It's Really Short Though, Right?
Not if you just stand here for seven hours.
Well, yes, but no. In terms of gameplay time, the story can be completed in a dozen hours or so. But that's if you're the kind of player who, when dropped into a breathtakingly complete and immersive world full of subtle detail and hidden exposition, immediately takes off in a dead sprint after the objective arrow, barely pausing to shoot anything that moves in the balls. If you burn right through the game as fast as you can, you can finish Infinite very quickly. But if you do that, you're going to be very confused by the ending, because you didn't stop to collect half the story.
BioShock: Infinite is as dense as your inbred cousin who needs a cheat sheet to work the microwave. There are serious rewards for taking your time, exploring every offbeat path, and collecting as much as you can. If you play through Infinite once in 10 straight hours, that's fine -- you'll probably have fun. But it is definitely worthwhile to go back and play it again with that endgame knowledge in your head. On my first playthrough, I went very slowly -- even taking notes, because I'm a giant hemorrhaging dork -- and it took me 20 hours. If you played it like that, then first things first: Can we be friends? We can swap geeklogs! But second, you probably don't need to play it again. However, if your first playthrough took 10 hours, you've got another 10 hours in replay that will be richly rewarding.
All right, that being said, go ahead and hit the "next page" button and let's talk about the ending, what was really going on in BioShock: Infinite, and why my nose won't stop bleeding even though I haven't done coke in a fortnight.
Updated 8:04PM PST
One more time for the skimmers: If you haven't finished BioShock: Infinite yet, RUN AWAY.
What follows is nothing but spoilers: We will spoil the ending, we will spoil the side missions, we will spoil on the beaches, we will spoil on the landing grounds, we will spoil in the fields and in the streets, we'll spoil shit that hasn't happened yet, and we'll spoil your goddamn appetite. If you're curious, bookmark this page and return after you've played it, but if I get a single message telling me I spoiled the game for somebody, I am going to come straight through your Internet like the Lawnmower Man and slap you in the mouth.
Pictured: What you'll see three seconds after emailing me "thks 4 the spiolers, dickfcae!"
Let's start with the most important questions that I didn't necessarily find a definitive answer for while playing through BioShock: Infinite:
How many main worlds do you think there are?
I know that the ending, and the title, suggest infinite variations, but do you think each tear led you to a different world? Or was Elizabeth shifting you back and forth between two or three worlds as your actions changed them?
"To respond to "how many main worlds do you think there are?" I think the biggest clue lies in what Elizabeth said: "It's a form of wish fulfillment." It's not like they're jumping from one world to the other, rather when Booker and Elizabeth hit a plot dead end she "finds" a world that has the right conditions for them to continue on. She does warn Booker every time a jump tear presents itself, saying that you can't go back. There aren't any main worlds, rather an Infinite (eh? eh?) branching out of worlds where all choices exist simultaneously." -Maui Mauricio
Ah, so every single manipulation Elizabeth makes, from bringing a crate of med-kits through to shifting Chen Lin's tools, isn't just creating a tear to another world at that point in "your" world, it's shifting the pair of you over to an entirely new world where those conditions exist. I assumed the "Infinite" in the title was referring to the revelation at the end -- that, generally speaking, there are any number of combinations possible -- not that you, the player, have gone, or can go, through infinite variations depending on what you bring through in combat.
"There are as many world as there are players. Every person playing the game is playing a different Booker, the developers of the game said that your decision's in the game would change the story, but they never did until I realized it changed every players story by making me a separate Booker." -Protolore
What was up with the coins?
Rosalind and Robert Lutece introduced the concept, at the very beginning, by having you flip a coin. It came up heads for me (was it different for you, depending on how you called it?), and when Robert turned around, his sandwich board showed that it always comes up heads. However, during the game, every coin Elizabeth tossed me came up tails. Is that what happened for you? What do you think that means?
"The Lutece-coin section was significant to show that they were testing the constants and variables. Each Booker flipped heads at that point every time. It was a constant. But when you pick the brooch for Elizabeth, they remake that they thought you would pick the other, a variable. They were likely trying to use those decisions in their quantum calculations or if this Booker would be successful. I never considered Elizabeth's coins always being tails, as I assumed it was just the one animation." -Ben Cobb
See, I totally did not pick up on that. I thought the coin-flip was an experiment they were doing with other fair-goers. But the Luteces are pan-dimensional: It makes sense that every one of those tally marks on Robert's board was some version of Booker coming to flip the coin.
