My Issues with the Bioshock Infinite Plot
As you might imagine, the following post contains many spoilers. Read at your own peril.
I did want to get two things out of the way first (and help create some extra spoiler insulation). The first is to reiterate, as I did in my review, that I very much enjoyed certain aspects of Bioshock Infinite. The characterizations were quite good; Elizabeth in particular was fantastic. I also enjoyed the art style and the music. The combat was particularly weak in my opinion (and others), but not terrible enough to preclude suggesting the game to other people, at least at a lower price-point.
Secondly, there is almost nothing in this world more personally maddening than when people suggest a given narrative is good (or the best ever) simply because it appears complicated. Why is convoluted nonsense confused for depth? I had to turn off this Kotaku audio spoiler discussion because the hosts actually suggested that not thinking about (for example) time travel paradoxes makes time travel plots better. Well… yeah. That works because you are taking away the bullshit plot as it actually exists and then substituting your own, better version in its place. And odds are that your own version doesn’t make any more goddamn sense, cobbled together as it is with your vague, unexamined good feelings rather than the jumbled pieces presented by the original writers.
I am not asking for a happy ending. I am not asking for Saturday Morning cartoon simplicity. Hell, I am even completely fine with leaving things up for interpretation; Inception’s ending was perfect, for example. What I am not fine with is when vague nonsense is elevated to absurd heights. If Bioshock Infinite’s plot is actually any good, then surely it can stand up to some peanut gallery criticism. Right? Right.
And by all means, if I am talking out of my ass on any of the below points, or you want to provide a different perspective, call me out in the comments below.
Redefinition of what Alternate Universes mean.
First off, this may seem like a minor quibble, but I think a lot of the confusion and suggested paradoxes stem from the fact that Bioshock Infinite is inventing its own version of multiverse/time travel theory. Levine is basically saying “I’m going to take this hackneyed, impossible-to-do-right concept and solve it with three words: ‘Constants and variables.'” What about the Grandfather Paradox? “Constants and variables.” What about all the universes in which Comstock is a good guy, or those in which Booker doesn’t sell Anna? “Constants and variables.” Why couldn’t Elizabeth just stage an intervention to keep Booker from drinking and gambling? CONSTANTS AND VARIABLES.
I’m sorry, presenting a multiverse theory in which there are “millions and millions” of other Comstocks and yet certain outcomes are arbitrarily 100% set in stone is simply lazy storytelling. I mean, it is not even inconsistent for there to be universes in which Booker never sold Anna! It almost feels like Levine crafted the “constants” based entirely on being able to railroad the player in that one room with the baby. You can still have an impetus to stop Comstock in any of the universes in which he turns into a bad guy, even if it is not ALL universes. Or, hell, add some moral ambiguity to the story by suggesting eliminating the bad Comstocks is “worth” killing all the good ones too.
“Constants and Variables” might be a novel “solution” to the problems of alternative universe storytelling, but only because no other writer thought anyone would actually buy into it. This feels like deus ex machina ^ ∞.
“There are a million million other Comstocks”
This was my literal reaction to Elizabeth’s line about why the game wasn’t technically over after killing Comstock:
Seriously, so what if there are a million million other ones? There are a million million other bad things in alternate universes too – not to mention real life in 1912 – but we don’t seem to be solving those. Was what Comstock did in the Columbia period so bad that killing him at the point in the timeline which we did, was not good enough? Let’s drown him a million million times in that same fountain, as god only knows our conveniently omnipotent Elizabeth can time travel us there; there isn’t even the Constants and Variables bullshit to get in our way. Elizabeth and Booker quite literally have all the time in the world.
When did the drowning occur?
Speaking of drowning, when did Booker get drowned by the Elizabethes? Before or after the baptism? If before, why did that not kill off all Bookers/Annas/Elizabeths, e.g. make the after-credits scene impossible? If it occurred after the baptism, as the extra scene seems to convey, why is it so important for Booker to come to the “smothering” decision? Why is the player’s Booker smothered, instead of watching a new Comstock get smothered? Narrative convenience?
At first, I thought the answer was easy. In the game proper, it seems as though Booker shares the memories of any universe he has been in. For example, after bringing in the weapons, Booker has memories of being a hero of the Vox. In this way, by traveling to the past (time travel and alternate universes, this is so deep u guyz) and presumably merging with the post-Baptism-yet-pre-Comstock Booker, we can have a scenario in which a not-yet-Comstock Booker realizes what is going to happen and accept the need for his own drowning.
