Why Am I So Obsessed With BioShock?
[WARNING: I’m going to spoil everything in BioShock Infinite, so don’t read unless you’ve already beaten BioShock Infinite. I’m also going to get into topics on paradoxes, the multiverse theory, and several other thought-provoking questions.]
MY OBSESSION IN A VACUUM
If you’ve read past this point then you’ve consciously chosen to delve further, deviating into a new universe where you are now smarter for reading this. In fact, the other version of yourself that didn’t read this is now pondering existence, and going back to whatever console you own and playing BioShock Infinite once-through which takes a week of after-work play. Then once you’ve remembered the story-line you start to think about everything I’m about to discuss further down the page. The alternate you then decides to come back to my blog and read this article. Now that version of you is a week behind where you actually are. So if this scenario is true, that begs the question, “Is there a version of you that did NOT read this article, and what is that version of you’s life like since they are not pondering life as an intellectual?”
If you got through that introduction and are now thoroughly questioning everything, you’re in the right state of mind to go through this article with me. If you’re like me, you keep coming back to BioShock, and more specifically the original game and Infinite. BioShock 2 was great, there’s no doubt, but the story doesn’t quite interlock as much as the other two games, especially since they added Burial at Sea. Why do I keep going back to BioShock? I have no idea. The plot in the original is fascinating as it was the first shooter of its kind. Infinite had a decent plot, but too many plot-holes and seemingly deus ex machine solutions. Then why am I so addicted? Why do I come back to it to play and replay what I already know?
It’s the questions that can’t be answered and seemingly what I’ve come to call the BioShock Paradox. The game creates its own unsolvable paradoxes because of the application of infinite (which is clearly the source of the aptly named title). It’s like Donnie Darko, every time I’ve watched that movie I have a new question to answer or a new take on what the movie is trying to tell me. While many people hate these types of movies and concepts, I embrace them.
Many of the concepts I’m going to touch on (and some I won’t) have already been discussed here by IGN, but my explanation will be of the concepts of time and multiverse in its simplest form. Too often, the right answer ends up being the simplest--- however, here there are an infinite number of right answers, technically.
BIOSHOCK INFINITE SIMPLIFIED & SUMMARIZED
Here are the events of BioShock Infinite explained in terms someone who didn’t play the game could understand, with much of the storyline/plot left out:
A man named Booker DeWitt becomes Zachary Comstock after a life-altering event. Zachary Comstock is responsible for the deaths of innocent lives, and his existence means further death and destruction. Elizabeth Comstock is the daughter of Booker DeWitt, she was taken from him by Comstock and raised in the future where Comstock reigns as a prophetic dictator who will have Elizabeth carry on his legacy. Elizabeth is taken back by Booker only to discover that he will inevitably become Comstock through Elizabeth’s supernatural connection to the events of all universes. Booker kills Comstock, however the damage Comstock has already inflicted cannot be undone. To undo the damage, Elizabeth sends Booker into a universe where he had not yet undergone the life-altering event that would have turned him into Comstock. There, Elizabeths from other universes converge on Booker and drown him, so that Comstock never exists and never does any damage to anyone.
THE LOGICAL THINGS THAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED, BUT COULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED
Since Elizabeth could open tears “between worlds”, it’s left intentionally ambiguous as to what her powers truly are. We have to consider that time is probably elapsing as we play the game otherwise Booker wouldn’t be able to experience anything at all, technically speaking. Therefore, the version of Booker that we play as in the game, has aged past the time where he conceived Elizabeth. This means that after Booker is drowned, Elizabeth would continue to exist. Without the existence of Comstock, however, Elizabeth would have never been taken to the future, so she would return to her infant form in her crib.
Once Booker was drowned, the universe would have collapsed and he would have been immediately teleported back to the exact point where he lost Elizabeth, but this time they would live happily ever after without any interference from Comstock. Just like after the credits! But IGN and many others argue that this isn’t a plausible scene, but I think it is possible. It’s a time loop that is closed once and returns to normal.
Since Elizabeth’s powers are extremely ambiguous, we’ll have to look at things with different variables to see if there’s any way that these events could ever play out. The scenarios are: multiverse with time-travel between universes, strictly multiverse, and strictly time-travel.
MULTI-VERSE & TIME-TRAVEL
In this scenario, there’s no way of telling what days Elizabeth and Booker would have been traveling in and out of over the course of the game. However, if Elizabeth can open doors to different universes at any point in time she wishes, then she and all the Elizabeths could in-fact stop Comstock from ever existing.
In each universe, all the Elizabeths would be systematically eliminating every Booker that would ever become Comstock, thus removing Comstock entirely and removing all the Elizabeths in the process.
