Andrew Ryan
Andrew Ryan

Andrew Ryan, as he appeared in BioShock
Game series BioShock
First game BioShock (2008)
Voiced by Armin Shimerman

Andrew Ryan is a fictional character and the main antagonist in the 2007 video game BioShock. The character has received significant praise from critics, including his voice actor, Armin Shimerman, whose voice talent was cited as one of the contributing factors to BioShock winning "Best use of sound" from IGN. He has been compared to several different real-life and fictional figures, his world of Rapture compared to the world of Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, while creator Ken Levine compared him to Ayn Rand herself, as well as Howard Hughes.

Concept and creation

BioShock director Ken Levine described Andrew Ryan as a character of ideals, in contrast to another character, Frank Fontaine, who has no ideals. Designing the boss battle between the player and Ryan was a controversial decision for the developers, due to the question of what the players' motive is at this point. Ryan taking his own life to prevent Jack, the protagonist, from accomplishing this, was described as the "ultimate insult" by Levine. The scene took a long time for the developers to finish. Levine stated that they figured out the question of who the character of Andrew Ryan is too early, adding that they underestimated the impact that this would make.[1] While he is saner than the opponents the players encounter before him, including a plastic surgeon who takes his ideal of beauty too far, he is as unmovable as they are, unwilling to change his ideals. When discussing how many people would get the good ending to BioShock, he commented that Ryan would not, choosing to take the easier path.[2]

In creating the world of Rapture, Levine imagined a utopia that its creators did not want anyone to find. Following this, he created the character of Ryan as its creator, giving him a "pseudo-objectivism and extremely capitalistic view on the world" as well as a fear of the New Dealers in the United States and Stalinists in Russia would find it. Levine states that to him, Ryan's philosophies come from Art Deco, describing the style as "Yes, we are men, and we control the universe!".[3] He considered Ryan a combination of historical figures such as Howard Hughes and Ayn Rand, though comparing him to character John Galt in that he is more similar to a real person, making mistakes and having fear and doubts.[4] During a questions and answers segment, a questioner stated that he did not want to kill Ryan, asking Levine ""Are still doomed to make games where we have to use plot devices to clean that up?" to which Levine responded that video games were admittedly linear, saying that it was hard enough to come up with one good plot, let alone multiple ones.[1] Levine stated that he did not expect the "ugly comedown from the stratospheric highs" from the Andrew Ryan scene near the end.[5]


Ryan was born Andrei Rianofski in Minsk in 1892 to a rich family that were important figures in the Russian government. As a result, he was witness to the murder of his entire family by the Bolsheviks in 1918. He was then sent to a work camp in the Gulag until he escaped in 1919. [6]

His experiences under Soviet rule led Andrew Ryan to his personal philosophy: the modern world was created by great men who strove to make their own way. Anytime "parasites" gained control of such a world, they destroyed it. After his escape from Russia, he traveled to Britain where he enrolled as a student at Oxford University. He later emigrated to America in 1927, believing it is a place where a great man could prosper.

For a time, he was devoted to his adopted country, grateful for the wealth and fame it awarded his intellect and determination. It was there he founded Ryan Industries, a manufacturer of steel products and weapons. In the stock market crash of 1929, Ryan was barely affected. In 1932, he was named by "Life Magazine" as the youngest billionaire in the country.

However, the social programs adopted in the 30s increasingly tested that devotion. His experiences in the "worker's paradise" made Ryan despise the ideals of Socialism, believing that those who benefited from others were parasites. In his mind, one could only own what one earned. For instance, he once owned a large forest as a personal retreat, one that many groups envied (one of them saying that it "belonged to God" as Andrew Ryan put it). Eventually, the government attempted to nationalize it as parkland. His response, before surrendering it, was to burn it to the ground, thus keeping the parasites from taking what was his.[7]

The final straw for Ryan was the destruction of Hiroshima with the Atomic Bomb. In his eyes, the Bomb was the ultimate corruption of his ideals — science and determination harnessed for destruction, creating a weapon that gave the parasites the ability to destroy anything that they could not seize.

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 not be constrained by the small," in the only place he felt the parasites could not touch — the depths of the Atlantic ocean. He used his company called Warden Yarn on the surface to order metal for his city. Meltzer hinted for a yarn company that was a lot of metal. Ryan filled his city 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 wealth.

There was only one flaw in his plan: the reason he built the city in the first place. To keep Rapture safely hidden from the parasites, he strictly forbade contact with the surface, inadvertently creating a market for smuggled goods, which in turn led to the rise of the one thing Ryan had been unable to imagine — a brilliant and determined man for whom freedom, wealth and comfort were not enough. A man who could only be satisfied by control — former mobster Frank Fontaine.

Fontaine's life prior to becoming a citizen of Rapture provided the skills that allowed him to dominate the small black market in smuggled goods the city's forced isolation made possible. The wealth gleaned from that small black market funded Bridgette Tenenbaum's research into a mysterious sea slug, making him the primary distributor of ADAM. As Rapture was completely isolated from the surface world, few were aware of the chaos of the post-war reconstruction era, and Fontaine was easily able to sway the lower classes with promises of revolution. With black-market wealth, ADAM-based biotech, and duplicitous propaganda, it took him less than three years to acquire the power to challenge Ryan openly.

