“Nobody’s supposed to live down here, city pissing on us.”
Life Below The Tracks:
When things go wrong for you in Rapture the only way is down, if you sink far enough you will eventually find yourself here, the home both for those without a place in Ryan’s objectivist utopia, and those who have lost theirs. Even at the height of the city’s decadence down here the residents of The Drop, the unwanted and the unwelcome, had lost nearly everything save their dignity. Then the civil war came to Rapture and those last traces of humanity were stripped away, either through violence or addiction.
Built out of the space beneath the Atlantic Express Line, the buildings of The Drop provide the barest protection from what must be one of the harsher environments in Rapture. Never intended for human habitation the vaulting chambers and crumbling corridors were designed for the maintenance and repair of the train cars of the Atlantic Express Line. Alternately cavernous and claustrophobic The Drop never really feels like a welcoming place.
Yet welcoming or not The Drop is home; a place of work, rest and, worship, for those with nowhere else to go. Though the nature of game development means that the size of The Drop can feel a little small for what is supposedly home to all of Rapture’s dispossessed it is still full of enough little touch to sell the idea of what Pauper’s Drop is and what it signifies about Rapture as a whole. From the market stalls in Skid Row, to the now abandoned apartments in the Sinclair Deluxe, it is clear that in The Drop you make the best with what you have.
A common feature of both BioShock games, and of System Shock 2, before it is the use of a specific character to serve as a defining representation of a particular space. Sometimes it is explicit as with Sander Cohen in Fort Frolic, other times it is more allegorical as with Melanie Bronson in Operations. In the case of Grace Holloway her connection to the level lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Throughout there are signs of her influence and following, while at the same time her courage and dignity in the face of the decay and destruction around her is symbolic of the struggle of all those within Pauper’s Drop.
As the populace of The Drop look to Grace for the courage they need to keep surviving so too do they look to her for their view of the rest of Rapture,and it’s inhabitants. For Grace there is only one member of Rapture’s society who she will never welcome into The Drop, the ‘tin daddy’ is a monster, unforgivably and irredeemably so.
Both symbolically and physically, Big Daddies are not welcome in Pauper’s Drop.
Structurally Pauper’s Drop consists of a number of high roofed spaces (the area around the Diner, the entrance court of the Sinclair Deluxe) complemented by narrow mazes of crumbling hallways. The differences in height and openness between these two types of space is reinforced by requiring players to move through the former to reach the latter and vice verse. The sense of restriction and claustrophobia inside the rear of the Sinclair Deluxe is enhanced by first having to pass through the entrance court with it’s multiple layers and huge glass ceiling.
It is rarely possible move directly between two locations with The Drop. Most areas require an exploration of the entire interconnected space before an alternate path can be found; the first floor of the Sinclair Deluxe is a good example of this. The use of circuitous routes between apparently physically contiguous spaces increases the perceived size and complexity of the of the level.
The spatial layout of The Drop encourages a sensation of discomfort and confusion. The layout itself is fairly logical upon objective analysis, however in those first moments of exploration it can feel like the back alleys and abandoned apartments of The Drop extend forever.
If the cool whites and blues of Dionysus Park mark it out as Rapture’s winter, then the heavy use of sea green and rust orange point to Pauper’s Drop as Rapture in it’s autumn. Dionysus Park shows the ultimate fate of all Rapture, to eventually be reclaimed by nature, who’s very existence it is an affront to. Pauper’s Drop is the city in that period of limbo between its past as a hive of human endeavour and it’s future of lonely silence at the bottom of the ocean.
The predominate colour of The Drop is green, sea green; the implication being clear. It’s is the colour of oxidized copper and mould alike, symbolic of both decay and nature. Complemented by rust reds, and fiery oranges, the sense is that everything here is past it’s prime, it’s time is nearly spent and yet life clings on where it can.
Ten years ago The Drop was maybe home to dozens, if there was no place for you in the rest of Rapture there was still a place for you here; ten years hence the ocean will returned, washing away the last remnants of human habitation. For now though, life persists here, it’s time is running out but until it does for some it is home and they will not go without a fight.