Which is… a pretty shitty moral scenario, if you think about it. More on that in a moment.
Of course, if the above is actually the case, then how is it possible for Booker and Comstock to exist in the same universe in the first place? Why doesn’t Booker have Comstock’s memories the moment he wakes up in the row boat, or when getting into Columbia, or when physically drowning Comstock in the baptismal fountain (ooo, foreshadowing) in the game proper?
To be honest, I might have missed the explanation for why Booker wasn’t a drooling, nosebleeding basketcase like the other dead-now-alive soldiers. Or why those soldiers were having such a hard time when, at best, they were “remembering” alternate universes in which they were dead. If the dead soldiers were now alive due to us changing things in the past, what does that really mean for the great swaths of population we killed across Columbia even in a no-Comstock scenario?
Negating all events that were experienced
Let us pretend for a moment that the ending makes perfect sense, there are no plot holes, and everything is wrapped up with a neat little bow. Hell, let’s pretend the ending is even happy, despite the fact that Booker is still a murdering, gambling, union-busting alcoholic single father with enough debt to legitimately consider selling his own daughter to the first person who opens a checkbook. And let’s further assume that he retained the memories of all that he accomplished in the game, perhaps giving him an impetus to try and set everything right instead of dropping baby Anna off in a basket at the closest orphanage.
In this best case scenario, Bioshock Infinite is a game in which all your actions are voided. Everything you struggled to accomplish is erased. None of it happened. Every moral choice you made, every time you refrained from stealing from cash registers, every interracial kindness you demonstrated never matters because those people/scenarios never exist. It boils down to a “it was all a dream” scenario, which is the most pernicious storytelling mechanic in the history of narrative.
If I had no other problems with the story, this alone would be enough to throw my hands up in disgust. Do you really feel like a game in which you endeavor to negate everything that happens is deep and meaningful? You can accomplish all the game has set you out to accomplish by simply not playing. As prophesied by WOPR in 1983: “the only winning move is not to play [Bioshock Infinite].”
Moral of the story?
Finally, let me kind of wrap all these various ingredients up into one complete shit sandwich. What exactly is the message being conveyed here in Bioshock Infinite? What is the theme, the moral of the story?
At the beginning, I almost felt like Booker was trying to make up for his sins, to seek forgiveness and redemption, to put things right. But what is Booker’s actual crime that he is repenting? To stop a person he never turned out to be from entrapping the person he is into a crime a third version must now stop? Booker choosing to be drowned seems a noble sacrifice until you realize what exactly he is undoing: choices he never made. Or, even worse, stopping a man (Comstock) he had no choice into becoming. There is never any “good Comstock” because apparently being bad is a constant. Fate. Predestination.
What is the message here about personal responsibility, free will, and choice? You have none because Constants and Variables. And suddenly, infinite universes means you are implicitly responsible to consequences that you never chose and never happened in your own universe. Do you remember when you donated to charity instead of setting a baby on fire? Well, you should feel real bad anyway because the not-you baby-arsonist is running amok and it’s up to you to stop yourself like you already did by not setting the baby on fire in the first place. GUYZ, DEEPEST PLOT EVAR.
Even worse, apparently Booker is the one on the hook for what the Lutece twins are ultimately responsible for. Who invented the Tear machine? Who gave it to Comstock? Why isn’t this game about the Lutece twins stopping themselves from transdimensional kidnapping, extortion, and/or human trafficking?
Ah, right. “Constants and variables.” And when the Lutece twins invent the Tear machine anyway and give it to the next megalomaniac – a real shortage of those in the early 1900s, let me tell you – it will once again be somebody else’s alternate-reality problem.
Fake Edit: After “playing” through the ending sequence again, I believe the drowning question can be put to bed. Elizabeth(es) specifically say:
Preacher Witting: Booker DeWitt, are you ready to be born again?
Booker: What is this? Why are we back here?
Elizabeth: This isn’t the same place, Booker.
Booker: Of course it is, I remember – wait. You’re not… you’re not… who are you?
Elizabeth: You chose to walk away. But in other oceans you didn’t. You took the baptism. And you were born again as a different man.
Elizabeth: It all has to end. To never have started. Not just in this world. But in all of ours.
Booker: Smother him in the crib.
Elizabeth Esemble: Smother… smother… smother..
Elizabeth: Before the choice is made. Before you are reborn.
Preacher Witting: And what name shall you take my son?
Elizabeth: He’s Zachary Comstock. He’s Booker DeWitt.
Booker: No… I’m both.
