Explaining BioShock Infinite

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NinjaDeathSlap:
Yeah, I don't want to sound like I'm bragging (especially considering whenever something delves in to heavily theoretical and complex science stuff like this I tend to just switch off), but I never had any trouble figuring out what was was happening in Bioshock Infinite. By that I don't mean that I guessed the ending, just that when it came to all the reveals, everything made sense and I didn't have any trouble understanding it.

Generally it felt that the line between understanding the plot, and being utterly confuzzled lies at whether you listened to the audiologs or not. On the whole I found the plot admirably well constructed - it manages to tie itself neatly in a way that makes sense from the beginning, and doesn't involve external dei ex machina. No easy feat for a story involving overlapping multiple realities.

The only part where I couldn't figure out what had just happened was...

Kargathia:
As far as the teleport to the future goes, I believe you do black out for a second. She probably just whacked you from behind and dragged you through the tear. Or something.

I think it's safe to say she opened up a tear in front of you and you just walked through it. You're walking along an incredibly linear path through dense fog, I believe, so it's not entirely out of the question to imagine that possibility.

DjinnFor:

Kargathia:
As far as the teleport to the future goes, I believe you do black out for a second. She probably just whacked you from behind and dragged you through the tear. Or something.

I think it's safe to say she opened up a tear in front of you and you just walked through it. You're walking along an incredibly linear path through dense fog, I believe, so it's not entirely out of the question to imagine that possibility.

The size of the tear she opened for Bird would easily be large enough to accomplish this. You're probably right, even though I find the concept of granny elizabeth blackjacking booker through a tear highly entertaining.

What I don't get is why they had to stop Comstock in every universe ever. In the space of infinite potentialities, his is but one cataclysm amongst many. So, there's an massive/infinite set of universes (Universi?) he lays waste to. presumably, there's an equal set of universes where the world ends in nuclear holocaust when the Cuban Missile Crises goes wrong, or Hitler wins, or a giant asteroid shatters the planet, etc. Does Elizabeth and Brooker really have to throw away the ability to hop across creation in order to bring down this one man? I'd be a lot happier with the ending if it was just a scene of them kicking back in Paris rather than them being reset to just a couple of boring, average people I no longer care about.

P.S: It appears Columbia's onslaught against the world/New York takes place around the 1980s. I'd really like to see those silly airships going head-to-head against F-14s and surface-to-air missiles. Somehow, I don't think one floating city wiping out the rest of the world is such a foregone conclusion.

DjinnFor:

aeric90:
About Booker's age... didn't the Lutece twins grab Booker from a time shortly after he gave up Anna and pull him forward so that they'd still be able to take advantage of the "deliver the girl, erase the debt" memory? I seem to remember the flashback has Robert mentioning that he's filling in the memories when he appears in the boat.

If that's the case Booker's age wouldn't be 38. He was 18 when Anna was born and 19 when he sold Elizabeth to Comstock.

Even after I wrote that and thinking about it they'd probably have to grab him at that time. After 20 years he may have moved on or self destructed (given the state of his home when he's recruited).

I believe that Lutece or Elizabeth mention at some point that you sell Anna to Comstock twenty years later, after you've spent 20 years drinking away your memories about Wounded Knee and hook up with some unmentioned woman. Then shortly after you're grabbed and pulled into Comstocks universe and the process scrambles the heck out of your brain.

NinjaDeathSlap:
The only part where I couldn't figure out what had just happened was...

When you go after her, you somehow manage to get transported decades into the future seemingly without going through a tear, and the game never really explains how you got there.

Future Elizabeth transports you there. She literally tells you this, or maybe it's contained in an voxophone, I forget now. I wouldn't bother with spoiler tags really; you shouldn't even be reading this thread if you're worried about spoilers and this was pointed out in the article.

amaranth_dru:
IF we're talking alternate universes, and Infinity, aren't we just talking a multiverse theory where everything happens? Meaning that the "Kill Booker to deny Comstock" universe is just another split. Therefore nothing changes, and there can be no paradox because there is still a Booker/Comstock universe and a Booker/Drunk Booker to be pulled into it setting up the 3rd choice of killing Booker before he's Comstock...
It makes the brain hurt but it works I guess.

