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Imagine Rigney Turns Bioshock into Lego Reality

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We have two artifacts that take absolute precedence whenever we move. The first is a frozen hollow chocolate bunny rabbit that was the last gift we received from our daughter's namesake before she died. The second is a Lego pirate ship that was the first set we built with our dad. It stands at more than a foot tall, comes with a bigger cast of characters than the movie Alien and even features a working crane.

Until recently, we thought it was the bar-none coolest bit of Lego around, and boy we were nowhere near right. The coolest bit of Lego around is actually a custom build by a 15-year-old Denver boy named Imagine Rigney, who used the colored blocks to build the amazing underwater city of Rapture from the video game Bioshock.

Art Attack picked up the game along with a PS3 as an anniversary present and promptly sat down to be amazed at the Ayn Randian plot, the beautiful art deco imagery and the pants-soiling terror of having murder-mutants talk psycho and attack you. The underwater city built by Andrew Ryan to escape what he saw as the rise of collectivism, government tyranny and theocracy, is massive, intricate beyond all compare, and may be the single most amazing location ever conceived in a video game.

How someone could take on constructing a more-or-less perfect replica of Rapture is beyond us, but then again, we're not Imagine Rigney. His build stands nearly 4 feet tall from the base to the top of the angel statue on top and contains between 18,000 and 20,000 pieces. Rigney spent a month in mental planning and part acquisition and another solid month of midnight-to-4 a.m. sessions constructing the city.

The Lego Rapture perfectly captures the video game city, complete with its faded advertisements, statues, rubble and fires, and even custom-built versions of the game's famous enemy, The Big Daddy. The build lacks only the oppressive darkness of the game, but hey, technically these are children's toys after all. They don't come in Apocalypse Grey.

Bioshock taught us what we've known ever since we first read Atlas Shrugged. Namely, take Objectivism too far and bam, you're trapped underwater using genetic modifications to take down freaks in dive suits with gut drills for hands. However, the drive and perfection of Rigney's creation could almost make him one of those Randian Übermensch who bring uncompromising art and science into the world. He's pretty much Howard Roark from the Fountainhead, except with Legos and not yet old enough to drive.

By way of comparison, that pirate ship we're so fond of? You could set the whole thing on the water adorning the top of Rigney's Rapture and it would still be dwarfed, though it might make for a kick-ass pirate Bioshock crossover.

We sat down with Rigney via Internet to ask him a bit about his build. Continue to page 2 to read his answers.

Art Attack: What made you want to attempt to build Rapture... and we hope the answer isn't the same as Andrew Ryan's.

Imagine Rigney: Well, first I really wanted to build a Big Daddy because I saw some done online that were good attempts, but none were really a pure mini-fig scale Big Daddy without modified parts. I'm a purist and don't use any modified bricks or non-Lego components in my builds except for the lighting.

So the challenge got me going and once I played around with and perfected my vision of the Big Daddy then the idea of building Rapture started to nag at me. My mom had already got our tickets for Brickworld so I decided if I was going to do it, this was a good time to try.

AA: How hard was it to replicate something you generally only see through the first-person perspective in the game?

IR: Good question. There are plenty of screen shots from Bioshock online, so I started collecting a bunch of those to look at, played the game over and over to look more at the details, and then decided how big I wanted to make the build, like the footprint for the buildings so I could narrow it down to the rooms I wanted to include.

The cool thing is that I built it to be modular so I could really keep adding onto it if I wanted to. I've also built a playable Hogwarts for my nine-year-old cousin in much the same way, so building without having a full or clear picture at the beginning is not a new thing for me, but it is a challenge and fun to see how it turns out in the end.

AA: We recently interviewed a member of the Texas LUG (Lego User Group) whose Comicpalooza display cost at least $100,000 to make. How expensive is Lego as a hobby?

IR: Building with Lego is extraordinarily expensive, but it's really one of the few things you can use over and over and really get your money's worth. Plus, they only grow in value over time if you take care of them. My mom and dad have been buying me Lego since I was three. Since I was freeschooled for the first 14 years of my life, I spent most of my time building over and over until I kind of outgrew the Lego sets and started designing my own.

My inventory of bricks is approaching half a million. We moved last year from Hawaii to Colorado and my mom had to type up an inventory of the Lego bricks for the movers for insurance purposes. At that time give or take a $1000 she got a grand total of about $33,000 worth of bricks in my collection.

She also ordered quite a few components for the Rapture build, so aside from the basic stuff I had to use for it, we ended up spending another $500 in new bricks for it, plus the LED lighting components from LifeLites.com.

AA: We're amazed that someone only 15 years old built something from Bioshock. We're 30, and that game is so frightening that we almost wet our pants when we started playing it. Do you find the world of the game frightening?

IR: Hahaha! No, I find it entrancing. It grabs hold of me and I find it hard to let go. I think the creators of Bioshock are genius. Once you get past the gruesomeness, it has a very cool storyline, with moral decisions determining the outcome.

Putting Rapture underwater makes it even more beautiful as far I'm concerned. The art deco, the intense detail, the characters, it's all just a big package that goes together so well. Honestly, I can't wait to see what they do with Bioshock Infinite. I guess I suppose it was a little creepy in the beginning when I first started playing it, but once I got pulled in to the storyline, I got over that pretty quick.

AA: What's next?

IR: Right now, I'm taking a short break from building so I can rest, sort pieces, save some money and then I was thinking about maybe revisiting Howl's Moving Castle, which I first built when I was 13 and didn't have as big an inventory of Lego components.

I'd really like to do Howl's Moving Castle properly and expand on what I explored with that one. The idea of a walking, changing castle is a cool concept that could get really detailed now that I have more to work with.

Long term, I need to finish homeschool high school and get my diploma. I'd like to design playable sets for Lego one day. I'm much more interested in building stuff that is playable instead of things you just look at. The Rapture build I made with one side open on the three-level rooms for getting in and moving characters around. The other side has modular rooms that lift off of each other so you can get your hands in. At the Brickworld convention last week everyone who knew Bioshock wanted to hold the Big Daddy and move his arms and legs around. I thought that was cool.

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