In other words, it was not Comstock that was smothered in the crib, it was Booker before he made the choice to be baptized or refuse. Meaning, both Booker and Comstock are dead. Meaning, the after-credits scene is either a vision of an afterlife, or a cheap plot hole to make you feel better while masquerading as deep storytelling.
Please, tell me I’m wrong about any of this. Tell me there is a legitimate reason people are praising this plot, as if it holds even the slightest of candles to the original Bioshock. Am I missing something? Perhaps, you know, the Tear into an alternate universe in which Bioshock Infinite’s plot is any good?
Posted on April 4, 2013, in Commentary and tagged Baptism, Bioshock Infinite, Constants and Variables, Fate, Moral of the Story, Multiple Universes, Predestination, Rant, Spoiler Alert, Time Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.
Hey, you can also make crows attack people. How do you explain that? You got to suspend your disbelief, enjoy the ride, and accept there are plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. I don’t think the story is perfect, but, even so, it is a lot more interesting than so many other games. Maybe the praise it’s getting is because everyone is grading on a curve :).
You get the Murder of Crows ability after you drink a magic beverage and gain super powers, apparently derived from your sodium intake. Also, cigarettes are salty.
I have zero problems with suspension of disbelief, magical powers, or fantastical premises; I have no issue with, for example, the explanation that Elizabeth’s Tear ability is derived from her losing the pinky as a baby. Their world, their rules. There is a difference, however, between suspension of disbelief and handwaving away deus ex machina. Indeed, we are far beyond mere “suspension of disbelief” if the desire is for Bioshock Infinite’s plot to be a feel-good moralizing affair filled with redemption and justice. You cannot disbelieve your way out of the conclusion that Comstock would always be evil, and what that implies. You cannot disbelieve your way out of the fact that all the events of the game are negated by your own actions.
If the story/world’s rules are being made up as they go along, changing on a whim to suit the need for pathos, it is by definition a bad story. At least compared to a story that can do the same without inconsistencies. I agree everyone is grading Bioshock Infinite on a curve, but few seem to understand that a grading curve raises all scores by the same amount. If Infinite’s 70% grade is now a 100%, then Bioshock 1 is now 130%.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The pinky thing sort of irked me…given that both Lutece’s saw it happen and seem to be observant people; you’d think they’d eventually have figured out that it’s rather easy to make “Elizabeths” simply by lopping off fingers and tossing them through tears.
Indeed. The only real way we know that the pinky is why Elizabeth has her powers is due to this Voxophone recording from Rosalind Lutece. Dated, in fact, Sept 5th, 1909.
Hrm. I think you’re missing quite a few things. :)
First, I missed some things myself that were pointed out in this article, and suspect you might have as well:
In short, Bioshock Infinite is really the same game as Bioshock and Bioshock 2, in many senses. Andrew Ryan is Zachary Comstock; the Little Sisters are Elizabeth; Big Daddy is the Songbird; the protagonists of every game are the same person, in multidimensional variants. The same basic plot plays out in each game, albeit with different moral guidelines misapplied (libertarianism, collectivism, and nationalism, respectively). I think that’s pretty damned clever, to be honest.
Second, what did Elizabeth really do at the end, and what were its effects? I spent several days pondering this myself, and came to the conclusion that Elizabeth followed Booker’s instructions, and smothered Comstock in the cradle, metaphysically speaking. That is to say, Elizabeth went to the moment where Comstock COULD be created, and prevented the possibility in every reality at once. Since Comstock had interfered in Booker’s own timeline, and Comstock no longer existed in any reality, this meant that Booker was returned to his own timeline at a point immediately before Comstock would have appeared (even though that moment was after the almost-baptism; Elizabeth didn’t really take Booker back in time to the baptism but only showed him his own memory thereof). Booker was returned to the latest remaining stable point in his timeline, in short. He seems to have the memories of everything he experienced, which would mean he’s undergone his redemptive character arc and is now qualified to be a good father to Anna (who will never become Elizabeth now). Note that because Comstock never existed, the Lutece “twins” never met, and never breached the dimensional barriers; they won’t just hand their invention over to the next megalomaniac because their invention never came about. There are no Tears anymore. That of course makes me wonder whether Rapture still exists in other dimensions… without Comstock, could there be a Ryan?
