The Vigor Of Oz: Bishock Infinite’s Wizardly Parallels

By Alec Meer on April 4th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

The following theory is not true, but it could be. It’s surely no accident that BioShock Infinite often evokes The Wizard of Oz – there’s even an early stage of the game named after it. Even so, the similarities, be they deliberate or coincidental, run deeper than a turn-of-the-century character being mysteriously transported to an amazing world of technology and magic. Once I started down the yellow brick road of looking for parallels between Dorothy’s adventure in Oz and Booker’s adventure in Columbia, I couldn’t stop – I identified what seemed to be dozens of them. Am I onto something, or am I projecting? It doesn’t matter – this is purely a thought experiment, not a claim to accuracy, and I’m entirely sure you could achieve a similar effect by comparing Binfinite to Star Wars or the Bible or Peppa Pig. I’m doing this for fun. Mostly.

Also, SPOILERS UNBOUND. Do not read past this point if you haven’t completed the game. (Or if you somehow haven’t seen/read The Wizard of Oz). If you have, fire up Dark Side of the Moon and let’s go off to see the wizard.

As I say, the major and entirely obvious parallel between Irrational’s game and the L. Frank Baum book / Victor Fleming movie is the concept of the lead character being uprooted from early 20th century America and dragged through the sky to a fantastical place. Then again, time period aside, that’s hardly unfamiliar territory for videogames. It was when playing the game for a second time (in 1999 mode, but that’s another story) that I began to pick up on further apparent similarities.

Last warning: spoilers ahead, and until the end of this piece.

My first trigger for this was Captain Cornelius Slate, the Shock Jockey-wielding army man holed up in the Hall of Heroes level. Amidst the rhetoric he bellows at you throughout your battles with his soldiers and browsing of acutely racist museum exhibits is an oft-repeated refrain – “tin soldiers.” In the game’s narrative, this relates to his desire for his men and women to not become slavish conscripts of Comstock (who also staffs his forces with literal tin soldiers, the Iron Patriots), their military deeds obscured by his lies, and instead embrace heroic death in battle with Booker. It’s no great stretch to interpret tin soldier as Tin Man, the metal woodsman who sought a heart when he joined Dorothy in her adventure along the Yellow Brick Road.

Tin Man imagery abounds throughout the game, in fact – the aforementioned Iron Patriots, but also the tragic Handymen, flesh and blood transposed into hulking metallic form. The Handymen even sport pulsating, glowing ‘hearts’, the Tin Man’s fondest desire, and it’s these you should shoot in order to rapidly end these unhappy souls’ Frankensteinian unlives. As well as fearing transformation into another of Comstock’s tin soldiers, Slate too wants a heart – to die feeling proud and beloved by his troops. He seeks to meet his end at the hands of a real soldier, not servile and brainwashed by a liar. Thus, choosing to kill rather than spare him is the ‘right’ decision, else he winds up lobotomised and tragic in Fink’s dungeons. Have a heart, and grant the old bully the release he so craves.

If we take Slate to be the Tin Man, what of Dorothy’s other two companions, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion? This line of thinking is where I switched from feeling silly to slightly startled. We/Booker face three major male ‘bosses’ before the later, more climactic triumvirate of Daisy Fitzroy, Lady Comstock and Father Comstock. Slate/the Tin Man is the second; before that we have the Fraternal Order of the Raven and their apparently unnamed leader. After Slate is that amoral man of industry/slavery, Jeremiah Fink.

The Fraternal Order of the Raven, also known as Zealots of the Lady, don’t really address the player as do Slate and Fink, rendering it difficult to tell if the apparent leader we battle at the climax of our journey through their decay-riddled, bird-infested frathouse is any different to the Zealots, or Crows, we face irregularly throughout the rest of the game. However, an Audio diary found in their headquarters was recorded by the otherwise unmentioned and unseen First Zealot, so I’m going to work on the assumption that the setpiece nature of the first bird-summoning foe we face, and the one whose death grants Booker the Murder of Crows vigor, is said First Zealot. He’s a scary Crow. He’s the Scarecrow, the first of Dorothy’s companions.