Constants and variables, my friend. It is not strictly a multiverse theory where everything that can happen, does. It's more like some things can deviate into a multiverse of possibilities and others do not; for instance, the coin toss early on in the game always remaining the same, or the fact that you jump through a couple different tears but no matter which you do, Rosa Parks is always blamed for Lady Comstocks death and Comstock is always a villian.

You have to think about it like a series of "if thens": if Booker agrees to be baptized he becomes the Comstock who builds Columbia and becomes the villian (even if certain things happen differently, he always becomes a villain who builds Columbia and steals his counterparts baby), and if he backs away at the last minute and rejects the idea that baptism can absolve him, he becomes the Booker who drinks his life away, remains heavily in debt, and has his baby stolen. This is a "variable" but it's also a constant in the sense that those two possibilities are the only two possibilities to come from the baptism. If there was an earlier scenario where Booker never even considers being baptized (maybe he never participated in Wounded Knee, or perhaps he was never accused of having Indian blood, or whatever) Comstock simply couldn't exist in such a universe, so there could conceivably be a multitude of universes with a non-alchoholic Booker and no Anna.

So imagine an infinite number of universes and an infinite number of Bookers, but there is exactly one point where Comstock could come to be: the baptism; Elizabeth, using her amazing deus ex powers of cross-universe perception that she gets when the Siphon is destroyed, knows what this point is, and drowns him during the Baptism.

You can say that there are some universes where Elizabeth drowns Booker during the baptism, and others where she does not, but remember, Elizabeth is literally teleporting between universes and thus changing the multiverse. She is deciding what the constants and variables are at that point.

Having played through the game 2+ times I can tell you that the coin toss in the beginning does change. It's just always the one that is marked on the board. I've seen both heads and tails.

Korten12:
I wonder if maybe, after Elizabeth is free of the Siphon is that she is no longer effected by Tears so to speak. So there is no paradox because she wouldn't vanish because even though the events were stopped, she is no longer tied down to that. Essentially free of any changes that occur.

Just a theory.

If you pay attention to the scene right after she drowns Booker, you will see that the multiple versions of Elizabeth do begin to vanish.

This was a really helpful article Shamus, thank you! I got Booker's history and the details surrounding Anna and Elizabeth, and understood Elizabeth's abilities and insights with other realities. But the ending, Comstock (and his relationship to Lady Comstock) all escaped me. Too much was squeezed into the end which I felt was trying to explain a narrative as well as be an ending, and as a result failed at the former.

ike42:

Korten12:
I wonder if maybe, after Elizabeth is free of the Siphon is that she is no longer effected by Tears so to speak. So there is no paradox because she wouldn't vanish because even though the events were stopped, she is no longer tied down to that. Essentially free of any changes that occur.

Just a theory.

If you pay attention to the scene right after she drowns Booker, you will see that the multiple versions of Elizabeth do begin to vanish.

That is true and I guess the theory does fall apart there but then there is still the question of how it all works together...

Quite thorough indeed. Although, I do think the game showed it's hand a little early with the opening quote about alternate realities and false memories.

Also, if Robert Lutece is an alternate version of Rosalind, does that mean there's a universe with a female DeWitt and a male Elizabeth?

...I just gave ideas to fanfic writers, didn't I?

Shamus Young:
Dissecting BioShock Infinite's remarkably complex storyline. Warning: Spoilers!

Thank you very much for the article, it was a really good read and answered a few of my questions about the ending....but I've still got two things that just don't sit right with me.

1: Wouldn't the war-buddy that you fight in the Hall of Heroes (think his name was Slate) recognize Comstock as being Booker? Or does the Moses Beard really provide that good of a disguise? That said, wouldn't he have known that Comstock WAS at Wounded Knee, contrary to what he's raving about as you're chasing him down?

2: I'm not claiming to be an expert on multiple universe theory and quantum mechanics...but I just don't see how the ending would work. No matter what, you're still making a choice to sacrifice yourself to "kill" Comstock. Given the theory, doesn't that mean there's also the choice to refuse that sacrifice? Which would in turn spawn a universe where Booker says "To hell with this" and doesn't sacrifice himself, thus leaving the door wide open for more Comstocks?