Third, the Lutece “twins” DID fix the problem, which they’d helped create of course. They found Booker after Comstock’s meddling, and pulled him into Comstock’s reality so Booker could undo everything, working with Elizabeth. The whole scenario played out hundreds of times, as evidenced by little touches like the coin flip. That Booker would meet Elizabeth and be sent back in time to help an earlier version of her; that he’d make precisely the right decisions; that she’d make precisely the right decisions; that everything would come together to end all the Comstock timelines… it was terribly unlikely and took many tries, all orchestrated by the Luteces. They’re really the agents behind everything good and bad that happens; the plot is driven by them all along.
Fourth, the whole constants and variables issue troubled you considerably it seems; I didn’t have the same reaction or the same understanding of the theory. In short, once Comstock was possible in any world, he’d come to exist. Once Comstock existed, Elizabeth would become the Lamb and would rule the world in blood and fire. Elizabeth’s powers put not only that reality but every reality at risk; she consciously chose to become a conquering tyrant after all. In this sense, the variable is whether Comstock exists in any reality. If Comstock exists in any reality, then Elizabeth’s fall from grace is a constant. This explains the metaphor of time as an ocean and not a river, and also explains why it isn’t sufficient to kill one Comstock on one reality and walk away. But why would the characters care so much; why couldn’t they just accept that the rest of reality was screwed, and find their own quiet lives? Well, Booker was of course responsible for Comstock’s actions in one sense, since it was another version of him. Booker had also suffered a fair amount as a result of Comstock’s actions, and so their rivalry was about as personal as it could get. Booker was further involved insofar as Elizabeth was his daughter; her future was at stake in every reality. Finally, the Luteces caused the whole mess and thus were motivated to keep pushing Booker until he managed to solve things. All of this seems more than enough motivation for everyone involved to do what they did.
So, yeah, it seems like a very happy ending to me, all in all; we literally got the best possible outcome (the characters we liked survived, and all the bad stuff will never happen). I found the plot quite clever, upon reflection.
Note that because Comstock never existed, the Lutece “twins” never met, and never breached the dimensional barriers; they won’t just hand their invention over to the next megalomaniac because their invention never came about.
Not really. The twins were communicating from across universes before Tears were possible; Tears which were made possible by Comstock’s money, but could vary well have been made possible by someone else’s money.
In fact, this Voxophone record indicates that Rosalind Lutece was suspending atoms (and thus came up with the floating city bit) on August 10th, 1890. That was two years before Booker’s baptism, and even months before the Wounded Knee massacre!
They found Booker after Comstock’s meddling, and pulled him into Comstock’s reality so Booker could undo everything, working with Elizabeth.
Referring to it merely as “Comstock’s meddling” is rather charitable. Robert Lutece is specifically the one who propositioned Booker to sell Anna in the first place. He is the one Booker hands the baby to. Rosalind tries to explain to Lady Comstock that Elizabeth is a “product of our contraption.” It is not until 1909 before they really seem to express remorse; not until they are “killed,” in fact.
In short, once Comstock was possible in any world, he’d come to exist. […] If Comstock exists in any reality, then Elizabeth’s fall from grace is a constant.
Therein lies my umbrage. Comstock is always evil, and there is never any scenario in which Booker gets baptized and goes on to live a pious life. And, implicitly, there is never a scenario in which Booker refuses the baptism and yet doesn’t end up selling Anna. It ties up the alternate universe narrative with a neat little bow only because it suddenly becomes 100% arbitrary. “Constants and variables.” Why? Because constants and variables. Repeat, literally, ad infinitum.
I could appreciate it if there were thoughts that all the evil Comstocks would go on a reality-collapsing binge if any one of them were allowed to come to power, but that’s not what this was about. Even evil Elizabeth’s omnipotent rage was finite in scope: by the time she attacked New York, she was nearly aged to death (chronologically, she would be 92 years old). There was no indication that “all realities” were threatened by her power, or that evil Comstock/Elizabeth even cared what happened elsewhere.
Elizabeth’s powers put not only that reality but every reality at risk; she consciously chose to become a conquering tyrant after all.
Only after the months (years?) of the torture by a Comstock not killed by Booker in the game proper. That’s why I was saying in the post that Elizabeth could have whisked Booker away and drowned Comstock a million million times, no problem. Or not, because it no longer matters for this universe, and whose responsibility is it anyway when there are millions of complicit people along the way (Lutece, Fink, all the white people of Columbia, etc etc)?
Again, this alternate universe narrative only ever makes sense if the antagonist is seeking to conquer all possible realities. Otherwise, we get into this infinite guilt nonsense that ends with voiding all (player) agency.
Well, Booker was of course responsible for Comstock’s actions in one sense, since it was another version of him.