I’m probably being over-literal here, but the Order of the Raven’s deathly hallow is one of very few sequences in the otherwise colourful and fantastical Binfinite where it attempts open horror. Their manor is filled with rotting fruit, flayed bodies and lurking ravens, while the First Zealot’s appearance is preceded by the sight of a man being torn to pieces by crows, popping up unexpectedly to cause a start. The Zealot himself can appear out of nowhere, and wears a coffin strapped to his back. Scare-Crow indeed: but what of the brain Dorothy’s Scarecrow so desired? Here I have to reach, but the Zealots’ hero is John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s assassin. Booth shot Lincoln in the head – point-blank in the brain – in the hope that the great emancipator’s death would help defend the racial purity that he – and the Zealots’ – so desired. The Scarecrow wants a brain, so he idolises the man who took Lincoln’s.

Following the order in which Dorothy meets her companions, we rather neatly get First Zealot as Scarecrow, Slate as Tin Man and finally Fink as the cowardly Lion. Jeremiah Fink is Columbia’s captain of industry, and he sure is cowardly even by the standards of such a cruel, bullying society. He flees from Booker in their earliest encounter, at The Raffle (itself a deeply cowardly event which exists purely to demean and abuse Columbia’s ethnic minorities), and later encounters have him only ever addressing us by radio from afar, hiding unseen in some safe place. Meanwhile, he flies Comstock’s colours but does so purely from cynical financial opportunity, not belief. He even attempts to recruit Booker to his side, as head of security, rather than have to face him – and sends legions of men to die in his stead in order to achieve this.

His final appearance, slain by Daisy Fitzroy (herself guilty of a cowardly act against an unarmed man and, after that, a child), is behind bullet-proof glass, once again out of Booker’s reach. Later, we learn that he also arranged the assassination of the Lutece twins, and doubtless numerous others too. He’s a damned coward, in every respect – remotely destroying the lives of others, profiting from poverty and misery, having those who try to rise up tortured or killed, while forever keeping out of harm’s way himself, protected by hired thugs.

And what of the lion? Just listen to Fink’s canned propaganda and rhetoric during our first arrival in Finkton, as black and Irish workers miserably, rhythmically perform their slavelike construction duty for him. They, he says, are Cattle, while natural born leaders like him are Lions. Like Slate and tin soldiers, this is an oft-repeated refrain. As for the bravery the Cowardly Lion sought, perhaps that’s Fink’s fatal encounter with the living avatar of everything he sought to oppress. Finally, after all that cowardice, he comes face to face with his victims, his crimes. Daisy Fitzroy shoots him in the heart, forever pinning a medal of blood to his breast. His death also presages what could be argued to be the game’s bravest act, Elizabeth’s endangerment of her own life and sacrifice of her innocence to save a child by slaying Fitzroy.

The scary crow, the tin soldier, the oh-so-cowardly lion. Encountered in Dorothy’s order, all of them clearly proclaiming the imagery of their Ozian analogues. They may not be companion figures, but Slate and Fink at least both make some claim to being Booker/Dorothy’s friend, while all three inadvertently aid him/her with either Vigors or progress upon their defeat. Coincidence? The truth of it doesn’t matter: if the cap fits…

There’s another trio in the Wizard of Oz, of course, and they too have eerie parallels in Columbia. The Wicked Witch of the East, the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North – the three powerful women of Oz. In BioShock Infinite, we have Lady Comstock, Daisy Fitzroy and Elizabeth/Anna DeWitt. The Wicked Witch of the East dies essentially off-camera near the start of the Wizard of Oz, and so it is that Lady Comstock had been murdered some time before we/Booker arrives on Columbia. (She later reappears as a ghost, of course, although we learn that this isn’t really Lady Comstock as such, but instead a conjuration of Elizabeth’s guilt and anger. The good witch, so closely related to, and responsible for, the wicked ones).

Whether Lady Comstock is ‘evil’ is a matter of some debate, given she’s as much a victim of Comstock’s brutality as anyone else in Columbia, but audiodiaries reveal that she was indeed considered ‘wicked’ in her wanton past, by her own admission.

Vox Populi leader Daisy Fitzroy, meanwhile, becomes the witch of the West, the hectoring villain who repeatedly delays Dorothy in her journey to meet the Wizard and return home. In the game’s strangest and perhaps most controversial narrative choice, the plot quickly transforms its only high-profile black character from freedom fighter to murderous, merciless thug (and with it rendering the entire Vox Populi faction ultimately unsympathetic). No matter how noble her purpose, and the more nuanced information in the audiodiaries, the core narrative ultimately treats her as a villain.