That's my biggest problem with the ending, I think the theory they were playing with throughout the game completely negates all chances of killing Comstock completely. As you said, the choice goes from being "Booker or Comstock" to being "Living Booker or Dead Booker". That means that a universe was created in which the "Living Booker" choice was made, which reverts back to the "Booker or Comstock" choice, and the entire thing just keeps on going.

Johkmil:
An important point to note is that Elizabeth does not drown Booker - she drowns Comstock. She drowns each and every Booker that did not walk away from the baptism. So the game does not end with the death of the protagonist, but with a new start for the once-broken Booker DeWitt. Sadly, this is lost to most people not wanting to watch 16 minutes of credits for a ten-second stinger.

No, that isn't quite right. It is correct that every Dewitt that attends the Baptism must always reject it, but that is the conclusion the Luteces seek to make an eventuality; it is not an eventuality until Elizabeth becomes able to kill Dewitt at the baptism.

Elizabeth specifically refers to the necessity of drowning Dewitt 'before the decision is made.' She also (in multiple forms) says 'He is Zachary Comstock. He is Booker Dewitt,' to which Dewitt replies 'No, I am both.' Elizabeth said that 'it all has to end to have never started' and speaks of 'constants and variables' when she comes to a full realisation of what she will be required to do.

The after-the-credits spoiler is the result of a paradoxical certainty arising from the events of the game. The language required to describe the process is unfortunately complicated but I will give it a go.

As we know, the baptism represents a T-intersection of choices. One path (accepting the baptism) leads to a set of universes in which Dewitt becomes Comstock. The other path (rejecting the baptism) leads to a set of universes in which Dewitt becomes Booker (I know his name is Booker Dewitt but I'm using them seperately for the sake of clarity).
Prior to the interwoven mess that is the events of Bioshock Infinite (not actually prior to considering we are talking about what Rosalind Lutece calls possibility space, but anyway...) accepting the baptism and rejecting the baptism are our two variables.
Any one Dewitt accepting the baptism leads to the events of Bioshock Infinite, in which Elizabeth eventually kills all versions of Dewitt. In doing so, Elizabeth removes the possibility of Dewitt becoming Comstock, which lands us neatly in a paradox. The probability of a paradox is 0. Hence, the 'baptism accepted' set of universes are self denying; they preclude their own existence. This leaves the 'baptism rejected' set of universes as our only variable, and when there is only one variable we call it a constant.

If Elizabeth never exists (that is, she never goes from being Anna Dewitt to being Elizabeth because Comstock never took her from Booker's universe because Comstock never existed because Dewitt never accepts the baptism) then she is never present at the baptism to kill all versions of Dewitt. Nevertheless, the paradox that results from Dewitt accepting the baptism simply cannot occur; paradoxes don't happen. Therefore, the only possible result is every version of Dewitt rejecting the baptism and so living out his life with his daughter Anna.

This is not the same thing as Elizabeth only drowning the versions of Dewitt that accept the baptism.

Did they really have to make it so convoluted? Christ. I get a headache trying to figure out the chronology of the thing. That is, I would have got one if I could be bothered to do that but the plot really isn't worth it.

I'm off to read War and Peace now.

Tombsite:
My biggest problem with the ending is kind of simple, why do we need to stop Comstock in all the universes?

Our Dewitt and Elizabeth/Anna are safe and together. Dewitt is (IMO) redeemed by fighting for, and getting back his daughter. So why do we need to do more?

And if you have a good answer please tell me :)

short version: Elizabeth hates Comstock a lot, and Dewitt comes along to provide fatherly protection.

long version: after discovering Comstock plans for her, and being tortured by Comstock for trying to run away from Columbia, Elizabeth develops a hatred for Comstock strong enough that she wants to purge him from all of existence. Dewitt on the other hand, wanted to get as far away from Columbia as possible after he saved Elizabeth from being tortured by Comstock. He's only staying around not really to protect Elizabeth from harm exactly, she's perfectly capable of handling herself as we already know, but more to project her from the burden of having to personally kill someone again.