In this scenario, only Elizabeth’s that do not have any powers would exist because she never would have been brought through the Lutece’s portal in the first place. Did I make your brain go numb a little? Let me explain this from the drowning Booker scene with multiple universes and the ability to go to any time in any universe:
1. Booker dies.
2. Empowered Elizabeths vanish from existence.
3. Comstock never lives.
4. Lutece’s never help steal Elizabeth.
5. Booker and Elizabeth scene after the credits is realized, but all other chapters and versions of Elizabeth and Booker vanish.
TAKING BIOSHOCK INFINITE AS A SINGLE TIMELINE IN A SINGLE UNIVERSE
Now, let’s try to figure this one out, if Elizabeth’s power is purely time-travel, then get ready to have your head explode.
Let’s think about this, every time Elizabeth opens a tear, a new Booker and Elizabeth pair are “born” let’s call it. Each pair could either be a pair from the future or a pair from the past. Because even if they go back 3 hours in time, there will still be another pair of them inhabiting that time-space. So let’s say they jump back 8 times, they could potentially meet 8 pairs of themselves in the process. So for the purpose of BioShock as purely one timeline in one universe, let’s say that Booker and Elizabeth never meet up with any pairs of themselves until the Sea of Doors chapter when they’re all seemingly on their way to the same place.
Now that that’s over with, we can now consider the Butterfly Effect in effect. So for the rest of any of this to make sense, we have to say that even something as simple as Booker DeWitt misfiring his weapon and hitting a wall with bullets, is going to alter the acts of the Booker DeWitt from the past and give him those terrible nosebleeds that he’s so accustomed to as the effects ripple through time and back into his long-term memory.
Again, we have a plausible explanation for this: de ja vu. He realizes he’s been there, but can’t fully place the memory because things keep changing as the past Booker’s experience deviating versions of what he already experienced. (Technically, all that would truly be changing is his brain’s composition each time something changes, so nosebleeds are entirely possible)
Okay, so now, if no pair of Booker and Elizabeths ever meet, and the Booker of the time period that the pair visits is allowed to vastly change his decisions based on small variables like with the Butterfly Effect, then BioShock Infinites events could still have happened because we’ve placed everything into a vacuum and taken lots of variables away.
Let’s say now, that each time Elizabeth creates a portal, they are actually a double-portal. Each time she opens a portal, she’s opening a portal to either the past or the future in which her and Booker change something, and then immediately jump further forward in time where the Booker of that specific time has been altered due to the Butterfly Effect from the things they changed.
So now we jump forward to our Sea of Doors. Instead of having multiple Elizabeth and Booker pairs from other universes, you have Elizabeth and Booker pairs from different points in time, and the end-scene makes sense. The Elizabeth’s would only have to drown the original Booker DeWitt (i.e. the one you play as in the game) to stop Comstock from ever existing.
This idea is a little flawed because so many variables have to change while NOT affecting the player-Booker during the course of the game--- other than a few nosebleeds. All the events could still in-fact happen: Booker regrets giving his child away, grows old and uses Lutece portal too many times, becomes sterile, and abducts his own daughter from his younger self. Also, the sheer amount of times that Booker would’ve had to visit that Sea of Doors in the past would be nearly infinite, but because we are creating new pairs with each jump back, the growth is exponential with each time-jump; making it still pretty plausible for infinite pairs of Elizabeth and Booker.
The only event that couldn’t happen is going to a time point where Booker died in the past. So with the Booker that died fighting Daisy Fitzroy’s war, that had to be a future version of Booker that died and not one from a point pre-dating Booker and Elizabeth’s initial jump-back in time.
Essentially, any portal to a time when Booker is dead in the past should be black to Elizabeth and Booker, and they wouldn’t be able to step into that time. They’d choose a different time when Booker in the past was still alive.
Also, this time-travel only version would mean that Elizabeth and Booker never traveled back to a point before their initial jump. If they did, the timeline they had changed and essentially created through all their changes; would no longer exist.
There are definitely a few more paradoxes that make solely time-travel NOT a plausible theory for Elizabeth’s powers. It seemed like such a great a theory until I started considering, “well, what are these pairs of Elizabeth’s and Booker’s doing in their own offshoots of time?” Each trip back would create new pairs of completely independent and unpredictable Elizabeth and Booker pairs. For this theory to work, they would have had to make exactly the same time jumps as the Booker that we play in the game itself, just perhaps in different areas of the map, while we’re not there.
TAKING BIOSHOCK INFINITE AS A SINGLE TIMELINE IN A PAIR OF UNIVERSES
Elizabeth without a time-travel capability is improbable in this instance. We’ll call the non-Comstock Booker Booker Alpha and the Comstock Booker Booker Beta. If you consider the decision to take the baptism or to reject it as the definition of the two universes, then Comstock exists in one universe, but not the other, so we can just call him Comstock. The same goes for Elizabeth, she is called Anne in Booker Alpha’s universe. So in Booker Beta’s world we can just call her Elizabeth.
