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The bird, or the cage: What BioShock Infinite says about choice and fatalism

8 Apr 2013  by   Peter Parrish
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WARNING: This article assumes you’re familiar with BioShock Infinite, the first BioShock and both of their respective endings. That means spoilers and plenty of ‘em!

Since its release on 26 March, BioShock Infinite has generated much discussion about its themes, ending and groundbreaking use of an ethereal parent as a boss fight. One of those themes is the ever-present tension between choice and fatalism; both in the way it impacts the characters within the game and the player themselves.

As we’re both the games writer equivalent of insufferable blabbermouths, Tim and I shared an email exchange on this very topic. In it, we discuss how choice and fatalism run through the game, the degree to which BioShock Infinite was successful in its exploration and communication of said themes, and various other diversions.

Whether you submit to fate or simply make the choice, you can read that exchange below.

BioShock Infinite

Peter: Tim! I am roping you into this discussion about how BioShock Infinite addresses the notion of choice in videogames. Resistance is futile. It is your destiny.

So, my initial thought about the ending (after my mind unwrapped itself) was “wow, Ken Levine took the criticism over BioShock’s moral choices really hard.”

That’s perhaps a bit uncharitable, but I think getting burned about the binary (and, let’s be honest, pretty weak) choice over whether to harvest or save Little Sisters influenced BioShock Infinite’s conclusion at least a small amount.

It seems like Infinite adopts a really broad definition of “choice,” to include every single behavioural and functional decision a player has made in the game (from which Vigors they used, to when they jumped to avoid an enemy shot and … well, everything really) and scales right back on any branching narrative options. At the end you see multiple Bookers, all of whom have made their choices to reach this point, but they are all at this point. The only other endings are theoretical (Bookers who didn’t make it.) The player can only ever see one narrative path.

It’s an elegant meta-comment on the many, many people in the real world playing through BioShock Infinite, but also seems like a bit of a cheeky way of suggesting that the sort of choices offered in other games are ultimately meaningless if they bring you to the same point every time.

What’s your take on all of this?

bioshockinfinite (1)

Tim: Just let me put my wank hat on.

You’re quite possibly right, insofar as the game tells a “complete” story regardless of the choices you make, but I actually thought the in-game morality decisions having no real effect was a really nice touch. Lots of games with moral choices get bogged down in alternate rewards, or aiming for one ending, and these “goals” impact any decision the player might make. BioShock Infinite doesn’t do this; it simply comes down to what you think is the right choice, and most of the decisions (and results) are pretty morally grey.

That said, I did rather like the ending. It touches upon fatalism (insofar as this is “the” ending, which everyone is destined to hit) as well as videogame mechanics themselves – much like BioShock did, but in a very different way.

BioShock had videogame fatalism, with the protagonist conditioned to respond to “Would you kindly” in the same way as the player has been conditioned over many years of gaming to just follow the Mission Control voice’s instructions in order to progress through the game. This was extremely clever, insofar as it completely turns the game (and the Mission Control voice instructions) on its head.

We’re not focusing on BioShock here, but it’s important to bring it up if only because BioShock Infinite does it in a very different way, by pointing out that the game/Booker’s journey has a very definite, predefined end point… but that different players will have had different experiences up to that point. Again: it takes a core videogame conceit (linearity, in this case) and does something clever with it. The aforementioned “meaningless” choices tie into this, too; regardless of how you treated Slate, you will still hit the same endpoint. It’s the journey that differs – and, in a game, it’s usually the journey that matters – and BioShock Infinite pretty much states this outright.

In fact, a huge amount of the game is about fatalism. Do I need to bring up the Luteces, and their little experiment at the beginning – that the coin flip always ends the same way, every time, as evinced by the chalkboard?

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Peter: Yeah, the Lutece coin flip is probably the fatalism scene, not least because whatever Booker chooses (and he does choose differently sometimes,) it lands on heads. In case people don’t know, that scene is straight out of Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play/film about a pair of characters from Hamlet who are doomed to die in Shakespeare’s text. There, the coin toss reflects the same theme of fatalism.

You’re right to put my “meaningless” choice comment in scathing quotation marks! Meaningless is too imprecise as a term.

Choosing not throw the baseball at the couple during the ‘raffle’ has meaning because you’ve taken the choice not to be a disgusting racist monster. In fact, I kind of wish you hadn’t been ‘rewarded’ with some extra gear for doing that. Just seeing the couple again and knowing that you helped them escape would’ve been enough. I think that’s pretty much the only choice where doing the morally reprehensible thing is punished to some degree.

Let’s list the other ones: ‘sparing’/shooting Slate, drawing first vs having your hand stabbed at the ticket office, bird or cage for Elizabeth to wear … I think that’s it? I did like the permanence of having your hand bandaged after the (super gruesome) stabbing. There’s also a neat touch with Elizabeth’s pendant changing during certain scenes of the ending, which I guess either suggests that the Elizabeth’s are different at that point, or they’ve briefly merged, or the tears have just made matters unstable.