I want you to repeat that line, out loud, to yourself. Now I want you to feel real guilty for setting that baby on fire, something you chose not to do in this reality, but quite possibly have done in some alternate universe. And, of course, it’s now your responsibly to kill yourself in the past so you never had a chance to make even a non-baby-fire decision in the first place. Because that is how moral agency works in Bioshock Infinite.
So, yeah, it seems like a very happy ending to me, all in all; we literally got the best possible outcome (the characters we liked survived, and all the bad stuff will never happen). I found the plot quite clever, upon reflection.
Well, not quite. The Elizabeth as we experienced will never come about; how Anna develops in the home of an alcoholic, murdering, union-busting single-father with enough gambling debt to legitimately consider selling Anna in the first place is anyone’s guess. Maybe Booker still has all his memories of the game proper, so he sobers up… but he still owes money to bad people (possibly the Pinkertons).
Or maybe your interpretation is that Booker being drowned unravels time such that he is “reset” to the point before he moves to New York and acquires all the bad habits (although this jars with the post-credits scene). At which point I must ask rhetorically: not much of a redemption story if there is no sacrifice, is there?
And, finally, as I mentioned in the post, even best case scenarios result in all action in the game becoming moot. All you accomplished is stopping something that never happened “in the real world” from ever occurring in some other world, with a net effect of less than zero. The after-credits scene may as well been Booker awaking from a drunken haze having imagined the whole thing. GG.
LikeLiked by 1 person
When I finished bioshock myself, I tweeted that the ending gave me mixed feelings. I heard so much praise for this that the parallel reality plot disappointed me quite a bit. really? – you can use this type of plot on any given story and explain all of it away. so, I agree on the lazy storytelling. it doesn’t vex me enough to condemn what happened before, but I would’ve preferred a different ending, less metaphysical and esoteric.
As for the drowning: the way I understood it was that the only Booker version that gets killed is the one that would turn into Comstock (interesting subtext there by the way: going evil after baptism?). so, the ‘good’ version of Booker who never meets the twins and his future self, the one that never sells his child, still exists somewhere.
but then, I could be completely wrong. I had to read several reviews, forbes included, to fully understand the plot. which begs the question how good an ending can be that requires you to go and hunt down webpages in order to make full sense of it…if there is.
Bioshock definitely takes several play-throughs if you’re set on grasping the entire story.
Personally, I think the dialog in the Fake Edit portion of my post makes it clear that the Booker being drowned is the one from before any baptism choice is made. As in, both Bookers are killed. Indeed, during the refusal scene a few minutes earlier, remember that even the refusal-Booker clasped hands with the preacher before breaking off. Past that final door, we see the preacher reaching out for Booker, but Elizabeth drowns him instead. This is not a branch being pruned, but the entire stem.
Anyway, I doubt I am ever going to play the game again. The combat was not particularly fun, and the entire first half of the game has nothing to do with the plot twists towards the end; the racism and nationalism and religious bigotry all ended up being window-dressing to an “it was all a dream” finale.
The drowning thing is a bit confusing because of how the paradox works. I’ve been working it out in mind since I finished the game and this is what I’ve concluded:
In all of the realities in which Booker, Elizabeth, and Comstock all exist Elizabeth drowns all Bookers before they can decide to be baptized, thus negating both Comstock and herself from ever existing (Booker is still alive in every universe until the point when baptism is possible). Without the existence of Elizabeth, Booker makes it to the baptism and makes a choice to either go through with it or not. If he doesn’t, his life goes on as Booker (Comstock and Elizabeth will never exist). If he does go through with it, he becomes Comstock, steals Anna/Elizabeth, and sets the plot of the game in motion, ending with Booker killing him and Elizabeth killing Booker which negates both Comstock and Elizabeth’s existence (therefore eliminating this reality where Comstock exists). In the end it is only the realities in which Booker does not choose baptism that are allowed to play out without being eliminated.
The whole parallel between comstock and andrew ryan was kinda obviously noticeable (not that it’s necessarily right). Everything else you say doesn’t make sense and you contradict yourself multiple times.
Oh god. After endless reading finally someone who posed the right questions; the same questions I’ve been posing myself.
The game’s internal logic is broken. Not only does it try to merge the theory of infinite alternate realities and that of predestination (linear time), it’s also a tad simplified.
Look, the game is trying to tell us that in the end, the only way of stopping Comstock from ever existing was to “smother him in his crib”, being, smothering the choice before it’s made.