The idealistic Ryan was totally unprepared for the brutality of armed conflict as opposed to the genteel honor of economic competition. As Rapture fell into chaos due to the machinations of first Fontaine and later Atlas he grew ever more desperate in his efforts to protect his utopia. Out of obsession with his enemy, he became his enemy.

His war with Fontaine put paid to the freedoms which made his city prosper. His decision to alter plasmids so he could control their users with pheremones reduced its population to slaves. Eventually, he abandoned each of his ideals until he was nothing more than a tyrant spouting monologues of self-determination while smiting his enemies like a spoiled god. He became one of the very parasites he had built Rapture as a sanctuary from, and he was destroying it — just like he believed all "parasites" did to great things.

BioShock series


Ryan is an ever-present voice while Jack travels through Rapture. Frank Fontaine set Jack on his journey to kill Ryan using the "would you kindly" trigger phrase, but at first Ryan did not know that was the case. When Jack first arrives in Rapture Ryan assumes the trespasser is someone from the Russian KGB or FBI, come to make an already disintegrating situation worse. After Jack made it safely out of Arcadia Ryan began to piece together the puzzle, realizing that it is "Atlas" who is directing Jack's movements [8].

However, it is only when Jack is halfway to breaking down his defenses in Rapture Central Control that Ryan truly realizes who his enemy is. He hints 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 he put together the clues connecting himself with Jasmine Jolene, and Jack as their illegitimate son, whom Jasmine had sold to Frank Fontaine before he was born. His own flesh and blood, reduced to a puppet, was the ultimate insult this world could have given to Andrew Ryan. Looking at his life and his works, now all in ruin — by his own hand as much as his enemies' — he decided to die as he had lived: on his own terms, by setting Rapture's self-destruct mechanism.

Minutes later, Ryan is confronted by Jack. With the trigger phrase, he could have controlled Jack as Atlas did, and directed him against his enemy. Instead, he educates Jack about his true self while calmly putting golf balls into a shot glass, 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 it is not money or power that make people great, but that "A man chooses, a slave obeys". He then hands his son the club.

And orders him to kill him. Jack obeys. As he batters his father to death, Andrew Ryan seems to plead to his son that, "a man chooses, a slave obeys." But Jack has no choice but to shatter his father's skull with the broken club and claim Atlas' prize - the genetic key to Rapture's systems.

On the way to the controls, Jack notices a Vita-Chamber - a deactivated chamber. Rather than fleeing or doing battle with Jack, Ryan had shut it down, to prevent the device from resurrecting him, before confronting his son for the first and last time - Andrew Ryan, industrialist, inventor, and father, was irreversibly dead at age 68.

There are a number of theories as to the motivations for Ryan's assisted suicide.

Some say that with his city and his dreams in ruins, Andrew Ryan lacked the courage to live in a world not under his own control, and instead chooses permanent death; this is ironic in that Ryan, who has not hesitated to murder others for his own ends, cannot find the fortitude to commit the final act himself, instead relying upon Jack to do it for him.

Others say that Andrew Ryan saw this as his only chance to be a father to his son; to teach him to be a man, not a slave. He ordered Jack to kill him to demonstrate that a man chooses his own destiny; that he, a man, would not be controlled. If the conditioning could be broken, this challenge was the only way he could imagine to make the attempt. And if the attempt led to his death, perhaps that might accomplish what the challenge could not. By deactivating the Vita-Chamber he could demonstrate to Jack that he would rather die than live as a slave to Atlas's whims. If this is the case, he succeeded; Jack immediately sets out to free himself from Atlas' control, and ultimately avenges his father by slaying Fontaine.

BioShock 2

2K Marin announced that Andrew Ryan is indeed deceased after Jack killed him in Hephaestus and will not be making another appearance in the sequel. However, you can still hear Ryan's recorded announcements throughout Rapture and in his audio diaries. We will also learn about his political rival Sofia Lamb through audio diaries found thoughout the game.


Andrew Ryan has strong ideals, so much so that they are the most important thing to him, trumping his own life.[2]


To date, Ryan has only appeared in the video game BioShock, as its primary antagonist.


File:Armin Shimerman.jpg

He is ranked ninth in Electronic Gaming Monthly’s list of the top ten video game politicians.[9] IGN editor Charles Onyett described him as "anything but a prototypical villain", describing him as having a bottomless ambition for creating a city at the bottom of the sea. He added that while his words resemble "totalitarian propaganda", players cannot help but sympathize with him.[10] During a discussion about the potential plot of the game's sequel BioShock 2, it was often brought up by editor Hilary Goldstein that Ryan should reappear in it, and that while it should be in a new area, it should still have connections to him. Onyett called Ryan a key element, and if not included in the sequel, there would be a dramatic loss of personality. He claimed that much of Rapture's personality comes from Ryan, and it would have much less of an impact without him. Editor Ryan Geddes agreed, adding that he felt there was more to Ryan than Rapture. Editor Nate Ahem suggested that the game's sequel, BioShock 2, could potentially put the players in the role of Ryan, to explore the story of trying to create a perfect world and having it crumble beneath their feet.[11]