I suppose the ultimate act of fatalism performed by the game is that the absolutely key choice of Booker’s baptism, one of two choices upon which the whole of BioShock Infinite hinges, is a choice which has already been made (and not made) for you before the title even begins. Your main goal, it turns out, is to prevent a choice from ever happening.

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Tim: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (the film, at least) is excellent. Just wanted to put that out there, because we haven’t had a nice discussion about movies for awhile. But yes, the coinflip (and the “Don’t take this raffle number,” even though it’s preordained that Booker will take that ticket) are very early examples of fatalism in effect – although you don’t really know that until your second playthrough.

The ball-throwing was a really interesting choice if only because it’s a not-very-interesting choice, and it deserves some elaboration. Forgive me.

Booker “wins” the raffle, and thus is given the first throw at an interracial couple, but players have the option of instead lobbing the ball at the announcer. Horrific as it is to modern-day eyes, this was a period when racism was rife, and – although Booker is generally established as being too wrapped up in self-loathing to really give a toss about skin colour any more – it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary, contextually speaking, for him to throw the ball. It’s the sort of scene that works precisely because we, as modern-day players, have a different reaction to the event than the characters present. Personally, I had no idea the game was going to tackle racism (which was perhaps foolish and naive of me) so it was pretty shocking to discover what the result of the raffle actually was. Although having read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, I had a pretty good idea that it was going to be something horrible.

It’s also one of the occasions when videogame mechanics do have an impact on the way we make our choice. On the one hand, a player might swallow their self-loathing and opt to throw the ball at the couple in order to keep Booker undetected so that he can complete his mission in Columbia… but it’s pretty obvious that the gameplay demands he be discovered soon enough anyway, which massively lessens the perceived impact of the choice itself.

For what it’s worth, I pulled my gun at the ticket office, and then felt horrible about it because of Elizabeth’s reaction. She may react the same way regardless of what you choose, but it was one of those moments that made me feel like a total bastard nonetheless.

It’s interesting you bring up the baptism, actually, because the game works off layers of fatalism. It’s noted by the Luteces – and possibly by Old Elizabeth, I forget – that these events have played out many, many times before, but Booker is always killed by the Songbird on every prior occasion the Luteces have tried to change events. In this sense, it’s sort of a complete loop, which is why it’s so fascinating that the ultimate goal of the game – to break out of the loop and finally change events – is seemingly predestined. Fated to fight fate, as it were. It makes my head hurt.

I’ll also note that this made the Songbird more imposing to me, and his ultimate end extremely sad. We never fought Songbird during the game, and it’s stated outright that if we had, we’d have died. On the one hand, this makes the creature somewhat more terrifying. On the other hand, I didn’t have much personal animosity towards it, so its final death was rather poignant. Making the most fearsome opponent in the game something that you actually never fight was an interesting decision by the dev team, but as far as I’m concerned, it paid off.

bioshockinfinite (6)

Peter: I’ve seen a few people complain about never fighting Songbird, but I’m with you on that. Dodging the ‘obvious’ boss fight was a neat swerve around convention and definitely made his death more powerful. There’s a theory out there that the universe Fink was peering into when he learned how to merge man and machine (as per the voxophone you find about Songbird) was one that contained Rapture. In effect, he’s a proto Big Daddy (but built to withstand low rather than high pressure.) When she drowns him outside Rapture, Elizabeth may be returning him home in some weird way.

By the way, there are a whole lot of drownings in this game. Songbird, Comstock, Booker – all drowned. It seems like another obvious nod to baptism, but a perversion of that idea. Drowning doesn’t remove the sin, it just removes the person.

Here’s the thing. I think BioShock Infinite presents a compelling case for telling a story about choice and consequences within a (basically) linear videogame structure. It does succeed in that, but the majority of choices are either alluded to (not performed,) pre-determined, or ultimately don’t have that much impact on the story. Choosing to draw/not draw at the ticket desk results in the same post-fight dialogue and events with Elizabeth (though, as mentioned, the latter does also lead to the visual change of a bandaged hand.)

For me, that’s always going to be a little less satisfying that a game like The Witcher 2 or Alpha Protocol or (what I’ve read about) Way of the Samurai. You can argue about the extent to which any of those games present choice as having a major effect upon their various endings, but it’s undeniable that choices you make during them have direct consequences to greater and lesser degrees. In BioShock Infinite it’s thematic. In those other titles, it’s more tangible. You see consequences in dialogue, in events, in bits of the game that are now open or closed to you.

I think “choice” junkies like me tend to get quite excited by even minor changes, actually. In Alpha Protocol, there’s a bit where you recover some data and your handler (Mina) decodes it for you. Unless you have a high enough tech stat, in which case you just do it yourself. That kind of detail is so minor, but I absolutely love it. It’s a small, sensible consequence applied to your earlier choices.

That’s not the sort of game BioShock Infinite is trying to be. I accept that, and I’m not trying to say otherwise. But even though the narrative justification for linearity is well handled and very clever, it does still irk me a bit that for a game literally all about the lasting impact of Bookers choices (baptism, whether to sell Anna,) released in a medium which allows for such creativity with choice, that the player doesn’t really get to make all that many. You’re kind of cheated out of it by fate. Damn you, fate!