"Playwright here. An actual explanation for the coin flipping: This is an allusion to Tom Stoppard's Absurdist play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in which the titular characters also flip coins and have them always come up heads (if I'm not mistaken it happens exactly 113 times in both stories (yes, I counted (and yes, triple parentheses--mind blown much?)))." -Al-xHaslett
My mind would have been blown, but you nested parentheses so all of your opinions and thoughts are invalid.
Why could Booker handle his own death when Chen Lin and the guards went all time-blinky?
We saw that stepping through a tear into an alternate world where you've died severely fucks up your mind, and Booker is dead in Voxworld. But there's only one brief moment where his nose starts bleeding (well, that, and a few callbacks during the ending). Why could Booker handle it when Chen Lin and the guards went all time-blinky?
"Regarding why Booker can handle being dead, but other characters can't: The exact circumstances that drive Chen Lin (and all the Vox and police that you inventively murder trying to GET to Chen Lin) insane are never actually applied to Player Character Booker. All the NPCs die, and then someone near them who is not them jumps through a Tear. They don't go themselves. Booker is always the one going through the Tear." -Antilles
Are Booker DeWitt and Robert Lutece from the same world?
Rosalind and Robert Lutece are alternate-world versions of the same person. It's clear that Rosalind is from a world with Columbia and Comstock, but is Robert native to Booker's world? In other words, there doesn't seem to be a Columbia in Booker's world, and that makes sense, because he never became Comstock to start it -- but is there a Columbia in Robert Lutece's world? Or did he step through to Rosalind's world when they opened the first tear, and then they both collectively went to a third world, Booker's, to get Anna? If so, what was the significance of the statue? At the start of the game, the very first time-shifting moment you witness is the statue of Rosalind Lutece twitching -- it's shifting between Robert and Rosalind versions. Why is Columbia already in flux?
"Seeing as there isn't a Columbia in the world booker is from, and the dissenting city becomes rapture, it is fully possible that Robert was the designer that worked out the equal pressures needed for rapture to not collapse under the weight of the ocean." -AmielDavis
That's a good point: The whole game is constants and variables. The man, the city, and the lighthouse are all constants, so if Booker doesn't become Comstock, there has to be a different man, city and lighthouse. That would mean Booker is from Rapture's universe, just earlier on, before it exists. If Booker has to be an ancestor of Ryan to be able to bypass the genetic locks on the bathyspheres, then could Booker's Anna, the one that was never taken, be Andrew Ryan's mother? Remember: "The seed of the prophet shall sit the throne, and drown in fire the mountains of man." Booker is/was/will be the prophet, so his seed is not only Anna, but also Ryan, and therefore Ryan's son, Jack, the protagonist from the first Bioshock. Did you ever get the "bad" ending in the first Bioshock? You let the splicers loose. You, the "seed of the prophet" effectively "drown in flame the mountains of man."
In response to Brockway's Stupid Theory
"It's an impossibility for Anna to be Ryan's mother. Ryan was born in Russia. Andrew Ryan isn't even his real name. It's Andrei Rianofski. He was around to see the Bolsheviks in 1917 and moved to America in 1919 where he changed his name. This means that Ryan would have had to have been at LEAST 16-18 at the year 1919 to move to America on his own and change his name. Making his birthdate about 1901-1903. Anna Dewitt was born in 1892. She would have had to give birth to Andrew at the EARLIEST age of 9. Making a direct relation between Anna and Ryan impossible. What makes a bit more sense (things making sense a bit relative in the Bioshock universe) is that there is always a man, always a lighthouse. Booker is an alternate version of Jack. Simply existing in universes where the variables changed. Like the Luteces being essentially genetic matches up until the chromosome change. Booker shares Jack's genetic traits. Thus sharing Ryan's. Thus being able to use the bathyspheres." -TrashboatJones
Well, shit. My idea was way cooler, though. I'm going to split off into my own alternate world where I'm right and you shut up.
Did anybody else get inside Fink's Magical Melodies?
If so, why was that one single tear a different color pattern? It was red/gray instead of blue/gray. All the other music in the game was an alternate, old-timey cover of some anachronistic song, but the tune playing through Fink's red/gray tear was the unaltered original version of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Was that the only portal into our (the player's) universe, and if so, why was it a different color? Were there others that I missed?
"On the tears- there was a tear in Finkton near the Chen-Lin place and that club that was the same color and had the original CCR version of "Fortunate Son" playing through it? I think Booker made a comment about having not heard that song before and then Elizabeth said she didn't think anyone did." -Mark
I wonder how many others there were. Were all the red/gray tears just playing song versions from our universe? Is that the only significance: We get special color palette treatment because our universe is the best? Hell yeah! Suck it, other universes.
