Many developers have been going darker with the tones of stories lately. It's time we stop asking definitively if this is a good or bad thing and consider the artistic value at hand.
Bioshock: Inifinite: Makes us Look at Both Religion and Ourselves
The Bioshock series is known for its criticism of western cultural. If you’ve ever played the original then you should be familiar with the underlying criticism of Ayn Rand’s Objectiveness philosophy. Andrew Ryan (who let’s face it, represents Rand) is the extreme result of individual desire and profit without the social restraint. No ethical boundaries and no laws to prevent individuals from creating a completely parasitical society. Through the combined efforts of Ryan and Fontaine, Rapture, a once promising city, turned into a dystopian hell. Neither man was fit to rule; neither man was fit to lead their city. And so the trend continue with Father Comstock. Although profit is not necessarily this prophet’s reward.
In Bioshock: Infinite, our main enemy is Father Comstock whose ego has become so large that he believes himself to be a prophet. One chosen by God, whose been granted the knowledge and the ability to speak for the On High himself. In Comstock’s eyes this ability has made him completely infallible however his delusion is tainted by one thing, his past in Wounded Knee. The sins he committed there haunt him and on Terra Firma he can never completely escape them. So he built himself a city, a city in the sky. One where he is in complete control and the majority of the denizens agree with his view of the world. The people of Columbia worship Elizabeth as a holy child, one who the entire foundation of their religious beliefs is based on. Comstock has created his own religion, a version of fundamentalist Christianity. One where Elizabeth is the savior, the lamb that could be led astray. A religion of two paths, one where he is the Shepard leading people to salvation. The other path is that of Booker Dewitt, the false Shepard, and the antichrist that will lead the lamb astray and lead the people of Columbia to an everlasting hell.
When one looks at organized religion at its best, it does a lot of good for people. It can lead people to try to be better, better to their follow man and to themselves. To strive for a better kinder society. However, even in our modern society we’ve seen how religion can be used to do far more harm than good. How it can be used to control the masses, to get people to do things in the name of that religion that they would normally never do. That kind of Dogma needs a target, and Comstock has created one ironically that target is the past version of himself.
Booker Dewitt’s fate is decided the moment he goes through his baptism. In Christianity baptism is a moment of renewal, rebirth into the faith. For Booker, his baptism decides what his future will be. In that moment two different timelines are created: on with the Booker that we spend time with, a Booker who turns all his pain inward; and the other is a different Booker one who turns all his pain outward aka Father Comstock. But never forget that one of the most important tenants in modern Christianity one that is reflected in Bioshock: Infinite is Free Choice. It’s a third option, one that we don’t think about as often as we should, and it’s the one that Booker chooses. By choosing this third option, Booker frees himself from the cycle. By allowing Elizabeth to drown him, he sacrifices himself in the ultimate form of penance. By letting go of all of his anger and his pain Booker is reborn and isn’t that the whole idea? By forgiving himself, by letting go Booker finally becomes whole being the true Booker Dewitt. After he drowns, the camera pulls back showing that Booker’s soul is at rest. He’s made peace with himself and God/Whatever you believe in. And choosing that peace, Booker gets his reward: the life he has always wanted. At least that’s my interpretation of the ending.
In the end Bioshock: Infinite asks us to question our own interpretation of our religious beliefs. That maybe we should not allow ourselves to be bound to one specific interpretation. That by allowing certain people to tell us what the words of God mean we only create a path to self-destruction, judgment, and irrevocable division. It’s a path that we can already see forming today. Maybe, by finding our own path, our own enlightenment can we truly understand how to Love each other, and understand our own relevance in the universe. Bioshock: Infinite is asking questions that are very difficult to answer, but it also shows us that we can’t continue on the path that we’re on. Religious fundamentalism, all fundamentalism, is a major problem one that would ruin something that is at its core incredibly beautiful and turn into a weapon of mutual destruction. So are we bound by two paths? Or are we ready to choose that third option?