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Tim: Speaking purely about gameplay for a moment, I don’t think a Songbird fight would’ve worked. There are enough huge, heavy enemies in the game that one more would’ve been Just Another Enemy – which would, again, have lessened the perceived power of the thing – unless the fight was heavily scripted, and heavily scripted boss fights tend to be rote and boring. Songbird has power because we don’t fight it, really. In another game, maybe, but BioShock doesn’t really have the combat engine for a big, setpiece heavy boss fight. I mean, the ghost boss fights were annoying enough. Did we really want another one of those, only against a flying Handyman? Perhaps with the environment falling apart around us as he smashes it to bits? Blech. It might’ve been exciting at the time, but in the long run, I’m truly glad it never happened.

But yes, there are a whole tonne of references to BioShock and Rapture throughout, both overt and hidden. Infinite pretty much takes the same concepts and themes as its predecessor, but twists them a bit – the whole Elizabeth/Songbird thing is a definite Big Daddy/Little Sister allusion that’s been turned around, not to mention the constant themes of parent/child relationships in both games. Rather than an enclosed setting under the sea, you’re in the open skies, and there’s definitely something about Elizabeth being imprisoned in what’s technically the most open place imaginable. Hell, she’s even siphoned for her power, much like the Little Sisters. They both say things about gameplay and gameplay mechanics, but they say different things and wedge them into the story in different ways. Infinite really is very similar to BioShock, while being its complete opposite in a number of ways.

Anyway: I think you’ve accidentally hit the nail on the head. BioShock Infinite is a game about choice, not a game of choice, and it does what it does superbly.

Much as I adore meaningful choice in games (in terms of impacting the story and/or gameplay, that is) or a feeling that a game is paying attention to what I’m doing, as Deus Ex manages so adeptly, I don’t really have a problem with this. I’ll confess that it would’ve been nice were there some minor changes based on the choices made, but a linear game telling a rather good story that messes with my head and makes me think long and had about various aspects of life isn’t something I’m going to complain about, and oddly, too many choices might’ve muted the impact of its various themes. There’s certainly space for a game to do that, but I don’t think it could ever have been BioShock Infinite; I don’t think the story as it is here would’ve supported it. Any minor choices that could’ve been put in would’ve been insulting. Would it have been a better game if, at the end, you got to choose whether to submit to the drowning or not? Because honestly, I think it would’ve been far less powerful and would’ve made an ENDING A OR ENDING B mockery of what the game did a really good job in saying.

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Peter: Yes, that was pretty rubbish in the first one and it would’ve been even more rubbish here.

Even though I’m not completely satisfied with how Infinite reconciles being a videogame about choice that’s also linear, it does get an awful lot right. I’m a sucker for titles which play around with the idea of “what it means (maaan)” to be a game, and there’s plenty of that on show here.

When it comes down to it, I love that this discussion is even possible. I’m not sure there’s another medium where the protagonists choices can be debated in terms of both theme and the mechanics of the medium itself. So much of BioShock Infinite lends itself to being talked about, and I think that invitation can open avenues to improved critical dialogues about other titles too. We’re still getting to grips with what games are able to do; the ‘languages’ they use to communicate with and cajole the player. Both the first BioShock and Infinite are works which explore that question really damn well.

Plus they give games writers a fine excuse to publish wanky think-pieces. Hooray!

Tim: So that’s choice out of the way, at least until one of us thinks of something we forgot to write. Which one of Infinite‘s approximately 7,000 themes are we going to discuss next?

Peter: The tragedy of a man obsessed with scavenging pineapples and candyfloss from filthy bins.

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Read the IncGamers review of BioShock Infinite here.

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  1. michael
    -89

    I like the many endings but the Bio Shock Infinite game was disappointing with only one ending no replay value so it sucks

    April 9, 2013 at 2:09 am

    1. CallumBrine
      +28

      Still, the game was pure epicness so the ending didn’t matter. And it is harder to make a sequel when you had 2 different endings

      April 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm

  2. Specter229
    +25

    You should eat your own face … getting a different ending doesnt make a game … getting an ending that makes you question how the hell you missed the premise smacking you in the face … the game far from sucks its got game of the year written all over it or have you not seen the reviews pouring forth?

    April 9, 2013 at 2:33 am

  3. donjuancalros
    +3

    “Just seeing the couple again and knowing that you helped them escape would’ve been enough.”

    You do!!!! And they thank you as well!

    April 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm
  4. Avatar of
    Peter Parrish
    +8

    I know, but what I meant there is that they didn’t have to give me a present as well :)

    April 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm

  5. Dan Stubbs
    +10

    The ending left me pretty messed up, to be honest. I’m thinking of doing the 1999 playthrough but the idea of working through the story again with foreknowledge of what and why has/will happen just makes me incredibly sad for both Booker and Elizabeth.

    On the flip side, I quite enjoyed ending an entire slice of Reality with a single action.

    April 10, 2013 at 10:44 am

  6. marny
    -2

    Yeah, the choice between “racism is good” and “racism is bad” is morally gray.