"I assume the red tears are ones that Albert Fink opened and failed to close. Since his tears were only there to poach music from our universe." -quicksignup
That's an interesting idea: That there are unclosed tears, or that there are tears that differ in their fundamental nature somehow. Maybe Fink's tears - the red/grey ones - were just voyeurism. Like one-way mirrors, you could only see but not interact. But Elizabeth's tears, the blue/grey ones, allow you to step through, pull through, generally interact. I really like this explanation, because it's very similar to the way the time-travel drugs in my book work, and I love me some me.
Who is the Angel Columbia?
It's explained that Comstock's powers of prophecy come from him peering into alternate universes, but if that's the case, who is the Angel Columbia? The Angel tells him the early prophecies, before the tears. She tells him about the flying city and to find Rosalind Lutece to make it happen. She also tells him that "the city will only survive so long as the seed of the prophet sits the throne." It can't just be pure religious madness, because all of that came true. Is Columbia the final version of "our" Elizabeth, after you collapse the siphon? Is she guiding Comstock to help make sure the events of the game unfold as they do, so she can be "born again" with full powers?
"Rosalind Lutece? Comstock using religious rhetoric to get followers?" -silentstone7
I like the idea that Columbia is a post-accident Rosalind Lutece guiding Comstock into the events. It almost makes sense: She's shown that she would do anything, including kidnapping, to be with her "brother." Robert threatens to leave her if they don't save/stop Elizabeth, but they'd probably never be together without Comstock. She explicitly says that his funding is the only thing that enables her to create a tear so she and Robert can be together. But it seems like a lot of people are saying "nah, it's just bullshit that Comstock is making up." I did not get that sense from his character: Sure, he's shown as merciless and manipulative, but he always seems to take his faith seriously. The baptism is the event that splits Comstock off from Booker, it's extremely important to him, and I think it's the one thing he's not cynical about. Plus, the game is written with a lot of care. I would be very surprised if you asked an Infinite writer who Columbia was, and their answer was "oh, that? Nah, that's just some bullshit."
Does Booker have Quantum Powers?
In the 1984 universe, the one where Elizabeth becomes the Lamb and fire-bombs New York City, she explains that she's training people to use Quantum Magic or whatever. The Boy of Silence (the horn-headed dude) clearly has the same powers as she does, just lesser. The inmates in the Founder masks are immune to damage until they're alerted. They're twitching and involuntarily shifting through worlds like Chen Lin, which Elizabeth explains in a Voxophone is because she "exposed them to every version [of their own minds]." So they're scattered across the universes, like the Luteces, but they can't handle it. When the Boy of Silence sounds the horn and all the inmates are whole again, they can hurt you and be hurt. So is he calling their scattered consciousnesses all back together into one universe so they can act against you? If so, it's implied that Elizabeth got her powers when the Luteces brought Anna through a tear. Now Lamb-Elizabeth is making other Quantum-powered beings, presumably by pulling them through other tears? If so, why doesn't Booker develop these same powers? He crosses through multiple tears with Elizabeth through the course of the game.
"Elizabeth gained quantum powers, I believe, because she existed physically in two dimensions. One as a pinky and one as the rest of her. It seems like that was the event that started this whole thing." -MajicWalrus
Seems to be generally agreed that Elizabeth has powers because she lost her pinky between universes. So Lamb-Elizabeth is creating the Boys of Silence and other quantum-manipulating beings by putting them partway between tears and severing their body parts? That's fucking awesomely dark. Makes me wonder what's under that helmet. But if it was that easy, why isn't Comstock building an army of pinky-less universe-manipulating magical racists?
"Yes. If you're as terrible a player as me you have died a handful of times. Usually when you die you see a cut scene where Elizabeth gives you the whole "Don't you fucking die on me" treatment and you're back in the action. However if you have died in a spot in the game where Elizabeth isn't around to pull your ass out of the fire you end up back in your dingy apartment office. All you do there is open the door and you are back to the spot before you died. They explain when you "die" when you come back the enemies heal. Do they? Or is it that you never shot at them (or in some other cases used your arm can opener to introduce their brain to the sun). The entire tear jumping all the different Bookers have done all starts from the central point in his office when he gave up his daughter. It's possible that under extreme duress Booker can take himself briefly back to that point to allow himself to recover. He can't do this all the time or at will because in his timeline the exposure is a recent (although enumerable) event. Elizabeth can because she has been dealing with it since she was a baby." -Mike Gilbert
Booker's got functional Quantum Immortality then: He can, subconsciously, manipulate probabilities that ensure the universe "our" Booker is in is the one in which he doesn't die...
