Rapture Revisited Part 8: Where Are the Little Brothers?

As I wandered the harrowed halls of Fontaine’s orphanage, a question kept coming to mind: Why is there no mention of “Little Brothers” in BioShock?

Little Sisters Orphanage

Let’s not rush into budgetary explanations. Certain as I am the omission had much to do with the expense of creating additional models, animations, and other assets, that’s not the kind of answer I’m looking for.

Even if limited budgets explain why we never see the ghastly, sallow-eyed tykes running amok, syringes at the ready, why isn’t their absence explained in the story? Did I miss something? Was there an audio journal I failed to locate, a recorded explanation that supplies this missing piece to Rapture’s puzzle?

In the end, whatever the reason, the adam-gatherers of Rapture are of a single sex. That begs the question: What led the creative team to choose little girls over little boys? To be clear, I’m not asking why they chose Little Sisters, but how.

Is it possible the game’s designers choose little girls instead of little boys because they believed they would better rouse our sympathies, inclining us to pause and think before deciding whether or not to sacrifice a child?

Fontaine's Helping Hands

BioShock’s moral choices required well-balanced tension. The decision to rescue or harvest adam-gatherers had to be based on something in the player, not the game. Otherwise the decision would be largely inconsequential. Better in that case to leave it out entirely and concentrate development efforts elsewhere.

Had the adam-gatherers looked too monstrous, players would have readily disposed of them to harvest their adam. If, on the other hand, they had looked like normal, healthy, happy children, it would have dissuaded many players from harvesting them. At the very least, it would have dramatically changed players’ perception of Jack Ryan, casting him as an unfeeling monster (c.f. Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite).

Getting the “creepy” side of that balance seems pretty straightforward. I imagine it would actually be easy to push the needle too far in that direction.

What about the sympathetic side of the equation? Generally speaking, do sex and gender play significant roles in fostering feelings of sympathy, protectiveness, or compassion?

Would BioShock have been the same game if Rapture had been patrolled by Little Brothers instead of Little Sisters?

Had you designed BioShock, how would you have chosen?

So, what do you think?

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