    April 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm
  7. Avatar of
    Peter Parrish
    +15

    “most of the decisions (and results) are pretty morally grey”

    Most of the decisions.

    Most of.

    April 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm

  8. Myles Thomas
    +14

    *SPOILERS* The thing is, as tragic as the ultimate ending for the story of Booker and Elizabeth is, the ending of the game is actually a happy one, and Both people are given one, single happy, normal life to live together. Booker can bring up his daughter, and she can grow up with him, normally, peacefully. It’s actually very sweet. The life with Columbia was the one filled with tragedy, but that then ceases to be as evidenced by the single remaining Elizabeth in the river before the credits – which I believe is actually Booker’s Anna grown up, in the now single remaining world. This combination of Tragedy and Happiness coupled with the story beforehand make Bioshock Infinite a Masterpiece.

    April 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm
  9. Avatar of
    Tim McDonald
    +9

    Like I think I implied, I don’t think the raffle choice is one that’s about whether interracial couples deserve to have balls lobbed at them. It’s more about whether you’re willing to do something horrible to innocent people in order to save yourself, really, which *is* an interesting decision – just not the way it’s handled here, which is why I wanted to talk about it in detail. That choice is about cowardice and peer pressure more than racism, but if you’ve got any real idea that BioShock Infinite will involve lots of shooting then it doesn’t really work because the outcome’s pretty obvious anyway.

    “On the one hand, a player might swallow their self-loathing and opt to throw the ball at the couple [...]“, etc.

    April 10, 2013 at 8:05 pm

  10. Mike A
    +4

    Thanks for this. A really nice exchange that I enjoyed reading. Wonderful game that I’ve immediately begun replaying. It’s amazing how much they were laying down right from the beginning. The opening scene in the row boat is now hysterical.

    “He doesn’t row.”
    “What do you mean he doesn’t row?”
    “No, he DOESN’T row.”
    “Oh, I see.”

    It’s been a bit since I’ve play/seen/read something this clever.

    April 10, 2013 at 8:09 pm

  11. Ryan C
    +2

    SPOILERS

    But how happy an ending is it Myles? Yeah they are still together BUT Booker also still has that debt that he initially gave Anna away for. Look at his desk in the scene after the credits. There’s still horse racing sheets and losing tickets there meaning he has the gambling debts he obviously was worried enough about to SELL HIS DAUGHTER…. (Bioshock Mafia next? Lol) that’s some serious debt. I don’t see normal or peaceful in their future. But maybe that’s just me…

    April 10, 2013 at 10:51 pm

  12. mesh
    +2

    when they say he doesn’t \row\, i’m assuming it means he doesn’t have control of his fate, but at the end Booker say’s something like no one tells him where to go. However remembering the \he doesn’t row\ line showed me that Booker himself doesn’t know his fate is predetermined.

    i agree with Tim about Songbird, not fighting Songbird makes Songbird very powerful as mechanism of the story, for example i was in actual dread on my first play-through, which was on hard, that i would have to fight Songbird. i was having problems with the handyman, therefor, the thought of fighting Songbird just put fear in me. Then when i saw him die at rapture, i was very relieved that i didn’t have to fight him, but very sad at the same time.

    i have a habit/ritual that when i beat a game on the first play-through i have to watch all the credits, kudos to to the devs for putting in a behind the scenes moment. and at the end of the credits, there is a happy ending…

    one of the best games i ever played, these are games with such a story that after beating it, i’m still thinking about it days later.

    on to 1999 mode, now why is called that i don’t know

    -mesh

    April 10, 2013 at 11:05 pm

  13. Myles Thomas
    +4

    *SPOILERS* RYAN C, the way I see it, Booker gave his daughter away not because of his debt in gambling, but because he new that the way he was going, she wouldn’t have much of a life. He thought she would be better brought up by a wealthy family. However he realized very shortly after how stupid he was, and went to get her back. Of course, originally he was to late. I think that the reason he holds on to \wipe away the debt\ throughout the story is because in the back of his mind \the debt\ represents the guilt over failing her as a father, his debt to her, so to speak. The Lutece’s comment on the mind creating new memories from old one’s, I think that these new memories are formed from a subconscious drive to get his daughter back, and redeem himself (another theme used a lot in the story). I believe that, at the end of the story, even if he isn’t consciously aware of any of the events that took place in the columbia world, he knows somehow in his soul, which is why he acts the way he does when he wakes up and calls for her, like he realizes again, just how important she is to him. I believe he would have straitened up anyway, because A: If the Comstock version of him was capable of making Columbia a reality in the space of just a year or so (I know it’s crazy, but check the timeline, honestly) then the \Booker Booker\ Should be able to pay off his debts and make an honest life for his daughter. He had to overcome his intense guilt and self-hate from Wounded knee as well. Where Comstock was \Baptized and reborn\, I believe that with time, Booker Dewitt realizes that Anna, his daughter, is his redemption. That’s this man’s opinion anyway.