"I don't think Booker has quantum abilities. I think when he dies without Elizabeth there you aren't reviving as "your Booker". You are becoming a Booker who didn't get his brains smashed in by a Handyman, opening the office door is just that Booker taking the deal then embarking on to Columbia. Basically cutting out replaying everything up to that point. Thus in this new reality, Booker has yet to be killed by the enemy, and has made different choices in combat leading to less damage done to said enemy. Also when Elizabeth heals you, I don't think she actually heals you, she brings an undamaged Booker into her reality, and your minds must combine and reconcile the events, thus fake memories of Elizabeth stabbing you with a giant needle and "reviving you". Oh and she takes the chance to steal 100 bucks from you in the process, or the other Booker is poor." -JohnWilliamThurston
Well there you go, Elizabeth is using her Quantum Powers to pickpocket her own father. She's just a magical little pixie version of a teenager stealing $20 dollar bills from mom's purse to buy weed.
Speaking of the Boy of Silence ...
How hard, in newton meters, would you say you shit yourself when you closed the door and turned around to find him standing there?
Were the events of Infinite caused by Booker's drowning at baptism, rather than concluded by it?
The priest says you'll be "born again in the blood of the Lamb," which is the alternate name for your daughter, and asks you to wipe your past away by "cleaning the slate," in the "name of the Father." Sure, the Lamb and Father references can be explained by Comstock referring back to his own baptismal terminology, but "clean the slate"? Slate, the old military colonel, represents your past in the game. The references to "cleaning the slate" can't just be Comstock naming stuff after his baptism experience -- Slate exists prior to those events. If this whole thing turns out to be Booker's dream as he's dying, I'm flipping the board and storming out of this bitch.
"Slate says you were at the boxer rebelion, but Commstock had to have been as well because he used Columbia during it, as seen in the kinetoscopes. Is it possible that Commstock/Booker in that universe was living a double life, one as a holy man trying to run from his sin, and another that was still a soldier." -Protolore
Wait, what the fuck? Is he right? Did Slate remember that Booker Dewitt was at the battle of Peking? I Can't recall - I thought he only mentioned you being at Wounded Knee. Comstock was certainly at the Boxer Rebellion in the Columbia-world, it's a pivotal moment of the game's history. If so, either both Booker and Comstock were there with Slate, or Slate is somehow remembering the alternate history of a Booker he never knew.
Answer: Nope! Slate doesn't say Booker was at Peking. Either I misunderstood, or somebody mistyped, or we have all jumped into a parallel universe where the game is fundamentally different in this one small, insignificant way. Dang, I was hoping for the three-titted universe, too.
Does Elizabeth become the Lamb?
At the end, the alternate Elizabeths disappear one by one after Booker is drowned at baptism -- before fathering her. So the alternate versions disappear because they never existed, but the screen fades out before the last -- "our" Elizabeth -- disappears. The last note struck on the accompanying piano music, after the screen goes dark, is wrong. That seems to imply that "our" Elizabeth still exists after Booker dies. Rosalind Lutece says she's seen the alternate histories, and that they can't stop the girl because "time is an ocean, not a river." Does the wrong note being struck, her being freed from the siphon, and the snuffing out of all the alternate versions imply that "our" Elizabeth will become the Lamb now anyway? The Lamb's destiny, as 1984 Elizabeth explains over the PA, is to wipe out not just our universe, but all alternate universes. She can only do that when she destroys the siphon, which you just helped her do ...
"I'm not so sure about this one. The first that should be noted is that none of the Elizabeths that drown Booker is "our" Elizabeth. If you look closely, none of the are wearing the bird/cage pendant from the beginning of the game. Also, Booker says something along the lines of, "You're not Elizabeth... who are you?" As for the "time is an ocean. not a river" thing, I'm pretty sure Elizabeth took care of all that. She drowned Booker before he could become Comstock, thus preventing all other Bookers from being baptized. Columbia is never created, and Anna is never taken. The siphon was destroyed, but after the final events of the game, the siphon never exists in the first place." -Aaron Cohen
Interesting. Can anybody confirm that Elizabeth isn't wearing the pendant at the end? That, to me, doesn't say she can't be the Lamb. It says she already is: She's not "our" Elizabeth, she's some other version that Booker did not save, and thus did not choose the necklace for her. If true, the Lamb is tricking you, killing everybody that kept her chained up after using you to free her powers...
