This post contains mild spoilers about BioShock Infinite. If you are concerned about such things, then would you kindly look away?
The original BioShock is one of the first games that had both great mechanics, and a story line that made me think about some heady subjects. I have described BioShock to my friends as the best anti Objectivist essay I have ever played. And that statement is true.
The call backs to the original BioShock start right at the beginning of the game. BioShock starts with a man on a plane. BioShock Infinite starts with a man on a boat being brought to some unknown destination. Both men, neither of which are in complete control of their destiny. Both of them end up at a lighthouse. Both of them enter a world entirely unlike anything they have ever known. One, a city at the bottom of the sea, the other a city far above the clouds.
Throughout the game there are choices. Some are trivial, like deciding on the outcome of a coin flip. One is not so trivial, like throwing the first “stone” at an interracial couple that have been bound and placed on a stage. Part of me wonders if Irrational games is secretly keeping track of the choices we make. I realize that it’s Booker Dewitt making the choice, and not me, but I still could not bring myself to do it. Not even just to find out what happens. Now, at the end of the game I realize that the choices don’t matter, but still, this is a very personal issue for me, and one that maybe I’ll need to look up on youtube.
While they could record the results and publish them, I’m fairly convinced that they are meaningless. Because Bioshock Infinite is about the nature of choice in an infinite multiverse, and the supposition that free will is an illusion. I’m still digesting the game, about a week after I finished it. And now I’m writing a post about it because I’m still thinking about it. I refreshed myself with the topics of Free Will and determinism.
Something similar happened to me after I finished the first Bioshock. I didn’t go out and read the Fountainhead, but I certainly refreshed myself about Objectivism and Laissez-Faire Capitalism.
Philosophy in a video game? I am shocked. Other topics discussed are the nature and brutality of armed rebellions, and the flaws inherent in a jingoist, racist, and theist government. The latter two aren’t discussed so much as beaten into the player as being bad, but nonetheless they are both chilling when experienced within the game. I imagine Columbia is the result of what would happen if the Tea Party got traction, managed to win overwhelmingly in every major election, and then installed their Prophet Candidate in the White House.
And even with the heavy issues, ultimately the game is about the relationship between a man and a man’s daughter, and the lengths he is willing to go to reconcile choices that he made in his life.
Like Blade Runner, or the short story, The Lady or the Tiger, Bioshock Infinite ends with ambiguity. You don’t know what happens at the end.
Rather, more accurately, you’re not sure of the physics behind such an event. Do you believe in a universe that resolves paradoxes? Or can people become disentangled with the when of events to the point where the traditional non fourth dimensional grammar fails to describe their state of having currently existed right now and simultaneously then.
I’m looking forward to when more of my friends finish the game and I can have these discussions with them.
I recommend the title, even if I think it could probably do with having fewer combat events and more walking around with Elizabeth and experiencing what it’s like to be around her. Maybe the director’s cut. Who knows?