Shamus Young:

Note that when you die in the game and Elizabeth isn't around, you wake up on the floor of the Lutece office. You go through the door to find yourself right back at the battlefield where you fell.

I don't ever recall this happening. When I have died and Elizabeth wasn't around I always woke up inside Booker's office in New York.

There are a few things that I still get:

1.) Both Booker and Robert Lutece had their memories affected by enterting another universe. But what about Comstock? At the end we see him in the alley holding Elizabeth and then he goes back through the portal with Robert. He seemed to know perfectly well what was going on at all times.

2.) I still don't get how killing player Booker supposedly erases Comstock. In order to get rid of all the Bookers and Comstocks in one fell swoop, shouldn't they have drowned a past Booker and then player Booker could be watching it happen and then the screen fades to white or black to signify that he disappears from existence?

I don't remember where I saw this, but the person posting said that all of the infinite Bookers were existing in that one point in time and space and that the Elizabeths were drowning all of them at once somehow. If that was the case, couldn't the developers have given us some visual cue that this is what was happening? Like that static that appeared around people who had been killed in one universe and were still alive in the other?

3.) The after credits scene just doesn't make sense no matter how much I think about it. In order to make sure there can never be a Comstock to buy Anna and never a Booker to sell her, they killed Booker off at the point before deciding to go through with the baptism. That would mean that there wouldn't be any Bookers existing past the baptism. So the post credits scene shouldn't happen at all.

The way I viewed it was that Elizabeth drowns all Bookers, not just the ones that become Comstock, while the post credits scene is kinda like a wish-fulfillment delusion that Booker has while drowning, a world where he didn't give her away, meaning that when the scene cuts away is the moment where Booker finally dies.

Elizabeth's plan did not really kill every Comstock/Booker though. Yes, she killed every world line that originated after the convergence point of the baptism, which erased each version of her that she had present to show off her cool 4th dimensional being powers, backwards in chronological order which eventually paradox-ed that world line which caused the fade to black.

But that implies that this was the only baptism, using the many worlds theory means it is practically impossible that no other Booker wound up at the same choice, maybe there was a separate branch in which he broke his leg when he was 10, or maybe there was a separate line where someone on the other side of the world broke their leg when Booker was 10, or maybe a tree on a planet billion gazilion light-years from earth grew an extra leaf at the same point in time as when Booker was 10. The scope of the many worlds theory is ludicrous.

The Letuce's point this out in game when they reject Booker's plan to "smother Comstock in his crib" by saying "there is no way of knowing how far back you will need to go".

so basically all they did was removed the versions of themselves from that particular world like before collapsing it.

Just listened to the BS:I podcast, and at one point they discuss why Comstock ended up as this huge white supremacist that the Booker you play as seems not to be.

Booker (in the ending): 'I don't think a dunk in the river will wash away what I've done'.

I think the reason Comstock was such a racist was not that the baptism made him so, but it allowed him to remain one. Booker felt deep guilt about his past at Wounded Knee and with the Pinkertons, and the Booker that rejected the baptism actually had to deal with his remorse in a meaningful way. The Booker who became Comstock simply took the easy way out by accepting redemption through baptism, and never had any real motivation to change his thinking. His train of thought might have been something like: "God forgave me for what I did in the past, so maybe that was right thing to do in the first place".

And I actually really disagree with what Susan's saying about the narrative dots not connecting fully. I really enjoy a story that's not completely spelled out for you, leaving gray areas to make you think.

I still think it's a mess. If Lutece has such a vast understanding of the quantum tears bananza, why does she care if Comstock dies or not, when there are a million billion other universes in which he still lives, and maybe in some of them he's not even being an asshole. Or does she only give shits about her universe? Fair enough, I guess.

Now why does Booker give shits about the other universes? When he finds out that him and Comstock are the same, can't he just go with Lizzie in their own universe and hit Paris, leaving the whole floating city, with generators vital for the functioning of an airship in plain fucking sight, rot and go to hell (Yes, I am bitter because of the final battle.)? It's not like a jaded "war hero" couldn't stand to leaving thousands of lives behind, that he is pretty much hopeless to change. Or he could just travel back to when he was about to commit all those horrendous war crimes and warn himself of who he'll become.

