I have a distinct lack of tea tales on this blog, even though it is one of those formats that I was the most excited about starting out. I have to be honest, it is hard trying not to be a critic. However, as I just finished the last of Bioshock Infinite yesterday, uninstalled all 43 gigabytes of it, and sat there for a while; I suppose a write up is in order. I shall preface this with the fact that Bioshock Infinite was one of my favourite games of 2013, and I have not played Bioshock 2. However, as far as I know, that game is irrelevant to the story, which has to be the only thing I am in any position of talking about. If you’re looking for critics of the game’s mechanics and its intended changes towards stealth, or comparisons of it to older instalments and draw parallel of enjoyment, you’re in the wrong place. Instead, I present to you the deconstruction of the true Bioshock Infinite main character: Elizabeth. Spoilers abound, if that wasn’t already obvious.
For those who are unaware, the only reason Booker Dewitt was on the cover of Bioshock Infinite was because of the marketing’s incessant need to appeal to the ‘dude bros’ population. I have nothing against that personally, as you do play as Booker for a significant part of the game. However, it also means that those without interest in the deeper story will therefore only have him in mind as the icon. If you were to ask me, those people are irrelevant, so I suppose in the end none of that mattered. What I cannot stress enough, however, is the role Elizabeth plays throughout the game, especially in the two Burial at Sea DLCs. She is, without a doubt, what represents this entire experience. Everything has been about her from the start, every significant motivation involved her, every resolve came about of her, and every character development was hers. Discounting Bioshock 2, because it’s not made to be coherently sown into the series as a whole, she is the only ‘person’ the series ever had. Everyone else are just characters. Andrew Ryan, Fontaine/Atlas, Tenenbaum, Comstock, Fitzroy, even Jack and Booker as player characters; were all faces and voices. Elizabeth is the only individual to exist beyond the projection of a personality.
Bioshock Infinite gives birth to the concept of ‘circle of blood’, lacking from previous titles. Admittedly this is only developed after the DLCs, because such a thing would be far too abstract for a mere ‘shooter’. Bioshock Infinite, the main game, left everyone at the death of all the ‘Comstocks’, henceforth eliminating its own storyline. Of course, time travel and alternate universes sparked quite the discussion amongst the players. Contrivances are quite the bullets, and I certainly do not care what people tell themselves or try to convince others of. With me, however, I’m just glad I got to see the story. I never came into the game with expectations of a challenge or solid gunplay. Nothing is ever going to come close to Counter Strike anyways, so I’ll just focus on what I do best: dissecting stories. Far too many have been critical of it simply because the game is hyped so much. Whether people went overboard or not is for you to decide, but if I were to condense everything into a digestible novel, it has to be one of the best I’ve seen, as a combination of all releases.
Bioshock Infinite left me with a sense of distant sadness. Burial at Sea: Episode 1 left me with a sense of bewilderment. Burial at Sea: Episode 2 left me with a sense of true contempt sorrow. I didn’t feel like jumping off my seat to scream at the ending, neither did I feel like crying. I just sat there, contemplating what just happened. Elizabeth, ripped away from omnipotency and thrown into pre-Bioshock rapture after eliminating the single last presence of Zachary Comstock, is the player character in this game. The little girl she used to bait ‘Comstock’ in Episode 1, is now her single aspiration. However, finding her own self dead in a corner, haunted by the phantom of not-Booker-Dewitt, it is one of the strongest moments of story telling I have ever witnessed. Forced into making a deal with the early Jack Atlas, in order to save the girl. She knew fully well that she will be betrayed, and most likely not survive the ordeal should she go through with it. She even had several chances to escape, but why was she there then? Elizabeth was convinced by her own ghost to take a leap of faith, simply for the half-existence of a Little Sister. Was it worth it? She never told herself.
Elizabeth saw the incoming fall of Rapture, which she brought about by her own hands. The ‘Elizabeth’ we know, is presumably the final one who did not disappear with at the end of the rejected baptism due to the last Comstock surviving. However, she was hence the only Elizabeth left. Nothing quite shook me as much as the moment when I took my time to think back of everything that happened to her: how she was strapped and tortured with electricity for weeks, how she was beaten to a pulp multiple times by Atlas’ men, how she had to endure having her skull drilled in, almost destroying her frontal lobe, and how Fontaine’s wrench delivered her. Booker was united with his daughter, Anna. Jack, Bioshock’s protagonist, rescued the Little Sisters and lived with them as his own until the end of his days. Everyone else died one way or another, for their devious ploy or their undying beliefs.
Elizabeth died as well, but what did she die for? The lighthouse door is no longer open to her, and no one will take notice of her corpse slumped at the corner of Rapture’s below-deck. Everyone who knew her is dead and remembered, but not her. It is doubtful even the Little Sister she saved even remember her in the long run, after the process has been reversed. As the credits rolled, I am reminded of when Elizabeth sang “Will the Circle be Unbroken”, and when she exclaims to her own subconscious how Booker was her only friend. That was the last she ever heard of the phantom, and I suppose only she can decide for herself whether seeing the little girl’s smile during her last moments was worth dying for. She did not die a hero, as her actions lead to the death of many, and she has killed regardless. She did not die a villain, as the only thing she wanted to was to save a girl she has wronged.
The true tragedy is, after all, not of the heroes or the villains, but those parted in silence. The story ended with neither a happy or a bad ending, and everything else has already passed. Perhaps the only true joy I gathered was to be a witness to everything, and it is time for me to say goodbye to Ms. Elizabeth.