That choice is whether or not to get baptized. From that single point, they could stop all DeWitts and Comstocks from happening (can’t have one without the other, according to them, which is a form of broken predetermination). The problem with this line of thinking is that there isn’t a single focal point like so many game journalists have talked about. There are an infinite amount of DeWitts in an infinite amount of universes all about to make a choice to be baptized. An infinite amount of DeWitts would have to be smothered. Perhaps the Lutece’s tried just that? I don’t know. I only know that the logical pitfall doesn’t stop here.
Why not stop DeWitt from taking part in the battle of Wounded Knee? Why not stop him from ever going to the stream where the baptism takes place? The game says “predetermination”. I say “Deux Ex Machina.”
I liked the game, I really did. Despite the rather boring and generic combat at times, the infinite waves of generic baddies. But I think people got too carried away with the plot twist. Bioshock Infinite is supreme popcorn entertaining; it’s not a philosophical masterpiece. Sure, technically, all the different hints and pieces of the puzzle were very interesting and masterly-crafted, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the puzzle is broken.
As pure entertainment, this story is a powerful victory in gaming, but as a philosophical statement, it’s ultimately flawed.
I’m not trying to imply any big conspiracy on behalf of Ken Levine, but it’s ironic that the reason that the game is so insanely popular and discussed amongst gamers and journalists is because it’s so perplexing.
If the story was merely complex, gamers would discuss until they understood the story, and only an emotion, a feeling would be left. But since the internal logic doesn’t make sense, people keep coming up with different theories, keep discussing it into the early hours, and so the myth grows.
By including, superficially, social and political themes, the conversation deepens even further. The entire moral, social, and political themes that are so fervently discussed by journalists and gamers are almost utterly pointless to the conclusion itself. The only purpose it serves is to say “Guyz, Comstock is an asshole. Lots of people will die. Stop him.” There’s really no need to keep anylizing that bit. Though I guess by keeping people busy talking about the superficial stuff, the essence is forgotten.
There’s one really interesting question the game opens up though, perhaps more interesting than the musings about its broken core…
Is the game just OK because despite having the most amazing art design since Bioshock 1, it’s a pretty generic shooter game, with loads of other technical elements that take you out of the experience (like Elizabeth being in an existential crisis, only to go “HEY LAWL, I FOUND MONIES” a second later) and faulty storytelling (important discussions going on in the background of big firefights where you miss half the dialogue, or having important facts about the story line told by recordings that are sometimes HIDDEN and so can easily be overlooked).
Or is it an amazing game because the ending explains that the generic bits have a PURPOSE (there’s always a light house, there’s always a man, there’s always a city).
Does giving all the bad elements of a game a reason in the end turn all those bad elements good?
Is awesomeness retroactive?
Just an afterthought.
This is like people getting stuck on Creationism vs Evolution/BigBang while the real question is: why was there something to go “bang” or a God to create the universe in the first place?
It’s such an artificial topic of discussion.
Bioshock Infinite seems to be more about starting a debate than stating facts.
The “Infinite” only refers to the infinite amount of differences in opinions it will spawn, as everyone tries to make sense of something that does not make sense.
Years ago, it was common knowledge that Pele was the greatest soccer player ever to have existed, and people accepted that as a given. Suddenly, Diego Maradona, a terrific player in his own right, started a comparison: I am better than Pele. And suddenly an artificial debate started, with people picking either sides, and ignoring the fact that all of it began with that extremely subjective statement.
Reminds me of the Indoctrination theory in Mass Effect 3. An entire mythos was created from thin air in an attempt to make sense of the insensible. At the end of it all, the Bioware guys were sitting back saying “Our fans are certainly creative,” meanwhile reaping (hah) all the credit where no credit was ultimately due.
That sort of thing is always my biggest fear: confusing profundity with ambiguity in a creative work. It is fine discovering deeper meaning in something simple, but let us not conflate the former as having always resided in the latter. Sometimes a game is just a game.
LikeLiked by 1 person
You may be more right than even you know. I realized all this myself in the middle of my second playthrough, and more when I finally found the Booker voxophones. The story flaws the moment you see Comstock in the third alternate universe. Why was Comstock after Elizibeth? Booker from this universel clearly states that she is held in Comstock house and that was why he helped spark the vox rebellion. Comstock house was clearly untouched when the Booker you play as comes upon it. Doesn’t that mean that Elizibeth should be held in it? It might make sense if (as you said), there could only exist one per universe. With that logic though, they all wouldn’t have been bunched together at the end. That and the Lutece twins couldn’t have ever been together because they too are the same person.