    April 11, 2013 at 2:07 am

  14. eric
    +1

    He doesn’t KNow.”
    “What do you mean he doesn’t KNow?”
    “No, he DOESN’T KNow.”
    “Oh, I see.”

    April 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm

  15. Hamish L
    +1

    *SPOILER ALERT* Sorry to disagree, but as each of the girls disappear (each with a piano note) in the final river scene, the ‘camera’ fades to black and there’s a final single piano note. This certainly seems to be the extinction of the last remaining Anna/Elizabeth because both Booker and Comstock (their respective fathers) have both been snuffed out. Sorry.

    A surprisingly wonderful game that has me reevaluating the game genres that we’ve come to accept as set in stone.

    April 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    1. Jon F
      +1

      Except that in the Epilogue after the credits it’s purposely left ambiguous as to if Anna/Elizabeth is just a baby. It’s kinda funky logic altogether, but it wasn’t Booker that was snuffed out, it was Combstock, and the choice. You have to think that not every Booker made it to the point that they made the decision to or not to be baptized, but still came to the point that they had the daughter Anna. The biggest change here, is that throughout space/time, Combstock no longer exists, so an infinite number of Combstocks could no longer steal Anna from an infinite number of Bookers, and, to be clear, Combstock was never a biological father, because Anna was born *after* the baptize scene, as to why she disappeared when the choice was destroyed. Further more, the Anna/Elizabeth’s that disappeared were all products of a choice as whether or not to sell Anna to Combstock in the first place, thus making it plausible that they’d disappear when that choice was no longer there, due to Combstock never existing.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm

  16. Adam
    0

    There is no Happy Ending.

    * Spoiler* (Are these tags really necessary as the entire article is a spoiler) I have to agree with Hamish. If you will recall Comstock is infertile and has never had a child, therefore Booker can’t have had a child at the baptism, so when he drowns at the end (and all versions of him drown as pointed out by elizabeth/anna during the lighthouse scene where we see the other bookers and she says that many choices all lead to the same end), all Comstocks, Bookers and Elizabeths cease to exist, the story is unwritten. Booker dies an unremarkable survivor of wounded knee who was drowned trying to redeem himself. Columbia, the debt and Elizabeth never happened, never were and never will be. The scene at the end is an unrealised reality, that never existed.

    April 27, 2013 at 11:53 am

  17. wade
    +8

    Except that Comstock is infertile from all the experiments the Luteces are performing not a pre-condition (I think there’s an audio log that says this? Not sure), so there’s nothing saying that Booker can’t have had a child. In fact, if Comstock knows, as he clearly alludes to before being drowned, that Booker is simply a version of himself then that just explains why he decided to buy Anna and not just some random baby.

    April 28, 2013 at 6:47 am

  18. Adam
    +3

    Well the Luteces are observing other universes so that easily explains why Comstock was aware of Anna.

    Also more importantly if Booker had already had a child at the time of the baptism, then Comstock would have had one also as they were the same person up to that point. Your right in saying that Comstock becomes infertile due to the experiments. Not being exposed to them allowed Booker to have Anna, ie. after the Baptism. So if Booker dies at the baptism then he could never have Anna.

    Also the child is clearly no older than one when she gets sold/kidnapped. Columbia would have taken many years to build. Put together those facts and Anna would have had to have been born after the baptism.

    Finally if Booker dies at the baptism then neither he, nor Comstock, nor Anna would ever exist

    April 28, 2013 at 10:47 pm

  19. Donovan
    +3

    You would be right Adam, if not for the scene after the credits. The fact that there still is a Booker somewhere shows that fate/Paradox/whatever would not allow all Bookers to be destroyed. Actually according to Paradox, Elizabeth could not have destroyed him like that, otherwise she would not have been created and in not being created she couldn’t have drowned him…

    I for one am thankfully for them adding that little scene as it lets the eternal optimist inside me hope he CAN work through fate and destiny and through his actioms create a world where there is no spoon and there is a happy, cared for daughter Anna DeWitt.

    Side note, if you haven’t read or seen \Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” you are doing yourself a great disservice…go out, read or see it and enjoy.

    April 29, 2013 at 5:00 am

  20. iphoria
    +16

    Quite a few wrong posts here: wade, Adam, Donovan, etc.

    Booker arrives at the baptism, and makes a choice: to be baptized or not. Based on that choice, there are now \two Bookers\.
    - Booker 1 gets baptized, goes on to become Comstock, creates Columbia, becomes infertile.
    - Booker 2 refuses the baptism, goes on to marry, have a baby, lose his wife.

    Booker 1 (Comstock) goes and steals Anna from Booker 2, and renames her Elizabeth, and that’s the story of Bioshock Infinite. When Elizabeth kills Booker 1 at the point right after he chooses to get baptized, she is killing him off right at the source (\nipping the timeline in the bud\). Thus, no Comstock, Columbia, etc. ever exists. That’s why it fades to black, b/c Elizabeth ceases to exist.

    Booker 2 (who refused the baptism to begin with) goes on and lives a happy life… with some gambling problems. But at least he has his baby. And there is no Booker 1 to ever steal her away.

