The Existential Triad in BioShock Infinite by @Miksimum


Afraid of You: The Existential Triad in BioShock Infinite




by Jesse Miksic


jesse miksics


“One of the strengths of BioShock Infinite, acknowledged less often than
its expansive and detailed historical-revisionist steampunk setting, is
the way its narrative is punctuated. The extended forays down cobblestone
streets – and the intermittent murderous rampages – are connective tissue,
linking a series of scenes that are genuinely, jarringly emotional. The
relationship between Booker, Elizabeth and Zachary Comstock sets the stage
for some truly evocative dramatic turns, perhaps more of them – and
handled with a more dynamic sensibility – than in any other game in
memory, including narrative-heavy games like Japanese role-playing games

These moments are thematically woven together, and many of them are linked
to the original BioShock, albeit loosely. Before I dive into the
psychological and existential dimensions of BioShock Infinite, I want to
acknowledge some of these scenes, and unpack their significance.


In BioShock Infinite, you play the role of Booker DeWitt, a free-wheeling
mercenary assigned the task of extracting a woman named Elizabeth from a
city called Columbia. The first gameplay sequence is your initial arrival
at the lighthouse, your climb up the stairs and your launch from the tower
into the clouds. Aside from setting the tone for the game and introducing
some of the motifs that echo through the rest of the narrative, this
sequence links Columbia directly to Rapture, the setting of the original
BioShock, where you started out at a similar lighthouse, but from there
descending deep into the ocean, arriving in Rapture: a fecund, hazy,
collapsing city, dim and lurking and claustrophobic. Columbia, by
comparison, is high up in the clouds, cerebral, ideological, idealized and
held together by Skylines that crackle like synapses through an idle
brain. The contrast between Rapture and Columbia is the contrast between a
barren womb and a shackled mind.

Several hours of gameplay later, BioShock Infinite yields up one of its
tensest and most evocative sequences, the infiltration of Monument Island;
a sinister shiver before you meet Elizabeth and find yourself caught up in
the game’s emotional riptide. The portrayal of Elizabeth as a specimen in
a controlled science lab is one of the first prominent indications of the
game’s feminist subtext: in the eyes of the institutional powers of
Columbia, Elizabeth is an object of fascination and grave fear.

One of Infinite‘s landmark scenes is a surreal, dreamy trek across the
beach at Battleship Bay, where you get to see this place as an escapist
wonderland… just as Elizabeth herself must see it now that she’s free of
her statue.”


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About Jesse Miksic

Jesse Miksic is a media mastermind, designer, photographer and writer. He often writes for Berfrois, a literary-intellectual online magazine.

Twitter: @miksimum

Website: Jesse Miksic

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