s high water mark can be traced to nearly an exact moment: New Year’s Eve, 1958. In a televised broadcast that night, Ryan acknowledged “trials” in the previous year but offered a toast to the city that 1959 may be Rapture’s finest year. Alas, it was not to be. Just moments after his broadcast, the citizens of Rapture were alerted to an “incident” in the Kashmir Restaurant. This incident marked the most significant turning point in Rapture’s decline as a civilized society. On this night, a masquerade ball was organized for Rapture’s elite in the plush Kashmir Restaurant. During the festivities, a group of Atlas’ revolutionaries launched an attack on the restaurant.
Ryan and Atlas engaged in a destructive civil war that brought ruin to the city and claimed the lives of an untold number of its citizens. It was hoped that a peaceful resolution to the conflict could be achieved and that Ryan would be forced to address many of the Atlas supporters’ grievances. However, Ryan refused to compromise with the “parasites” and was intent on fighting to the end even if it brought down the entire city. Plasmid technologies played a central role in the conflict, with the “genetic arms race” as McDonagh coined it, leading to the development of many combat Plasmids and Gene Tonics. Ryan’s heavy-handed approach alienated many of his former supporters, even turning his closest friends, McDonagh and McClintock, against him. Ryan faced at least three assassination attempts by people who could get close to him. The corpses of many of these former supporters were mounted on the wall leading to his office as “trophies”.
As the civil war deepened, Yi Suchong proposed an unconventional means of breaking the stalemate that currently divided the city. He proposed altering the structure of the commercial Plasmid line to make citizens susceptible to mental suggestion by pheromones. This represented the ultimate betrayal of Ryan’s objectivist philosophy: to deny citizens even the ability of free will itself. Yet Ryan agreed to this with the justification that Atlas and his supporters would make them slaves and free will would vanish in any case. Thus, the situation can be seen as ironic: in fighting his enemy, he became the enemy; he ultimately became one of the “Parasites” that he built Rapture to escape from. These pheromones proved decisive in turning the tide of the civil war in Ryan’s favor. With the situation now desperate and, with only a few unspliced followers who weren’t susceptible to Ryan’s pheromones, such as Johnny, Atlas was forced to use his “ace in the hole”.
Ryan is an ever-present voice while Jack travels through Rapture. Frank Fontaine sends Jack on his journey to kill Ryan using the “would you kindly” trigger phrase, though Ryan is not aware of this at first. When Jack first arrives in Rapture, Ryan assumes he is someone from the Russian K.G.B. or the American C.I.A., come to make an already disintegrating situation worse. After Jack makes it safely out of Arcadia, Ryan begins to piece together the puzzle, realizing that it is Atlas who is directing Jack’s movements.
As Jack heads to Rapture Central Control, Ryan begins to hint at this knowledge in his final radio messages before his face-to-face meeting with Jack. The “Would You Kindly” board outside his office shows how Ryan put together the clues connecting himself with Jasmine Jolene, and Jack as their illegitimate son. Infuriated with this knowledge, Ryan decides to activate Rapture’s self-destruct mechanism in a final attempt to put a stop to Fontaine’s plan.
Minutes later, Jack confronts Ryan, who is casually playing golf in his office. He educates Jack about his true self, telling him of his birth, his conditioning, his experiences in Rapture and the phrase “would you kindly”, which controlled his every action. He tells his son that the fundamental difference between a man and a slave is that “a man chooses, while a slave obeys.” Ryan then hands Jack the golf club and orders Jack to kill him. Jack obeys, and proceeds to beat his father to death. With Ryan dead, Jack claims the genetic key to Rapture’s systems from Ryan’s corpse. With the Vita-Chamber in Ryan’s office deactivated, Ryan is officially dead and cannot be resurrected.
Andrew Ryan is featured in BioShock 2, which takes place eight years after the events of the first game. Although dead, his presence remains through Audio Diaries scattered across the levels. His ideals are also shown in Ryan Amusements through the large mechanical puppet devices showing his versions of the “parasites’ world” and the player is able to listen to his voice booming over the scenery there. The relationship between Ryan and his political opponent, Sofia Lamb, is also detailed throughout the game.
In the DLC, Minerva’s Den, it’s revealed that Ryan employed Charles Milton Porter and Reed Wahl to create Rapture Central Computing and build The Thinker. He initially congratulated Porter on his success, but as time passed, Ryan grew suspicious of him. As Frank Fontaine rose to power, so did Ryan’s paranoia, to the point where he became convinced that Porter had defected, as Fontaine had also shown an interest in computing. This inspired Wahl to use The Thinker to produce a false Audio Diary, in which Porter claimed to support Fontaine. Seizing upon the occasion, Ryan had Porter arrested and incarcerated in Persephone for his “crime”, leaving Wahl in control of Minerva’s Den.
Andrew Ryan’s voice is provided by Armin Shimerman.
- Andrew Ryan is one of the few characters in the original Bioshock with a unique character model.
- In order to receive the “9 Irony” Achievement in Bioshock 2, the player must re-enact Jack’s encounter with Andrew Ryan by utilizing telekinesis, a golf club, and a animatronic Andrew Ryan in Ryan Amusements.
- Andrew Ryan’s name is an anagram of Ayn Rand, with the letters REW added in. Additionally, his political philosophies and personal history are very similar to hers. For example, they were both born in Russia and emigrated to America after their home country adopted a Communist regime, and both believed in the philosophy of Objectivism.
- Considering Ryan’s “normal-looking” appearance in comparison to the Splicers of the game, it seems somewhat unlikely that he ever was an ADAM user, or at least wasn’t addicted to and mutated by it.
“A man chooses, a slave obeys.”
” What is the difference between a man and a parasite? A man builds. A parasite asks ‘Where is my share?’ A man creates. A parasite says, ‘What will the neighbors think?’ A man invents. A parasite says, ‘Watch out, or you might tread on the toes of God… ‘ “
“I am Andrew Ryan, and I’m here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? ‘No!’ says the man in Washington, ‘It belongs to the poor.’ ‘No!’ says the man in the Vatican, ‘It belongs to God.’ ‘No!’ says the man in Moscow, ‘It belongs to everyone.’ I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, Where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city.”
“Could I have made mistakes? One does not build cities if one is guided by doubt. But can one govern in absolute certainty? I know that my beliefs have elevated me, just as I know that the things I have rejected would have destroyed me. But the city…. it is collapsing before my…. have I become so convinced by my own beliefs that I have stopped seeing the truth? Perhaps. But Atlas is out there, and he aims to destroy me, and destroy my city. To question is to surrender. I will not question.”
“I believe in no God, no invisible man in the sky. But there is something more powerful in each of us, a combination of our efforts, a Great Chain of Industry that unites us. But it is only when we struggle in our own interests that the chain pulls society in the right direction. The chain is too powerful and too mysterious for any government to guide. Any man who tells you differently either has his hand in your pocket or a pistol to your neck.”
“It wasn’t impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the sea. It was impossible to build it anywhere else.”
“On the surface, I once bought a forest. The Parasites claimed that the land belonged to God, and demanded that I establish a public park there. Why? So the rabble could stand slack-jawed under the canopy and pretend that it was paradise earthed. When Congress moved to nationalize my forest, I burnt it to the ground. God did not plant the seeds of this Arcadia, I did.”
“We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.”
“I am Andrew Ryan, and I am here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?
‘No,’ says the man in Washington, ‘it belongs to the poor.
‘No,’ says the man in the Vatican, ‘it belongs to God.
‘No,’ says the man in Moscow, ‘it belongs to everyone.
I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose…
A city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small.
And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city, as well.”