Also, why do I have to go out of my way to understand the plot? I get that plain shooting galleries may not be suitable for exposing a plot as complicated as this one, but a better idea would be to change the gameplay so it would fit the story. Or change the story to fit the gameplay, it's easier that way. Maybe this paragraph doesn't have its place here, this is after all an article about the story of the game, not its gameplay, but Infinite is a game first and a story about what ifs and unexplored racist and religious issues (correct me if I'm wrong, I barely listened to the audio logs) second, and this should be taken into account when considering what information to give to the player regardless, and what to let them find out on their own.

I get the feeling that the game resents me for not being hellbent on collecting audio logs and stuff, but I think this should be an optional thing (unless it's a mystery story, of course), that helps the player immerse into the game's world, making them feel that there is more to it that what they see; you still understand the ending of Skyrim if you didn't read all the books, for example.

Fiairflair:

Johkmil:
*My ignorant first impression*

*Wall of text definitely worth reading*

If Elizabeth never exists (that is, she never goes from being Anna Dewitt to being Elizabeth because Comstock never took her from Booker's universe because Comstock never existed because Dewitt never accepts the baptism) then she is never present at the baptism to kill all versions of Dewitt. Nevertheless, the paradox that results from Dewitt accepting the baptism simply cannot occur; paradoxes don't happen. Therefore, the only possible result is every version of Dewitt rejecting the baptism and so living out his life with his daughter Anna.

This is not the same thing as Elizabeth only drowning the versions of Dewitt that accept the baptism.

That is a nice and coherent explanation of these confusing events, I am impressed. Allow me to stand corrected.

As Levine said: "We'd like to raise questions, not answer them."

ike42:
etc.

Wait, what!? This just raised a whole new level of complication.

Fiairflair:
As we know, the baptism represents a T-intersection of choices. One path (accepting the baptism) leads to a set of universes in which Dewitt becomes Comstock. The other path (rejecting the baptism) leads to a set of universes in which Dewitt becomes Booker (I know his name is Booker Dewitt but I'm using them seperately for the sake of clarity).
Prior to the interwoven mess that is the events of Bioshock Infinite (not actually prior to considering we are talking about what Rosalind Lutece calls possibility space, but anyway...) accepting the baptism and rejecting the baptism are our two variables.
Any one Dewitt accepting the baptism leads to the events of Bioshock Infinite, in which Elizabeth eventually kills all versions of Dewitt. In doing so, Elizabeth removes the possibility of Dewitt becoming Comstock, which lands us neatly in a paradox. The probability of a paradox is 0. Hence, the 'baptism accepted' set of universes are self denying; they preclude their own existence. This leaves the 'baptism rejected' set of universes as our only variable, and when there is only one variable we call it a constant.

That's probably the best attempt at solving my own issues with the ending that I've seen so far, so I want to thank you for that. However I've still two outstanding issues:

When/where is it ever said/indicated that the Booker that gets drowned signifies every Booker that's ever existed? To the best of my knowledge, that is never officially indicated to the player and is the assumption of a number of people to make the story fit.

But beyond that, a choice has still been made. According to the very multiple-universe-theory that they're playing with here, any time a choice is made the opposite of that choice spawns a new universe in which the opposite was the choice that was made. "Should I follow Elizabeth through this crazy world of lighthouses or insist that we leave this place (which he does, but Elizabether insists on following it through to kill Comstock - which would imply they just created a universe in which Elizabeth said "You're right, to hell with this business.")". So too is there the decision to sacrifice himself at all. He accepts it the sacrifice to kill Comstock, but doesn't that mean they just spawned a new universe in which he refuses the sacrifice? Right before you open that final door and revisit the baptism site, Elizabeth even turns to you and asks you "Are you sure you want to do this?" to which you say "Of course". Didn't THAT, if nothing else, spawn a universe in which Booker says "Actually, fuck this. Please, let's get the hell out of here. We can go to Paris or where ever you want but I just want to leave this mess behind me"?