What about the tower? At the very end you send Songbird to destroy what’s left of it. Isn’t it odd that any part of it is destroyed in the first place? She wasn’t in it when Booker got to it. This vox really does explain it all.
“”Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” As plans go, I’d seen worse– except this girl was already gone. Monument Island’s a damn ghost town. Seems like they evacuated her when they heard I was here. An old friend told me Comstock spirited her off to that fortress of his. As a one-man job, this just went from bettin’ on the river to…drawing dead.
–Booker DeWitt, July the 6th, 1912″
I find it unbelievably hard to get past that plot hole. It would have made it so Comstock wouldn’t care if Elizibeth and Booker got away. He had his own and he could still have made the NEw York attack happen.
I also have a bone to pick with Slate. What a useless character he is. He is held up with an army in the Hall of Heros and yet he cowards out the moment he talks to Booker. “Heros death” is his common phrase. Why would someone who fought in two wars bravely and with pride not take the chance to join with Booker? Why would he not fight off Comstocks men? Is it really a soldiers death to be put down all together by one man instead of a slightly trained army? I would feel like a pretty lame soldier if that were the case. Also I find it hard to see why he had to use a robot (patriot) to try to kill you if he was really only trying to get all his men killed in the first place. That was way out of line for his character.
I guess I have been thinking too much about this, but I just couldn’t stop finding flaws in the story on my second run.
Yeah, I felt Slate was a totally irrelevant part of the story as well. What did he have to do with… well, anything? If it was to act as a hint that Comstock and Booker were the same person, it did a horrible job at that. That whole section of the game – indeed, the entire first half – felt like a giant digression, or filler.
Damn! You pointed out exactly the problems I had with Bioshock Infinite plot. The all thing smelled of pseudo-depth and complexity. The fact is, most of the themes that the game touched upon were barely explored! Bioshock 1 had much better coherence. This one just kinda threw every single thing about time-space and quantum theory in one bag, stirred and took one concept at a time and implemented in the game, without any regards to consistency and logic!
By killing Booker before the baptism, they closed all timelines in which Comstock lives. This leads to Anna never being taken away in the first palace, as the alternative leads to logical fallacies.
Right, but as I mentioned in the post, it also leads to Anna never being born, as Booker drowns before he meets his wife. Ergo, the ending credits scene is either an afterlife or just something to screw with people.
I have heard this theory elsewhere, but it doesn’t make sense because the story implies that Booker going to the place where he either gets baptized or rejects it is a constant. Therefore all Bookers die.
For the ending to make sense, the drowning would make the universe reset back to the point before he even goes there, which is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?
Here is what I noticed
Booker (the version that rejected baptism in the past) decides to off himself so that he never becomes comstock in the future. But guess what? He already made that choice in the reality he lives in. Better yet, he isn’t drowning the version of himself that made that decision at that point in time, he is drowning the current version of himself that is aware of what transpires after.
Future Elizabeth gives booker the note to pass on to the younger version of herself so that that version of Elizabeth can alter her course. If future Elizabeth had gone back to do what the note said it would have had no impact apparently, but it is ok for present Booker to merge with past Booker and kill himself to prevent the Comstock transformation.
Never mind that Booker merged with his pre-batism self. And if some theories are correct, that if you die without Elizabeth around, another Booker takes your place and inherits your memories, why didn’t any Booker merge with Comstock? This is more or less explained by the voxo that says that once the actions and events from one universe diverge immensely from the actions and events in another universe, those universes become distinct to the point of being completely different. But in that case Future Booker would have diverged way too much from Past Booker to even be able to merge with him.
It all comes down to this: it doesn’t matter. Because there’s an infinite amount of Bookers in an infinite amount of universes making the choice the be baptized or not.
Except… if you start incorporating alternative and fictional multiverse theories…
If there’s one thing that I’ve heard recently amongst all the theorizing around the game, it’s that the multiverse crap doesn’t matter. In the end it’s just the story about a man who made some really bad decisions and tries to atone for them. Or something.
Conclusion: Wonderful art, music, sound. Overrated story, characters, etc
I’ll just enjoy it for what it is. And hope that someday someone makes a similar kind of game, but with better gameplay.
In response to this part
“If there’s one thing that I’ve heard recently amongst all the theorizing around the game, it’s that the multiverse crap doesn’t matter. In the end it’s just the story about a man who made some really bad decisions and tries to atone for them. Or something.”
