I do not love BioShock.
In fact, I do not even have that great of a time while playing it, but I’m trying to work through it. There’s a lot to admire though–the worldbuilding, the atmosphere, narrative tricks, the depth (yup, pun intended) of the game–but for the time being I’d just like to talk a bit about Big Daddies.
These are Adam Sandlers fictional folk of BioShock‘s Rapture that have had their organs and skin grafted to hi-tech diving suits. They are also armed with a drill-hand or rivet gun. They are never armed with featherdown pillows. Due to some mental reconditioning, they roam the underwater city for one purpose, and one purpose only: to protect Little Sisters. Now, Little Sisters are creepy children that harvest ADAM from corpses, and ADAM is all the rage with the Splicers these days, so they definitely need some a-protectin’ from those with butterfingers.
My favorite aspect of Big Daddies: they are incapable of speech.
A good chunk of BioShock gameplay is listening. You sneak into a room and listen to Splicers in the distance talking about whatever it is crazy people like to talk about. Marshmallows? 4 8 15 16 23 42? You move across some wooden planks and hear them creak out in anguish beneath your feet. You find an audio recording of a New Year’s Eve party gone wrong and then see the aftermath for yourself. You creep around a corner and hear…a long, guttural groan. Like a whale in pain. Only it’s getting louder, and something is stomping your way.
Enter the Rosie or Bouncer. Sometimes there’s a Little Sister with them, sometimes you have to wait for it to pound on the wall a few times. Either way, I constantly found myself anxiously watching them from afar. Interestingly enough, they move like they look like they should: slow, methodical, careful not to step on their friend. It’s only when they become angry or on the defense do they turn into these fast-moving death-enablers.
You can totally walk by them without incident. Conversely, you can totally walk by them and be an inch too close to their Little Sister and they will freak out on you. Not completely attacking, but making sure you get the point to stay away. This? Loved it.
For those curious, I just got past the part with the bees and smoke stations. So no spoilers please. At this point, I’ve probably fought five or six Big Daddies, and then saved every Little Sister from being harvested. Your reward is a better conscience; your punishment is less ADAM. And you don’t have to even fight the Big Daddies, but you’ll be missing out on ADAM, which helps to upgrade your weapons and such. Each Big Daddy fight is draining; that statement is twofold because these Big Daddies literally drain me of every first aid kit, EVE hypo, and ammo clip, but the fights are extremely nerve-wrecking and frantic. Which is funny when you consider you can’t actually die in BioShock. If you do die (?), you are re-born at the nearest life chamber, with Rapture exactly like you left it. Meaning you could run right back to where that Big Daddy handed you your wrench-wielding ass and take another whack at it.
But the point of all this rambling is that the Big Daddies are amazing. Not just from a gameplay standpoint, but they hold their own narrative and tell it through their one-way actions. That’s extremely impressive for this day and age when a lot of story is spoonfed. Every time I hear a stomp, stomp or a Little Sister whispering about angels, I get excited. And scared.