    April 29, 2013 at 8:53 am

  21. Adam
    +2

    Donovan your right there is quite a massive paradox at the end with elizabeth killing Booker, which would be impossible whether or not any Bookers existed after the event, but since it is nearly impossible to write a time altering story without paradoxes it can be over looked to some degree. likewise I would like to hope that Booker got his redemption but I feel that perhaps the scene at the end doesn’t make sense and the developers were just forced to put it in to apease us.
    Think of it like this, Elizabeth wanted to make sure that Comstock never existed. Acording to the quantum mechanical interpretation of the multiverse there are infinite universes. So if any of the Bookers/Comstocks survived then an infinite number would survive, which would make Elizabeth drowning those Bookers kinda pointless.

    Which brings me to iphoria’s point.
    I may have miss understood the ending but my interpretation of the final scene was that Booker was killed BEFORE he made the choice to be baptised or not, which was the significance of the two Elizabeths taking him by each arm and the first saying his name was Comstock and the second saying he was Booker. I understood that to mean that he was one in the same at that point.

    As a final point, do you really want a happy ending?
    The entire story is about fatalism and Booker making the ultimate sacrifice to change his fate and that of the world.
    Doesn’t slapping a nice and happy final scene on to what is otherwise an incredibly moving ending, cheepen it to a degree.
    The first time I finished the game I didn’t watch to the end of the credits, so didnt see that scene, and I felt that the way it finished had far more impact than when I watched it the second time.
    Just a thought.

    April 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm

  22. rob
    +10

    If you’ve seen it then then you know that there is an “Inception” type of ending.
    In that last scene Booker wakes up in his room on the same day that they came for Anna/Elizabeth, but this time there’s no one at the door yelling “Bring us the girl and wipe away the……” due to the drowning that stopped Booker of ever turning into the Comstock ,meaning Booker and Anna/Elizabeth fixed it by sacrificing Booker.
    This time Booker hears Anna (baby) crying in her room.Booker opens the door to her room and says”Anna,is that you ?!” but before you get to see the baby, the scene ends (You will see the baby crib but you never get close enough to see if Anna is in the crib).This is the same kind of ending that Nolan created for Inception.
    This ending leaves you with these two questions :
    1.Is baby Anna in the crib because Anna and Booker truly fixed the Comstock thing and lived Happily ever after ?! (Good Ending)
    OR
    2.Booker was just hearing and imagining voice of Anna from other memories of the other universes and “there is no baby Anna in that baby crib” ? (Bad Ending)
    I’d say that the answer to the first question MUST be “yes” and the answer to the second question MUST be “no” !
    Not because I like a good ending but because Booker and Anna/Elizabeth Corrected the destiny so there won’t be an Anna with the ability of opening tears (Anna/Elizabeth had the power of opening tears because her finger was in another universe ,giving her the ability to travel between worlds and letting loose the memories of people from one universe to the other)
    So there won’t be a Comstock,there won’t be a deal that leads Anna to lose her finger and gain the tear ability,SO there is NO WAY that Booker was hearing and imagining voice of Anna from other memories of the other universes in the last scene BECAUSE there’s no Anna/Elizabeth with the tear power.
    Did the Developers wanted to confuse the players with the two questions I mentioned ? If so then I would say they lack the logic to make us think that there might not be a baby Anna in that crib,I’d say that we deserved a good ending but they took it away from us.

    May 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm

  23. Locke
    +6

    The problem that i have with that idea is that according to my understanding of the multi universe theory the change that prevented Comstock and all of his \universes\ to happen was the choice made when Booker is being baptized,like iphoria said at that moment he has 2 choices either walk away and live consumed by guilt or be baptized and become Comstock,so by drowning him it creates a 3rd choice that overrides the 2nd and renders impossible for Comstock,Elizabeth,Columbia to exist.So we are left with the Booker that walks away from the baptism and that i think is the one that at the ending the developers left up to us to decide if he somehow \broke the circle\ or lived consumed and in debt but with his daughter.

    Did anyone else noticed that part at the beginning of the game when you are baptized to enter Columbia?,Booker gets \drowned\ by the priest.I wonder if that has any meaning also.

    May 2, 2013 at 2:18 am

    1. rob
      +4

      In the end he didn’t live in debt because if there is no Comstock then there won’t be a “Debt”(Booker had to pay the debt by giving Anna to Comstock).the 3rd choice you mentioned deleted Comstock and the dept with him.

      May 11, 2013 at 12:41 am

  24. Jozye
    +2

    I’d have to tastefully disagree Rob. The fact there is no Comstock doesn’t erase his debt. He doesn’t know Comstock (himself) which is from another universe, so how would the destruction of Comstock destroy his debts?

    Debts can be assumed to be metaphorical ie his sins, or literal (like mentioned previously) his gambling debts.

    Booker HAS to exist pass the point where he is destroyed, because, as it is said before bioshock /infinite/ has infinite choices, that all lead to the same spot, so, shouldn’t the choice to kill Comstock/Booker lead you to the same spot? If I am correct, If there are infinite universes, then there HAS to be a universe where Booker isn’t even born, correct? Wouldn’t that mean that because /that/ Booker doesn’t exist all Booker’s don’t exist?