I believe it is actually the Lutece twins that are trying to fix what Comstock does. They’re the ones that drive Booker to find Anna because they are the ones who know what Comstock and Elizabeth will do. Ultimately, they’re responsible because they created the tear machine and they’re the ones who gave Comstock the opportunities to take Anna, become the Prophet, etc.
That’s really the only logic that makes sense, because, as Azuriel pointed out, if we hold Booker responsible for everything, we acknowledge that Booker (or anyone really) is responsible for the results of the choices he made or didn’t make in parallel universes.
So really, if we wanted to adopt the atonement narrative, it would have to be the Lutece twins stopping themselves from inventing the tear machine and/or keeping it away from Comstock.
Btw, YES. That bit had me fucking perplexed too.
Everyone going on about that post-credit clip. That’s just some badly-done Inception mindfuck. ELIZABETH WAS BORN AFTER THE BAPTISM DECISION.
HENCE, IF BOOKER DIES = NO ELIZABETH OR ANNA.
Wish people would get that through their thick skulls.
This was awesome and provided some much needed vindication. I’ve been looking for something to help me make sense of the awkwardness I felt with the story. Time travel and AUs suck so much.
Every point was great. I disliked a lot about what happened especially the character inconsisentcies and that god damn ending.
I didn’t feel any connection to Elizabeth until after she put on her big girl dress and even then, it wasn’t until she was being horribly tortured that I started to really care. Even then, it was because of the drama of the controlling her to be his daughter that disturbed me. If they didn’t have good voice actors this would have been a bust.
Her gaming relevance was completely artificial. Everything she did the player would do themselves in any other game. Instead of hacking or carrying our own heath kits, she did. Guns had smaller clips so she would have a use as a supplier. Enemies considered her non-existent and removed all the tension of even having a partner, or in this case, a moving involuntary supply shop. In short, we were forced to think she was relevant to gameplay when all it was, was taking player actions and giving them to her. Even the tear thing was dumb because of all the infinite possibilities all she pulled in were turrets and hooks. It would have been far more compelling if they kept the original concept where using tears would have harmed her. I may have even started to care for her then.
When not in battle I was also disappointed at the lack of depth to her character. With the amount of time you spend rummaging in bins would have been prime opportunites for them to talk and really get to know each other. Having her Hmm and Hum while staring at a bin or a desk does not give life to a character. Doubly so, because I knew she wasn’t actually seeing them. I felt like I could actually see the node telling her to go there and lean on this or look at the ground. Even still that stuff has been around since Eternal Darkness on the N64. The only good bits were the minor scripted events like the bathroom lines in the arcadey area. There should have been more of that.
She was an average character at best. Better than Booker’s character arc I guess. For that I’ll just leave this link about it: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/170863-/
I hated the revelation that Comstock was alt Booker as well. None of Comstock’s plans made any sense. He didn’t even do anything for most of the game. If he really wanted Elizabeth to follow after him, he could have just been a normal father. Show her a bit of love from an early age and teach her, becausef she won’t know any better. He’s largely absent from most of the game and what was his plan with the ghost fight? “Maybe you’ll listen to your mother.” But where is the logic in that? Lady Comstock hated and wanted to kill Elizabeth and also wanted to reveal the Prohet’s secrets. What if she succeeded? Game over pal. It was all a self-fulfilling prophecy from his own doing anyway.
What a retarded ending. I have nothing to add that you didn’t say and Miles in the comments here didn’t discuss.
Except I find everything with Old Elizabeth to be dumb as well. It’s her fault that she took Booker away and prevented him from saving Elizabeth before her torture really got underway for the indeterminent amount of time. She said Songbird stops him everytime, well I didn’t get to fight him there did you? Was Songbird even there? We don’t know. Heck, having Comstock sic Songbird to kill Booker in front of Elizabeth would have been a great way to set up the battle and break her hope to easily mold her. The nature of Songbird was also very vague. Does it obey her too, maybe when she is in the tower? Is it simply protective or does it listen only to the controlling songs which according to the stupid Lutece twins Elizabeth could sing to it. I guess they get points for avoiding the Beauty and the Beast trope I felt was coming. I felt nothing for when it died because we saw it like 3 times and Elizabeth couldn’t make up her mind if she disliked it or not through the limited discussions about it during the game. Still, I wished Booker could have yelled through the tears in the asylum to assure her that he was coming. You know, it makes sense.
Game was good, better than most, but not deserving of all this praise. I wish it was more like they had actually advertised with the ‘gameplay’ demos of 2010 and 2011.
Sir, spot on.