Of course, if you believe that the Booker you're playing as in that final scene is somehow every possible Booker in existence, then I suppose even these universes would be tied into that. But I still don't see how/where the game specifies that that's what's going on at that point. All the Elizabeths at the end, to me, were just to emphasize the major revelation that Booker became Comstock by getting baptised.

Jeffrey Beyerl:
Thanks for this, I never got that Booker was Comstock for some reason but that makes perfect sense now.

Maybe you had the same bug i had. After you stand before the last lighthouse door, i just saw the priest for a few moments, then some weird purple bubbels and then the credits.
I replayed the ending (You only have to do the stuff that comes after you get out of rapture) and THEN i got the real ending, where Elizabeth explains to you that you are Comstock, before drowning you.
Yo just reply it, you will get the real ending.

Balkan:
Elizabeth's tower wasn't just to keep her locked. Its was a device that drained her powers and prevented her from escaping through tears.
Lady Comstock thought that her husband was chosen by God to see the future, she wasn't his partner in crime(you can see how revealing the truth about Zachary Comstock might hurt his prophet public image, so she had to die.) Also Lutece tried to explain to her but LC thought she was lying.
Also the Luteces could see other universes, not the future.

The Luteces could travel through time. If they couldn't how would be possible for them to take Mid-Age Booker to the Older Comstock world? But maybe they didn't had the power when they were "alive". And for the tower: The tower drained her power and transformed in a kind of liquid, ok, but again: Why lock her away without any contact with the world? Why he never created bounds with the children after she Lady Comstock died? In a place like that it's almost impossible to believe that only Comstock knew about the powers Elisabeth had, so, why hide her, even form himself?

Friederich:
As Levine said: "We'd like to raise questions, not answer them."

Must be nice to write an incoherent mess and absolve yourself of the responsibility of having it make sense by shifting the responsibility to the customer....

eltonborges:
The Luteces could travel through time. If they couldn't how would be possible for them to take Mid-Age Booker to the Older Comstock world?

They didn't take Booker forward in time. Comstock experienced accelerated aging due to his exposure to the tears.

Amaror:
Yo just reply it, you will get the real ending.

I will replay it thanks for the tip!

RJ 17:
Right before you open that final door and revisit the baptism site, Elizabeth even turns to you and asks you "Are you sure you want to do this?" to which you say "Of course". Didn't THAT, if nothing else, spawn a universe in which Booker says "Actually, fuck this. Please, let's get the hell out of here. We can go to Paris or where ever you want but I just want to leave this mess behind me"?

This decision puzzles me as well. The best I can offer as an explanation of why the set of universes that result from Dewitt's decision are limited to him going through the door is the discussion Elizabeth and Booker have when walking among the lighthouses in the sun:

Elizabeth: Look!
Booker: It's us.
Elizabeth: Not exactly. We swim in different oceans but land on the same shore. It always starts with a lighthouse.
Booker: I don't understand.
Elizabeth: We don't need to. It'll happen all the same.
Booker: Why?
Elizabeth: Because it does. Because it has. Because it will.
Booker: There are so many choices
Elizabeth: They all lead us to the same place... where it started.
Booker: No one tells me where to go.
Elizabeth: Booker, you've already been.

It is worth noting that the Elizabeths at the end disappear, having removed the possibility of the universes that spawned them ever existing. That would only occur if at least every version of Dewitt that goes on to become Comstock is drowned. It would certainly happen if, as I said earlier, every version of Dewitt is drowned (both theories yield the same after-the-credits result but I feel the latter better fits with what Elizabeth says).
Perhaps we have reason to doubt the intended meaning of the multiple-Elizabeths scene an whether the Dewitt you play as represents them all, but I confess that at this point in the exploration of what happened I am content to move on. What interests me more than any of this is what the game tries to say in a broader sense. I have my own thoughts on it and would be very interested to hear what others think.

The protagonist was a bad person from the outset no matter what version of him is examined. He is offered a deal to wipe away his wrongs but the deal is just the next step in a progression toward destruction. His past wrongs (before the baptism occurs) cannot be undone and attempts to do so are futile.

