Revisiting Rapture

Revisiting Rapture

A return trip to the beloved underwater dystopia.

It’s been a while, a long while actually, since I last stepped foot into “Bioshock’s” hauntingly beautiful art-deco dystopia. I couldn’t remember the last time I had gone toe-to-toe with the hulking Big Daddies and mentally anguished Splicers that roamed Rapture’s underwater halls, yet it felt as if I’d never put down the controller. It felt as if I had suddenly jumped back to 2007, only around 14 years old at the time, gripping the Xbox 360’s controller, not wanting to turn off the game even after hours of exploration and tense firefights. I found myself almost immediately picking up old habits from when I played as a teenager, obsessively hacking every turret, security camera, and vending machine I could find, approaching combat with uneasy caution, and allowing myself moments to simply take in the city’s gorgeous (though dilapidated) architecture. Even with all the familiarity, however, “Bioshock” feels just as creative and atmospheric as the first time I played.

There is a real sense of dread in the original “Bioshock” game, a tension that pulls you in and makes even easy encounters with enemies feel fraught with danger. This is a game world that does not want you to grow comfortable, a game where you are alone throughout, accompanied only by disembodied voices over the radio or forever entombed in audio diaries. The rest of your adventure is spent mostly in solitude, roaming dimly lit hallways and the melancholic remnants of a failed utopian city. Outside the crumbling walls of Rapture is the Atlantic, ocean water oppressively seeping through cracked walls and burst pipes, keeping you constantly aware that you are trapped in a claustrophobic ruin, crawling with twisted characters and science-fiction terrors.

Even now, years after originally completing the game, “Bioshock” still manages to enthral me. Garry Schyman’s orchestral score flourishes and sways at all the right moments, rumbling bass tones evoke nautical imagery as high strings seem to swarm in with creeping warnings of impending doom. When the orchestra is not providing the tonal punches it is the sound design of the world itself that creates these strange, dark moments. Jukeboxes flicker erratically as pleasant classics such as Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” flutter on, their casual, sunny dispositions sprinkled throughout the dank halls of Rapture, juxtaposed perfectly against the more sinister tone of the game and its world. More than just a clever opposite of the overarching tone, these songs, alongside old advertisements and other elements of the city serve as a reminder to the player of what once was, before the societal collapse.

While the smaller moments that build the game are rife with sombre reflection and muscle-tensing terror, the story and themes of “Bioshock” stand as some of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and literary in gaming. The entire city of Rapture, and its founder, Andrew Ryan, are both critiques of Ayn Rand’s works, “Atlas Shrugged” in particular. The game world is founded upon Libertarian and Objectivist ideals, leaving the player to stumble through the wreckage of a great social experiment gone awry. By the finale you are left with the ghosts of this city, and the ideologues that served as its stewards, haunting you. Moral choices throughout the game change the ending in different ways, but when it is all said and done you are still alone with the questions that Rapture’s denizens have left for you.

“Bioshock’s” questions on morality, humanity, society, and the illusions of choice are thoughtful and tragic, executed brilliantly by writer/director Ken Levine and his staff, and have stuck with me to this day. With the recent release of the remastered editions and the fairly cheap prices that old copies can be bought for there is no reason not to give Irrational Games’ masterwork a chance. If you have never delved into the waterlogged art-deco ruins of Rapture it is a journey well worth undertaking. If you, like me, have wandered its grief-stricken halls before and want to return to the city under the sea there is no better time than now.

Cover Image Credit: Bioshock WIki

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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To Fix Taxes, We Have To Rethink 'Wealthy'

"Wealthy" doesn't mean the same for everyone.


When discussing taxes today, so many politicians are quick to rush to the adage "tax the rich." Bernie Sanders has called for the rich to be taxed higher to pay for Medicare for All. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for a 70% tax on the wealthy.

However, all of these proposals are missing a key thing: a true definition of rich.

When thinking about what counts as rich, it is important to distinguish between the "working wealthy" and the "investment wealthy."

The working wealthy are the people in society that get paid highly because they have a high skill set and provide an extremely valuable service that they deserve just compensation for. This class is made up of professionals like lawyers, doctors, and CEOs. In addition, the working wealthy are characterized by another crucial aspect: over a long term calculation of their earned income over time, they don't come out as prosperous as their annual incomes would seem to suggest. This is because this set of the wealthy has to plunge into student debt for degrees that take years to acquire. These jobs generally also require a huge amount of time invested in lower-paying positions, apprenticeships, and internships before the big-money starts coming in.

On the other hand, the investment wealthy is completely different. These are the people that merely sit back and manipulate money without truly contributing to anything in society. A vast majority of this class is born into money and they use investments into stocks and bonds as well as tax loopholes to generate their money without actually contributing much to society as a whole.

What makes the investment wealthy so different from the working wealthy is their ability to use manipulative techniques to avoid paying taxes. While the working wealthy are rich, they do not have AS many resources or connections to manipulate tax laws the way that the investment wealthy can. The investment wealthy has access to overseas banking accounts to wash money though. The investment wealthy can afford lawyers to comb over tax laws and find loopholes for ridiculous prices. This is tax evasion that the working wealthy simply does not have access to.

That is why it is so incredibly important to make sure that we distinguish between the two when discussing tax policy. When we use blanket statements like "tax the rich," we forget the real reasons that the investment wealthy are able to pay such low taxes now. Imposing a larger marginal tax rate will only give them more incentive to move around taxes while squeezing the working wealthy even more.

Because of this, in our taxation discourse, we need to focus first on making sure people pay their taxes, to begin with. Things like a tax of Wall Street speculation, capital gains taxes, a closing of loopholes, and a simplification of the tax code. These things will have a marked improvement in making sure that the investment wealthy actually pays the taxes we already expect of them now. If we stick to the same message, the only thing we will be changing is the rate that the uber-wealthy are avoiding.

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