"The clip at the end of the credits suggests that Elisabeth only killed the versions of booker who accepted the baptism. if she killed all the versions of booker, then he never would have been in that office, and without the existence of comstock, there was no one to take anna away from him in exchange for his debts, so, because we see a crib still there, then as long as nothing else happened to anna, and booker found another way to settle his debts (which he probably could), he gets to have a normal life with his daughter." -Mr. Nickman
That's a good interpretation of something I forgot to mention: Don't skip the credits. There's a scene afterward where Booker is in his office and hears crying. He stands up, goes to the door, and asks "Anna, is that you?" However, if all Comstocks are eliminated, then Quantum-powered Elizabeth wouldn't exist - there was nobody there to steal her to start it all. It's likely that she's become scattered across dimensions, like the Luteces, and so isn't necessarily affected by the continuity of timelines, but then - why does Booker ask "is that you?" If these events never happened, and only Quantum Elizabeth is left to remember them, why would Booker ask his crying infant daughter if it's really her? Two explanations: A. The versions of Booker that aren't drowned at the baptism have some memory of the events of Infinite because their timelines have been artificially altered, leaving psychic remnants of the experience. B. Booker was really drunk, and forgot how many babies he had.
General Mindfuckery and Miscellany
"As far as Booker goes, I noticed my second time through, he gets a nosebleed as he arrives in Columbia, which we are told through the game that nosebleeds signify multiple memories existing in the same spot. It is easy to overlook this early nosebleed when first playing through. But it also means that this Booker has memories of another Booker or Bookers going to Columbia." -Mscrizzle
"You can make the argument that everything that happens before Booker wakes up at the feet of the three founder's statues never happened: - In the lighthouse, there's a bowl of water to wash away his sins, he refuses (like the baptism). - The sign on the stairs says "To Thine Own Land I Shall Take Thee" telling Booker he's going to his own (comstock's) land. - The code to activate the rocket to Columbia is 1-2-2, and Booker has already been to Columbia 122 times, this is time 123. - The preacher is the same from both Baptisms.-As other sites and people have pointed out, the Bathyspheres in Rapture were coded to Andrew Ryan's DNA. There's an audio diary in Rapture in Bioshock 1 that says the bathyspheres were locked down and could only be controlled by Andrew Ryan's genetic code, meaning him, and "siblings, cousins, really anyone related". In Bioshock 1, Jack can control them because he is Andrew Ryan's son and/or clone. Atlas/Fontaine cannot use them. In Infinite, Booker can use the Bathysphere, and judging from the destroyed Welcome Center, it does take place after or during the events of Bioshock 1, when the lockdown is in place. That's a lot of coincidences, and I'm sure there's more I missed. It seems like Booker is using his previous life experiences to explain how he got to Columbia." -silentstone7
And here's a pretty excellent response video by the pretty excellent Norm Scott!
"There is a theory that has been posted below a few times that you can hear the Songbird die in the original Bioshock when Coheen kills Fitzgerald, the apprentice playing the piano. There are some videos floating around where you can hear the Songbird's cry during the scene. If it's real, that... displays a shocking level of planning by the designers." -gstop825
"Here's a thought... Is Elizabeth really as innocent as she appears to be? What if the entire plot of the game is just one big time loop that Elizabeth sends Booker through "infinitely" as part of some larger plot? Think about it! The game mentions that Booker created false memories the first time he traveled across dimensions. What if everything before Booker wakes up in the Garden in Columbia (the 1st baptism) is just a false memory that Booker created, and the beginning of the game is actually the last scene where the Elizabeths drown Booker (the 2nd Baptism)? So, the Elizabeths drown Booker and send him back to Columbia. He frees a new Elizabeth and destroys the siphon, thus allowing the new Elizabeth to become aware of the multiverse and the other Elizabeths who exist outside of it in the Lighthouse Room. Now there are 8 Elizabeths instead of 7. They drown Booker and send him back through to the start of the loop to free another Elizabeth and grow their Interdimensional Elizabeth Army. Wash, rinse, repeat.
No, you have to be wrong, because I'm pretty sure that's the plot of the Resident Evil movies and the Resident Evil movies are functionally retarded. You just…you just have to be wrong. I ask that you accept it now.
Final update: Well, I should probably eat food like a human does, and then get back to real work. Thanks for playing nerds with me, everybody! I encourage people to keep posting their ideas, answers, theories or just new and intriguing questions in the comments. And please, if you see something helpful, vote it up! I'd love to see the excellent comments here continue to function as a repository for discussion on the game.
Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.
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