The separation of Booker Alpha from Comstock means that we truly have two different Bookers, so on the one hand Booker Alpha is experiencing Comstock’s world, while the Booker Beta is fighting the revolution unbeknownst to Booker Alpha.
It was a cool idea that universes could be paired, but then where do all the other Elizabeth’s come from? That’s where it couldn’t be a pair of universes. But if each universe’s fate are intertwined rather than traveling between infinite number of universes, it is still plausible. So now instead of an infinite number of universes, there could be an infinite number of pairs of universes. **Brain explosions**
TAKING BIOSHOCK INFINITE AS A SINGLE TIMELINE IN A CLUSTER OF UNIVERSES
This one is short and simple, it couldn’t be this one anymore than a pair of universes. No matter what, time is elapsing, so killing Booker means nothing to Elizabeth unless the effects ripple through time.
SO WHAT DID HAPPEN?
Well based on what we just went through, Elizabeth HAD to have the ability to travel to any universe in any time, and likely never traveled back in time in her own universe. With her consciousness being omnipotent and her being able to see all universes at the same time and every scenario that would ever be, Elizabeth likely resigned herself to her fate to save herself in other universes. She would be powerless and unable to even know of her own sacrifice. Either way, the conclusion is that Elizabeth closes a cluster of universes that would collapse and no longer exist. No Elizabeth with powers can exist after all the Bookers that end up becoming Comstock are killed. Booker dies, Comstock dies… and our end result is another Booker from another universe that holds on to Anne and lives happily ever after. Just like the credits.
Damn, all that speculation and I come up with the same thing Ken Levine did.
THE BIOSHOCK PARADOX
So what is the BioShock Paradox? It’s simple:
“Someone, and all their alternate universe someones, that travel simultaneously back in time and across several other alternate someones’ universes, cannot change the actions that have already occurred in that original someone’s universe because there is no way to get back to the original anchor point in timespace at which they left their universe, as things have changed in both past, present, and future, and said someone does not have the knowledge to undo the changes that has been done by other someone’s that have changed their original universe. They are now in a new space and time entirely.”
It is a bit confusing, but I spent enough time devising the idea that I’m happy with the above explanation.
In my simplest explanation, using BioShock Infinite:
If plain old, non- omnipotent, powerless Booker were to somehow travel back in time, and another version were to do the same, both Bookers will make changes to that universe’s past that will affect that universe’s future, which ‘future’ is in fact simultaneously both present and future in this case. Returning to the present is no longer possible for either Booker as a result. As such, they cannot return to their own universe as it is no longer their original universe, so where are they returning to when they do return?
This is a thought-provoking question that plagues me. Since neither universe is in its original state, both universes have been destroyed and new universes have been created. The concept of there being a present time no longer exists at all.
And with that, my brain is spent. I hope you enjoyed reading and definitely want to hear your take on the BioShock Paradox.
BOOTSTRAP PARADOX IN BIOSHOCK
The time-travel concept that we discussed before suddenly creates a bunch of paradoxal pairs of Elizabeth and Booker that only exist because they were created by Elizabeth at the initial jump. Some of the pairs in this case wouldn’t have been born or have died… they just exist, which means they can’t exist. This also means that Booker couldn’t have experienced anything that those “created” pairs experienced because they weren’t born, but the playable Booker definitely has a past and definitely dies. So what are these paradoxal pairs of Elizabeth and Bookers then if she is only capable of time travel?
UNEXPECTED HANGING PARADOX IN BIOSHOCK
If you don’t know what it is, look it up! It seems logical enough, however it is a paradox. Seemingly knowing everything that has happened in all universes doesn’t mean that Elizabeth cannot be surprised when something deviates from what is expected. She can see the outcomes of infinite universes at the same time, but knowing when things occur in time doesn’t mean she knows when they will occur unless it is a finite event. Most of the events are infinite because of the variability of the player’s speed across the game, which coincidentally happen in an infinite number of universes.
THE WORLD’S MOST DIFFICULT LOGIC PUZZLE
If you have the insatiable urge to figure out puzzles, then try the world’s most difficult logic puzzle on for size and see what you can come up with--- then email me your answer, I’d love to hear your unique explanation! (Only if you didn’t cheat)
There are three gods -Truth, False, and Random- standing before you, but you are unaware of who is who.
Truth answers questions with only truth, False answers only falsely, and Random answers randomly between answering true or false. They also answer any questions in a foreign tongue that only has two words: ‘ja’ and ‘da’. These translate as either ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the English language, but you do not know which one is yes and which one is no.
You are only able to ask one yes-or-no question to each god, and must identify each god and what the words ‘ja’ and ‘da’ mean.
This should take you about a week to solve if you don’t cheat. Have fun!