    As someone mentioned before, there has to be a Booker, to create an Anna/Liz AND Comstock, to create a Columbia, to create an experiment with the Letuces to allow Comstock to go back to get Anna/Liz, to allow Booker to “perform” Bioshock infinite, to kill Comstock to be killed, and so on……
    and
    So the final FINAL scene is not a slap in the face, but a reaffirmation that there are infinite universes, and ONLY the one’s effected by the decision of the Baptism (because again we must assume there are universes where the decision doesn’t even happen) are effected by the death of Booker at his baptism.

    May 24, 2013 at 11:32 pm

  25. Jozye

    Though after further thought of the Constant and Variables as described by the Letuce’s (i.e. the coin toss) perhaps his birth is a constant? But, if Anna’s birth isn’t a constant (i.e. him dying prevents her existence then) why not his? Dah….But also Anna could’ve been born a girl, his wife could live…etc. So that being said, perhaps constants are events that aren’t effected by human choice, i.e. a coin flip, or any random event left up to chance.

    May 27, 2013 at 1:43 am

  26. FJ
    +1

    About the \happy ending\… I think there IS a happy ending, Booker had a debt with himself (Comstock) in some weird and hard to tell way, so at the end when the \Elizabeths\ drown him he’s not able to become Comstock, just as he said at the end of the game about \killing Comstock in the crib\ (or something like it) and is what he actually does, he prevents Comstock from being born as he never takes de baptism and doesn’t become Comstock. Besides, the ones thinking that he will never have a child (Anna) because he is sterile, are wrong, because it was Comstock who was sterile, not Booker (because of the exposure to the Lutece’s contraption, which never took place after the end of the game, because Booker didn’t take the baptism therefore renaming himself Comstock). At the very end (after the credits) we are shown a man shocked at finding his daughter in her crib because he already had gave her to the man to pay his \debt\, maybe it was the Lutece’s will to prevent Booker from becoming Comstock. This only is explained by the theory that the Luteces gave back Anna after Booker repayed his \debt\ and break the infinite cycle by not becoming Comstock. So… why is a happy ending if Booker can still take the baptism? Because he never will. He just took the baptism because he felt guilty for the things he had done in the past, but most because of selling his daughter; this also explains Comstock’s fixation by isolating Elizabeth (Anna) from the rest of the world and stoping himself (Booker) from reaching her, as he knows he made a terrible choice by selling her and doesn’t trust himself anymore (my brain hurts). So there you go, happy ending! But I know is just a theory (a game theory?).

    PD: Excuse me if there are gramatical errors, English is not my first language :P

    June 1, 2013 at 9:00 pm

  27. LittleBoy
    -1

    Infinite is a premise of BioShock 4, in my opinion, where they will continue Rapture’s Story.

    But htere are many endings in BioShock 2, so they will chose one to make a sequel and they will say that the other endings are not ”wrong”, they just prefered to make a sequel of that dimension specifically.. The other endings still exists but in another lighthouses…

    June 3, 2013 at 2:20 am

  28. Lucas C

    Two things…

    1. This game is beautiful, though the lack of multiple endings is a little disappointing the one there is so brilliantly executed, I mean the main character dies, every choice you made really didn’t matter, but the whole things comes together in a way that it makes sense and your okay with it, which is a lot more then can be said for the endings found in some other games…

    2. I’d like to know which one of those doors lead to the world with the kick-ass Mass Effect 3 ending(s)

    June 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

  29. Stephen
    +1

    Comstock IS infertile, however, Booker is not. Regardless if booker had given the child to Comstock or not Comstock would still get the child (ANA). Comstock NEEDED and heir to his throne so in any other version of the world he would have taken the baby from booker (because she is the only blood relative of himself even though she is from a different world. Thus when Booker kills himself at the baptism he kills Comstock, not himself. Without Comstock There is no child being stolen, thus there IS a happy ending. The ending without Comstock (because without him there is no possible way that Bookers child could have been taken from him) is a happy ending, thus, Booker can live Happily for the rest of his life, and if not happy, at least without Comstock. Elizabeth dies, but Anna does not.

    June 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm

  30. Jake

    In regards to the very last scene in the game. Where he wakes up and checks to see if the baby is in the room. The answer to what happened in that scene I think is revealed in the rest of the game. Remember the Lutece’s saying, \lived, live, will live, died, die, will die; if a linguistic professor understood quantum physics, they would have no reason to get out of bed in the morning.\ Or something to that effect. What happened in the game, is every time you stepped into a tear, you created a new fork off reality. Thus creating a different universe. This caused all of those realities surrounding Booker to become entangled. Remember, the last time you stepped through a tear Booker was supposed to be dead in that world. However, he had memories from 2 different realities causing his nose to bleed. Every time, his nose bleed it was a sign that he had stepped through a different reality. Thus causing a new fork off of his central timeline. ALSO, Elizabeth was taken through one of those tears and was held for an unspecified amount of time, in a different reality. It wasn’t part of the same timeline that Booker was in, when he was walking through Comstock house. Except, when he made it through the gate to rescue her then their realities re-intersected.

