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Warning: Heavy spoilers ahead. Stop reading if you haven't played Bioshock!

At the beginning of the game Atlas informs Jack (and by extension us, the players) that he requires his help in rescuing his family and escaping from Rapture. However, later we learn two important things:

Atlas is really Fontaine who wants us to kill Ryan, and Fontaine can command Jack to do anything he likes with the trigger Would you kindly?

Thus, it is not necessary for Fontaine to motivate Jack to kill Ryan.

He can simply issue an order and Jack will comply (of course, out of universe the player does need to be brainwashed into believing Atlas to be "the good guy" and Ryan to be "the bad guy", but I'm asking about the in-universe explanation).

So, what is it with this story about his family? Why does he need that ruse? Is there actually Fontaine's family in the bathysphere? I highly doubt that, but I don't get what the fuss is all about.

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I always thought that the story was so that the phrase could be used for larger "favors" as he progressed. I.e. that had he asked originally to kill Ryan then it may not have worked, but the conditioning became stronger and stronger as more tasks were done. –  NominSim Jan 15 '13 at 23:11
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@NominSim: Interesting, that didn't occur to me and it seems consistent throughout the game. However, the plane crash was due to Jack hijacking the plane at a certain location over the Atlantic ocean. The gift (containing a gun) you see him holding in his hand in the initial intro asks if he would kindly wait for a specific period before opening it. So I suppose this counts a pretty "large favour" to start with. Besides, they forced him to kill his puppy when he was a young child (evidenced by audio logs). –  bitmask Jan 15 '13 at 23:20
    
@NominSim: What actually happened (second paragraph). –  bitmask Jan 15 '13 at 23:22
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@Keen - Spoiler markup is IMHO noise and should be avoided if possible - and is very annoying on tablets. Anyone who has not played Bioshock and might want to should clearly not read a question about Bioshock, particularly with a big spoiler warning. I would rather markup only be used where a spoiler is going to be a surprise. –  iandotkelly Jan 16 '13 at 18:09
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@iandotkelly The text of question bodies show up in various places, avoiding reading it isn't as trivial as you suggest. Chat one-boxes, the /questions page, etc will display parts of the body except for spoiler markdown. –  Keen Jan 16 '13 at 18:17
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

TL;DR We cannot be 100% sure of the non existence of Atlas's family, but the reason he use this whole scheme is because Jack is not the only one he need to keep unaware that he is manipulated. Tenenbaum, Steinman, Cohen, Ryan and other would had used him to their own ends if they were aware they could do so. Specialty Tenenbaum since she was part of the experiment that made Jack who he is. This might also reveal Atlas real identity, which is still secret.


As for the identity of Atlas's family, he say the name of his wife and son, it's Moira and Patrick.

My wife, Moira—she's a right pain in the neck. But she's a beauty and she means the world to me. I can't help but feel God's punishing me for bringing her and Patrick to this place. I thought this would be a better life for us. Can you imagine a bigger fool than that?

You may have noticed that those names are also used in a stage production in the Fleet Hall, Patrick and Moira. So the whole existence of those characters is doubtful.

Patrick and Moira

And within the end, near the start of the Proving Grounds level, Fontaine say he don't have a family :

I really wound you up with that wife and child bit: "Oh, me poor Moira. Ah, me wee baby Patrick." Maybe one day I'll get me a real family. They play well with the suckers.

But you could also note than (small spoiler for Bioshok 2)

From Frank Fontaine wikia article, BioShock 2 section : "In the office there is also a large portrait on the wall of a man who resembles Fontaine standing next to a woman and a small boy. The picture is entitled "The Fontaine Family," but it is unclear who the people depicted in it might be, since Fontaine told Jack that he never had a wife or child."
The Fontaine Family
(you cloud see the legend here)
Those might be Frank Fontaine with Moira and Patrick, or a young Frank Fontaine with his mother and father.

As for Fontaine's motivation, there what the Patrick and Moira Wikia article say about it :

Even though Fontaine had Jack completely under his control, he seemed to enjoy getting Jack to believe that Ryan is evil by conning him. It was not necessary for Fontaine to do this, as a simple command to kill Ryan would have worked just as well, but giving Jack the impression that Ryan would murder someone's wife and child must have been a tactic to make Fontaine's commands less overt.


Update
The other point is that Jack is not the only one who need to be unaware of his real identity and that he is manipulated. Tenenbaum would had forced him to save the little sister instead of harvesting them or Steinman would had asked him to kindly lie down on the surgery table.

Also, revealing the identity of Jack as the subject of the experiment on mind control imprinting may also have reveal the real identity of Atlas as Fontaine to some who still ignore it. Especially Tenenbaum, who purchased Jack's embryo on behalf of Fontaine and helped raising him.

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I don't think that the promotional banners really cast the existence of Patrick and Moira into doubt. If anything it reinforces the fact that they were residents of Rapture. Whether they were actually related to Atlas, however, remains unanswered. –  Xantec Jan 16 '13 at 17:55
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@Xantec On the banner, they don't really look like mother and child. –  DavRob60 Jan 16 '13 at 18:00
    
@Xantec you might bean right, I updated the answer. –  DavRob60 Jan 16 '13 at 18:19
    
The banner is clearly highly stylized, and with all the splicing that was going on ages may be obfuscated. But that doesn't mean the people aren't Patrick and Moira. It merely throws additional doubt on to what Atlas says. –  Xantec Jan 16 '13 at 18:20
    
Ah, you commented before me. –  Xantec Jan 16 '13 at 18:21
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The Bathysphere was Fontaine's way out of Rapture. At that time Ryan controlled the Splicers thanks to Suchong's pheromones. The Civil War was over, Ryan had won or was on the verge of winning. We only ever see one other person working with Fontaine/Atlas and he's offed right at the beginning so its safe to assume that the army Fontaine had built was ether dead, scattered or in the case of the Splicers succumbed to Ryan's control when Suchong introduced the pheromones. Summoning Jack was an act of desperation. If Ryan had not destroyed the Bathysphere Fontaine would have, in all likelyhood, used the Bathysphere to escape to the surface where he could profit from whatever Rapture technology he managed to bring with him. After the Bathysphere is destroyed all other escape routes are controlled by Ryan, leaving Fontaine little choice but to send Jack after his father.

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So, Fontaine actually intended to escape and the plan to overthrow Ryan was improvised after the Bathysphere was destroyed? I'm not sure that fits with some audio logs we find in Bioshock 2. –  bitmask Mar 31 '13 at 17:18
    
It's been a while since I played BioShock 2 but in both the first and second game if memory serves most of the audio logs seem to be recorded early in the civil war, Jack arrives when the war is all but over. –  Jim McCaskill Apr 12 '13 at 2:35
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