So then what do the events of the game, as a whole, represent or teach?

That trumped up, vicarious, redemption is no redemption at all; that the past cannot be undone; that the future is a realm of possibility in which we are free to live a different way while still bearing responsibility for our past.
I think it is extraordinary that some people have said the racial elements in the game aren't relevant to the overall message. To play Bioshock Infinite is to play out an impossible narrative in which the protagionist both struggles against and accepts his own fate. Indeed, the frequent references to constants and variables prompt the player to examine the very nature of self-determination. Themes of racial suppression and conflict tied in very nicely, I thought.

Fiairflair:
Snip.

Hrmmm....I appreciate the attempt because you clearly do have a better grasp of things than I do, but I still don't entirely buy it. I think a big problem is that there's parts of the ending that are left open to interpretation that shouldn't be. Specifically: all the Elizabeths at the end. To me that didn't signify a convergence of all possible timelines rejoining into that single moment so that Comstock can finally die with Booker, to me it was simply a tool that your Elizabeth was using to hammer home the point that you ARE Comstock, as that's when it's officially revealed. I still say that even as they're walking amongst the lighthouses, there's a number of points where the decision can be made "Screw this, lets go home" which would in turn create "lets go home" universes in which the sacrifice is never made, and if a possible Booker doesn't accept the sacrifice, then how does that Booker somehow magically get tied back into the sacrifice? He decided to walk off and leave the whole thing behind him.

Getting onto your discussion about what the overall story was meant to portray, I think it was just a classic story of redemption. Old Elizabeth feels deep regret for what she's done and what she's become, so she starts using what's left of her power to start yanking out Bookers from across the various multiple universes. Why? So that she can redeem herself by offering Booker a chance to redeem himself. Not only is Booker on a quest for redemption to clear up his (as we believe in the beginning) gambling debts, but he's also on a quest for redemption to make up for the mistake of selling Anna away. This is seen by the brand he wears: AD. I believe the Luteces even touch on that during the ending, commenting on the brand he wears. What confuses me about that part is the fact that FemLutece says "This one has a mark on his hand." as though it's something new, something that previous Bookers haven't had. If that's the case, how does Comstock know that AD is the mark of the "false prophet"? You can't really say "Well in the world they pulled that Booker from..." because Columbia only exists in a world in which Booker doesn't (because he became Comstock).

Anyways, I'm getting off track. Old Elizabeth is trying for find redemption for the sins she has committed by blowing up the world, just as Booker was trying to seek redemption through baptism for the atrocities he committed back at Wounded Knee. Either he believes the crimes of his past can be washed away or he doesn't. Comstock is seeking to redeem the "Sodom below" by cleansing it with fire, and "present" Booker - no longer bothering to seek redemption of his past sins - just needs to get rid of his debt. But in truth, he's seeking redemption for the sin of selling Anna off, he just doesn't realize this until he realizes that Elizabeth IS Anna.

And so, by Old Elizabeth giving Booker the chance to get redemption for that sin by rescuing "present" Elizabeth from the tower and thus get his daughter back, she is in turn gaining redemption for herself by ensuring (apparently :P) that the universe in which she becomes the great destroyer never happpens (though I still don't see it like that).

And just on a completely unrelated side note that I've been wanting to bring up...listening to Elizabeth get tortured while you're going through Comstock House is probably the most painful, gut-wrenching part of any game I've ever played.

Okay, the one loose thread that bugged me was...

The nosebleeds.

When first introduced, Elizabeth mentions them as being side-effects of the Tears - that the person has multiple sets of conflicting memories, resulting in the nosebleed.

The nosebleeds (and weird behaviour) of Chen Lin and the random mooks when Elizabeth and Booker start Tear-hopping make sense if you go with Elizabeth's explanation that she feels like she's creating a new reality. Chen Lin (and the mooks) were dead, suddenly Elizabeth makes them alive and the resulting confusion causes disorientation and nosebleeds.

