Elizabeth’s Tears

Triggering tears

NOTE: This is a follow-up to a previous article regarding Bioshock: Infinite.

I remember a case where a young woman was called out for being a “fake gamer girl” because she was wearing a Bioshock: Infinite T-shirt and that she probably hadn’t even played the game. She then revealed the games ending to the accuser. The rest of the article is unrelated and not important but this took place soon after the game was originally released and I hadn’t played it yet. After completing it for the first time and not actually understanding the ending while also being frustrated by the subplots, I remember thinking: “God, how do you spoil this title to anyone? What do you reveal? The multiverse twist? That the main character is also the antagonist in another reality? That Elizabeth is her daughter? That Elisabeth’s (plural) kill Booker in the end?” It felt like the ending of LotR all over again.

“Why did you ask ‘What?’ when the delicious question is ‘When’?”

Generally, a multiverse produces unnecessary plot holes and paradoxes, at least in our rational way of thinking. If you look at things through the lens of quantum physics however, it becomes a whole different story. Not that it actually matters, because in the end, their just plot devices that give the geeks something to occupy their time with, while in reality serving as a great tool to justify Deus ex machina plot-twists.

It is no secret that Infinite takes its plot seriously and while it can easily be phased out, then all that’s left is a linear mediocre shooter. On my first playthrough, I tried to pay attention but still seemed to miss the big picture. Now, I’m probably just an idiot but I believe this game strongly warrants multiple visits because the lack of such a practice is what probably lead to the whole “ludonarrative dissonance” misunderstanding and also caused the “it’s racist” uproar. Though I suspect the latter was inevitable as such controversies seems to pop up every now and then, which I covered in a previous Bioshock centered post. Don’t get me wrong though, the game is filled with discrepancies between narrative and gameplay but the whole ‘violence’ thing is not one of ’em. A lot of those problems stem mainly from the whole multiverse element. Here’s showing how convoluted the whole thing gets:

Contrary to the warning, it’s only a spoiler if you can understand it

For instance, I had a hard time understanding the traveling between worlds and how it supposedly influenced the new realities. In the first half of the game, you make a deal with an NPC to free a gunsmith from the police in exchange for an airship but when you reach him, he’s been killed. So Elizabeth, your trusty sidekick, sees a chance to create a Tear right there and then to another reality where the gunsmith is still alive. The game never outright says it but implies that in this reality, everything leading up to the death of the gunsmith played out exactly the same, as in the player character made the same deal with the same NPC and that deal stands but it never addresses the issue of where the Booker and Elizabeth of the reality they just entered have disappeared. I mean they had to exist in order for things to have gone exactly the same way up to that point. Did they phase out when the new ones arrived or what?  It’s never really explained how that works and I previously stated, Deus ex machina is used whenever they conveniently needed to move the plot forward.

There was also a thing with ghosts, specifically the ghost of Lady Comstock is called into existence and Elizabeth even tries to give an explanation on how this might be possible but if anyone remembers playing the original Bioshock then ghostly hauntings of the past were seen throughout Rapture all the time, so this isn’t really something new. I suspect this part was added purely because originally a lot of work went into developing said enemy but the premise of the game changed quite a bit, so a new type of situation was conjured up in order to give it some use and not completely let their time and effort go to waste.

One of the Deus ex machina tears

Other than bringing new realities into existence, Elizabeth also plays the role of narrator and acts as the conscience of the player and just basically is the embodiment of an ideal supporting AI in a video game. She is the unchallenged star of the game. Even before the games release, hardly any info was released on Booker, centering almost exclusively on Elizabeth. Reaching Monument Island (the place where she’s being held) for the first time and seeing her through the one-sided mirror, it creates a feeling like you’ve known her your entire life. In truth, she played on every trope one could possibly love: she’s positive, naive, inquisitive, strong-willed, intelligent, understands right from wrong, etc, etc. One of the most well-developed characters of all time, no doubt about it. But I’m not implying that she’s a realistic portrayal of a young female. On the contrary, she’s completely fake, magical and romanticized in every possible way. Even her trials and tribulations and the way she deals with them seem idealized.

But in all honesty, the game is in no way exemplary or groundbreaking. Most of the so-called “deep” aspects are confusing plot hole-filled tropes that are held up with ‘quantum physics’ and implausibly convenient events as justification and the whole racial thing, while trying to seem edgy and bold is seeped in political correctness that barely scratches the surface of said topic. It’s obvious why the developers chose to make it the way they did: an FPS game with a “mature” theme dealing in controversial subjects, with the player accompanied by a pretty witty AI. That’s what sells. Which is odd considering that in many cases, compared to its predecessors, I felt that it took a step back. The weapon selection is bland with a broken upgrade system and the Vigors especially seem to be shoehorned in purely because they existed in the previous games. But instead of treating Infinite as the Second Coming, I see it more as an exceptional summer blockbuster which I did enjoy for just being that, even if it was overly pretentious.