"There's Always a Lighthouse...
There's Always a Man...
There's Always a City."
BioShock is a retro-futuristic series that combines first-person shooter and light role-playing elements in locations on earth, but cut off from the rest of civilization. The series utilizes the Many Worlds Theory as a storytelling device, leaving its narratives open to interpretation. Additionally, the series is notable for exploring philosophical and moral concepts with a strong in-game narrative influenced by concepts such as objectivism (BioShock), total utilitarianism (BioShock 2), and American exceptionalism (BioShock Infinite). The games also touch on cult personalities, capitalism, utopianism, moral absolutism, moral relativism, rationalism, fatherhood, class war, subversion of being, and genetic determinism.
The history of Rapture and the character of Andrew Ryan is loosely based on Rockefeller's story. That man should be driven by selfishness and not altruism, was used to inform the philosophy behind the city of Rapture and Andrew Ryan's work. Many of the characters of Rapture were people who were oppressed once before, and now free of that oppression have turned around and become the oppressors, a fact the developers felt resonated throughout human history.
BioShock 2 focuses on selflessness (the opposite of BioShock 1) with direct contrasts between the extreme politics and selfishness of Andrew Ryan's objectivism, and Lamb's utilitarian and collectivist ideals. BioShock 2 specifically asks players to question all sides of debates when extreme stances are taken. The game also places a heavy focus on familial bonds, both natural and manufactured, and the impression parents leave on their children.
Infinite is more open to interpretation than its predecessors, mirroring the game's vision of quantum mechanics. Creative lead Ken Levine stated that players are supposed to draw their own conclusions from the game, and ultimately decide "what is good and bad". The game has been praised and criticized for its portrayal of politics, social problems, and treatment of race - less about exploring the good and bad sides of racism and more a reflection of the time and how it impacted the year 1912. Levine reasoned that the depictions of white supremacy and white nationalism were warranted in the game, saying that to not do so would be "dishonest" and "strange" to the time period.