However, this explanation comes crashing to the ground during the ending when it's revealed that the millions on millions of realities exist anyway - Chen Lin and the mooks DIDN'T come back to life, Elizabeth and Booker just jumped to a reality where they never died. The "dead" memories should never have existed for them. This is reinforced by the fact that (at that early point in the game) Elizabeth isn't manufacturing Tears, she is mostly taking advantage of pre-existing ones.

If the explanation is that it's the presence of Booker and Elizabeth invading from another reality "forcing" the other reality's memories on them, why doesn't this happen consistently throughout the game? And why does Booker only develop a nosebleed when he kills Comstock? Shouldn't Booker and Elizabeth be the ones consistently having nosebleeds when they jump through a Tear and have that reality's memories "forced" on them?

Korskarn:
...The nosebleeds....

Booker isn't the only person who has nosebleeds. Many NPCs are seen and remarked upon once you switch universes (twice) to get Chen Lin's weapons for the Voxpopuli. The phenonemon is is both remarked upon by Rosalind Lutece on voxophones and discussed by the Luteces at the end of the game. You may remember the point when Rosalind says 'You're quite fond of this theory of yours,' to which Robert replies 'He is manufacturing new memories from his old ones' and also says 'I should know. I lived it.' It is also discussed by Elizabeth and Booker when you cross back through Shanty Town.

I found the nosebleeds easiest to understand by considering Robert Lutece's experiences.

RJ 17:

Fiairflair:
Snip.

What confuses me about that part is the fact that FemLutece says "This one has a mark on his hand." as though it's something new, something that previous Bookers haven't had.

Actually, Rosalind says 'Do you suppose he branded himself as some sort of penance?' without suggesting that this is a detail unique to the Booker we play as.

RJ 17:
I think it was just a classic story of redemption...
And just on a completely unrelated side note that I've been wanting to bring up...listening to Elizabeth get tortured while you're going through Comstock House is probably the most painful, gut-wrenching part of any game I've ever played.

Redemption, yes. Even more interesting is that it so often doesn't succeed. Comstock may have believed baptism would redeem him but the game designers sent a very clear message that they didn't think being '...born again in the blood of the lamb' counts for very much. Old Elizabeth is a very complicated and interesting character and I agree with what you said, although I think her prime motivator was preserving a hope her former self had but that she no longer had. That moment in the game was made all the more potent by the very well done sounds of torture you hear as you run through the asylum level.

One thing I like in particular is when you go to do your second playthrough, and things Lutece(s) say make more sense.

Male: "He doesn't row."
Female: "He doesn't ROW?"
Male: "No, he DOESN'T row."

As in, he won't row because he didn't row, doesn't row, won't row.

It seems to me the whole "thought experiment" they're having is to see if Booker can actually change something, since in all their observations as omnipresent beings, they've found that events don't change. Details might but the events do not.

Fiairflair:

Korskarn:
...The nosebleeds....

Booker isn't the only person who has nosebleeds. Many NPCs are seen and remarked upon once you switch universes (twice) to get Chen Lin's weapons for the Voxpopuli. The phenonemon is is both remarked upon by Rosalind Lutece on voxophones and discussed by the Luteces at the end of the game. You may remember the point when Rosalind says 'You're quite fond of this theory of yours,' to which Robert replies 'He is manufacturing new memories from his old ones' and also says 'I should know. I lived it.' It is also discussed by Elizabeth and Booker when you cross back through Shanty Town.

I found the nosebleeds easiest to understand by considering Robert Lutece's experiences.

But shouldn't Booker have had nosebleeds at the start if he's manufacturing new memories? And why are some NPCs getting nosebleeds when B+E come into their reality? "They remember being dead" - why? They were never dead in their own reality - which they're still in - where are those memories coming from?

So, has anybody discussed the difference in the story for choosing the BIRD versus choosing the CAGE? I noticed the achievement "The Bird or the Cage" popped up when the siphon was destroyed. I had chosen the CAGE and the letter that I was asked to give Elizabeth had three cages drawn on it. What changes if you choose the BIRD?

Clankenbeard:
What changes if you choose the BIRD?

Nothing. I have beaten it twice. One time I picked the bird, the other time the cage and there was no difference at all.

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