Gamasutra editor Leigh Alexander ranked him the third most affecting characters of 2007, behind GLaDOS from Portal and player-created characters such as in massive multiplayer online role-playing games. Leigh calls him a "cautionary example of the danger of pure philosophy", adding that while he begins as the primary antagonist, players sympathize with him once it becomes clear that he is so "bitterly wrong".[12] Adam Volk of Gamasutra described him as a fascinating take on the mad scientist character, adding that if more developers steer away from stereotypes of the character type, these characters could easily rival those in film, television, or novels.[13]

Onyett praised Armin Shimerman for his portrayal of Ryan, calling him a "joy to listen to" and adding that he would "give Stephen Colbert a run for his money."[10] 411 Mania editor Adam Larck agreed, praising the introduction Ryan gives to the player as they enter Rapture.[14] Game Chronicles editor Mark Smith praised the voice acting of the game, praising Shimerman's commitment to the story and theme.[15] Total PlayStation editor gave similar praise to Shimerman, commenting that he and Atlas' voice actor rounded out the cast.[16] Worthplaying editor Brian Dumlao commented that Ryan's voice "conveys ... the struggle of a man whose ideals are being threatened by a rival businessman", and praising the delivery of the actors to why the story is so good.[17] In their game of the year awards, IGN praised the voice acting, citing Ryan's speech he delivers to players as what convinced them. They awarded BioShock "Best use of sound".[18]

He has been compared to several other characters in fiction and real life. Ryan's world of Rapture has been compared to that of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which similarly was created by the world's greatest minds, and went to hell without them. Blog Critics editor described Ryan as arrogant, greedy, and naive, adding that these traits led Rapture to destruction.[19] Lou Kesten of the San Fransisco Chronicle also made this comparison, comparing the name "Andrew Ryan" to the author, "Ayn Rand", in its similarity.[20] Onyett agreed, describing him as a "Randian hero".[10] He has also been compared to the eponymous character of Citizen Kane.[21] Official Xbox Magazine editor Dan Griliopoulos likened his appearance to that of Gomez Addams, the father from The Addams Family.[22] IGN editors Phil Pirrello and Christopher Monfette described him as being more communist than Vladimir Lenin, the first head of state of the Soviet Union, also comparing him to Italian philosopher and writer Niccolò Machiavelli.[23] While discussing potential actors who could portray Ryan in the upcoming BioShock film, IGN editors chose Anthony Hopkins as the perfect choice for the role.[24]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "GDC: Ken Levine Speaks: Empowering Players to Care About Your Stupid Story". Gamasutra (2008-02-20). Retrieved on 2009-10-13.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Remo, Chris (30-08-07). "Ken Levine on BioShock: The Spoiler Interview". Shacknews. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  3. "Rationalizing Rapture with BioShock's Ken Levine". Gamespy (25-06-07). Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  4. Gillen, Kieron (20-08-07). "Exclusive: Ken Levine on the making of Bioshock". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  5. "Opinion: When Should Games Say Goodbye?". Gamasutra (2008-07-21). Retrieved on 2009-10-13.
  6. Public Address Announcements, Ryan Speech
  7. Radio Messages, "Planting Arcadia"
  8. Radio Message, "Proper Poison"
  9. Scott Sharkey, “EGM’s Top Ten Videogame Politicians: Election time puts us in a voting mood,” Electronic Gaming Monthly 234 (November 2008): 97.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Onyett, Charles (16-08-07). "BioShock Review". IGN. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  11. Haynes, Jeff (22-10-08). "What We Want In BioShock 2". IGN. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  12. "Gamasutra's Best of 2007: Top 5 Most Affecting Characters". Gamasutra (2007-12-12). Retrieved on 2009-10-13.
  13. "Applying Robert McKee’s “Story” to Video Games". Gamasutra (2009-08-21). Retrieved on 2009-10-13.
  14. Vote, Todd (17-09-09). "Best Video Game Voice Acting". 411mania. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  15. Smith, Mark (29-11-08). "BioShock - Overview". Game Chronicles. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  16. Waits, Nick (25-11-08). "BioShock finally comes to the PlayStation 3". Total PlayStation. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  17. Dumlao, Brian (02-11-08). "PS3 Review - 'BioShock'". Worth Playing. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  18. "IGN Best of 2007 - Best Use of Sound". IGN. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  19. Rainey, Tim (08-10-09). "A Demand for Deeper Video Games". Blogcritics Gaming. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  20. Kesten, Lou (22-08-07). "Vid-Games: `Madden' Mania; `Shock' Waves". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  21. Colin (21-08-07). "BioShock Review". Game Revolution. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  22. Griliopoulos, Dan (24-08-07). "BioShock Review". Official Xbox Magazine. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  23. Pirrello, Phil; Christopher Monofette (12-05-08). "Big Screen Big Daddy". IGN. Retrieved on 2009-10-10.
  24. "BioShock: The Movie!". IGN (20-08-07). Retrieved on 2009-10-10.

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