So one more time: Warning! Spoilers follow!
Ready? OK. I'm a really big fan of the Bioshock franchise and as such there was no question about whether I'd play Infinite, just when. I finally got the chance to do so during the weekends immediately preceding and following Fanfest. And once I'd finished the game the first time, there was also no question about whether I'd replay the thing: I had to. Good Heavens, that was a dark ending! Sure, the game itself was dark, but it was dark in a really appealing way. Er... yeah. Did I mention I'm an EVE player? ;-)
Amusingly, the ending itself would be best explained by Doc Brown in Back to the Future Part II with a big black-board. I could almost hear him talking about how the time-line skewed off from the moment of that baptism. If you haven't seen it, how the ending works is best explained in the video below. If you're not clear on the ending, I recommend you watch it to get a clear(er) picture.
Man, that's really grim, dark stuff. On paper, the existences of Comstock, Columbia, and Elizabeth herself are wiped away. The fates of Booker and Anna are a bit more opaque, but in the post-credit scene dated 8 October 1893, whether Anna is in the crib or not there are still gambling forms on the desk... pretty grim. So the ending left me with a lot to think about. And while it all appears to hang together beautifully through the game's Voxophones and in-character dialogue, I could feel in the back of my head that there were definitely gaps and plot holes.
And thus, this blog post. Because sometimes to get back to EVE Online stuff, I need to exorcise this kind of nonsense out of my head.
"There's always a man. There's always a city," Elizabeth says during that ending sequence. And because of clever game design and player management, your camera is drawn to Booker as she says this. And so your brain naturally jumps to the conclusion that Elizabeth is talking about Booker when she says it. But that idea collapses under the tiniest bit of scrutiny because Booker was never associated with Columbia... Comstock was. Booker was just the invader of Columbia, as Jack invaded Rapture. Comstock was the "man" for Columbia just as Andrew Ryan was the "man" for Rapture.
But in a multitude of universes, it doesn't have to be that way.
And that's the hole I was intuitively seeing in Bioshock Infinite's ending: Elizabeth and the game designers keep pulling you along so fast that you don't have time to think. Elizabeth and Booker want to stop Comstock's existence before it starts, and in that way they both really spend the entire game fighting desperately to negate their own existences. That's why the game's ending is so grim and dark. But ironically, it's also completely futile because ending Comstock's existence doesn't really change a thing! In the game's backstory, Comstock is a politician who pushes for the American government's creation of Columbia as a show of "American exceptionalism." That certainly wasn't changed by Elizabeth's actions.
After all, it wasn't Comstock that made Columbia possible... it was Rosalind Lutece that did so. And in negating Comstock's existence, Rosalind Lutece's murder is suddenly also negated. That means her work (and the work of her "brother") continues, in both the "Lutece field" and "quantum particles." Hell, the (one? two?) people who benefit the most from Comstock being erased from existence aren't even mentioned in the game's ending. And that means that there's nothing stopping Columbia from being built. After all, there's always a man. There's always a city.
If only there were some other wealthy, politically powerful, corrupt man that could sponsor Lutece's work... owait. Know who else's murder was negated? Jeremiah Fink... he could very easily step into Comstock's shoes. The Bioshock wiki blandly states about Jeremiah Fink that the "...status of Fink in other realities is unknown, though with both Comstock and Columbia being erased from existence, it can be assumed that his life would play out very differently."
Huh. You think so, Bioshock wiki? I don't think his life would play out all that differently at all. There's always a man. There's always a city. And Rosalind Lutece and her work opening tears are still out there, potentially allowing a powerful corrupt man to massively profit from knowledge of both future events and the events of alternate realities. Fink presumably wouldn't have Comstock's religious zeal instigating racial warfare, but I think we can rest assured that Fink's version of Columbia wouldn't be all that different from Comstock's. The class warfare would certainly survive! Instead of religious zealotry, we'd have out-of-control rampant capitalism, out-of-control exploitation of the masses, industry gone mad for the purposes of unlimited warfare--
Hey! You in the back. Hush. This post isn't really about EVE Online, remember? ;-)
OK. Maybe it is. A little.
::coughs:: Anyway, it just struck me as funny that Booker and Elizabeth, in their rapid and desperate pursuit to negate their own existences, didn't solve the real problem at all. I don't think we're done with Columbia quite yet and those that think Bioshock Infinite would have trouble finding fertile ground for sequels haven't thought the matter through. Hell, thanks to a tear showing Fink a certain employment interview, the Bioshock franchise doesn't even have to put Booker DeWitt aside yet if it doesn't want to...
So I can be happy and secure in the knowledge that the Bioshock franchise will be interrupting my EVE play at some point in the future. Anyway, demon exorcised. Now back to our regular programming.