    What happened at the end when all the Elizabeths drown Booker in the river, was you saw a powerset of all the Elizabeths in that timeline. At the root or the trunk of that timeline, to end the future for the Booker/Comstock reality (that reality being the one where Booker/Comstock are at odds with each other for Elizabeth.) They let him die in that timeline. Thus, negating all possible actions ONLY IN THAT TIMELINE. The very ending scene is a view of a different timeline where whether or not there was a baby in the crib, it was a new reality, with new bounds.

    At least, that’s how interpreted it.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:25 pm

  31. Imanni

    I think, since there are multiple instances of this event, when Elizabeth drowned Booker(comstock) she only drowned him in THAT particular event, the baptism, that would mean that there would be a second line IN THE PAST where Booker dosen’t get baptized (because Elizabeth prevented it) so BEFORE the BAPTISM is what you see in the end credits…

    Am i right? in a sense at least? took some unraveling of my brain to kinda \think\ this one through

    June 18, 2013 at 5:50 am

  32. Imanni

    The reason i say this is because booker said (i dont know exactly who) that he got baptised because he felt guilty. ugh this game was utterly amazing at story progression that im just so lost into the facts and details every time i play it.

    June 18, 2013 at 5:53 am

  33. Anonymoose
    -3

    Whatever idiot wrote this apparently didnt play the game – or at least didnt pay attention. You DO get rewarded for not throwing the ball at the couple at the beginning: you get a piece of equipment from them later on, as well as them thanking you for not doing it.

    July 24, 2013 at 9:14 pm
    1. Avatar of
      Tim McDonald
      +5

      You apparently didn’t read the article – or at least didn’t pay attention.

      “In fact, I kind of wish you hadn’t been ‘rewarded’ with some extra gear for doing that. Just seeing the couple again and knowing that you helped them escape would’ve been enough. I think that’s pretty much the only choice where doing the morally reprehensible thing is punished to some degree.”

      July 24, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      1. guest

        you are also “punished” if you don’t make a choice in that situation… i took too long deciding whether to throw or not to throw and the game moved on automatically as if i had decided NOT to throw… however, i did not meet the couple later on the game just as if i HAD thrown…

        August 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm

  34. Booker

    Yes, and if you choose to throw the ball at the couple, you also get rewarded with gear (by Fink’s servant). So I don’t think either choice is punished in any way, which again shows us that the choice didn’t actually matter.

    August 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm

  35. guest

    did anyone notice while in the large room in rapture with liz and booker, that if you look out the window at the glass tunnel a short distance away you can see the silhouette of a little sister crying alongside a dead big daddy?

    August 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm

  36. Unknown

    What do you think of this; What if the Songbird was another DeWitt captured by Comstock and him and Fink made him into Songbird, and that, that is why he is so protective of Elizabeth? Because he is afraid of losing her again. It also states in one f the voxaphones that Fink watched the creator of the big daddies from a tear and made his own, which would mean there’s a human inside…

    December 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm

  37. dziki4zwierz

    Maybe Booker which Elisabeth had drown was the one which was about to become Comstock? As you see there are no people around preacher, so it couldn’t be the scene we witnessed when Booker rejected sacrament. Besides how does it even hold up with burial at the sea dlc? Maybe Lutece was wrong and Anna’s abilities were not effect of finger loss, but she was born with them?

    December 28, 2013 at 7:49 am

  38. hmm

    i think there is a glaring error here.
    well, as much of an error as there can be in a story like this. i’ll start of by saying that booker is comstock and that anna is bookers daughter who was given away to comstock by booker in order to resolve his gambling debts, she lost her finger when booker tried to get her back and the lutecs were trying to fix what they fucked up when they helped comstock steal his own daughter from a different dimension (which i believe to be the source of elizabeths interdimensional power) while comstock himself was infertile and the baptism was where booker became comstock.

    booker himself said that he was baptised. the baptism can’t have turned him into comstock because the booker you play as isn’t comstock. then they go on to say that there are infinite comstocks and dewitts… how then does drowning booker change anything?

    they can drown all the bookers and that will change something… but you know that the booker they kill isn’t comstock and never will be comstock. there are other bookers who are going to become comstock…

    consider this, BA is booker and choice A. he becomes a father and goes of to get his daughter
    CB is comstock and choice B. he becomes a prophet and steals BA daughter. B is booker before he makes a choice and EA is elizabeth.

    BA has EA and CB captures EA but how? he travels through dimensions? so booker can never be comstock? or they travel through time in which case comstock already had his daughter after being baptised and became booker when?

    honestly, the only explanation i can see is that comstock deliberately made elizabeth have these powers by taking her from the past, every single dewitt is going to become comstock *after* going to columbia and finding all this out. elizabeth drowns dewitt every single time rather than allowing him to take over the world. otherwise the ending, the storyline just doesn’t make sense.

    just my 2 cents anyway.

    December 28, 2013 at 7:57 pm

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