I don’t know if the Wicked Witch of the West ever thought herself a freedom fighter, but certainly her primarily motivation is vengeance – only for Dorothy’s accidental murder of her sister rather than to overthrow a racist despot. Though we can argue that Booker is an accidental racist despot, Comstock of course being his alternate-reality self, and thus he created Fitzroy-as-villain much as Dorothy created West Witch-as-villain. Speaking of racism, if you want an analogue for the West Witch’s army of flying monkeys, perhaps that’s how Columbia’s horrifyingly prejudiced whites envisage the primarily airship-transported Vox Populi who invade from the skies to terrorise them. Please, I speak here from their unpleasant point of view, and the Columbia-wide words and pictures of hatred, not from my own.

Which leaves us with Elizabeth/Anna as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. I had toyed with proclaiming Elizabeth to be Dorothy, due to the overt visual similarities of the young woman in the blue and white dress (and with a fondness for song and dance, no less), but have since settled on this as either a red herring or an allusion to the Wizard of Oz’s most famous imagery, something that couldn’t be achieved with Booker unless this were to be a far more progressive videogame.

Glinda makes more sense, anyway – the eternal helper, the innocent in a family of evil, the most overtly magical character and the only one who ultimately knows, and can control, what’s really going on. It’s Glinda who revealed that Dorothy could have gone home all along, and it’s Elizabeth who demonstrates the choice, that baptism which birthed Comstock, the event which could have meant Booker never left New York and never lost what remained of his family. Dorothy had to realise for herself that there’s no place like home, as Booker had to realise for himself that what he truly desired was to undo the terrible decision to sell his daughter, to return to a world in which that did not happen.

As an aside, further and perhaps more overt Oz imagery comes in the late-game scene where Elizabeth, her powers finally unrestricted, threatens to destroy the facility which had imprisoned her with a scene of what might very well be a Kansas farmstead in the midst of a tornado. There’s no place like home indeed.

So we come to BioShock Infinite’s male leads. Comstock as the Wizard of Oz himself is an easy fit – the liar, the charlatan, the frail old man behind the curtain. For all his bluster about power and knowledge, he’s a powerless geriatric dying of cancer, an all-too-Earthly man transported to this magic world and to quasi-godhood by chance (that being the quantum physics experiments of the Lutece twins), hiding a terrible secret and incapable of doing anyone much good. We first meet Comstock in the form of a giant, intimidating projection, an attempt to hide his true, underwhelming form, while Dorothy’s first encounter with the Wizard has him as a booming, disembodied voice. Finally, Comstock’s eventual appearance in the flesh has him adopting a surprisingly kindly manner (to Elizabeth at least), much as Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs eventually proved to be a genteel, benign fellow.

Booker as Dorothy completes our set of major characters. The visitor from another world, carried away through the skies, wandering confusedly through a magical land full of familiar faces and places, now distorted into new forms and unsure what is and isn’t real. No yellow brick road, perhaps, but shining steel skyrails at least. All he wants is to get home, to normality, even though that rancid, empty apartment is an unhappy place – much as Dorothy’s home life was apparently a meagre one. When we see Booker in his office, in those flashbacks and post-death scenes, it’s in near-monochrome, as was Dorothy’s Kansas. When he’s in Columbia, it’s a wash of over-saturated colour and impossible architecture, much like Oz.

Most of all, Columbia is essentially a creation of Booker’s own imagining and mangled memories, as the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie implies Oz was of Dorothy’s. In the Comstock reality, Booker’s post-war trauma mutated into hatred and puritanism, creating Columbia as a representation of the people and events of his past. So too does Dorothy repeatedly encounter the faces of people she knew and parallels with her apparently tornado-lost home. (Songbird as the tornado, perhaps? Or Toto, given its tendency to follow the player? The Lutece twins as Dorothy’s pair of magical, reality-hopping ruby red slippers, formerly in the service of an evil character?) It’s all his fault, it’s all her fault. After all that disaster and all that death, they both get to go home in the end – her to Kansas and to her family, him to New York and to his long-lost daughter Anna. It was all a dream.

Or was it?

Oh, and the civilians of Columbia, those unconvincing, credulous pantomime-people, are the Munchkins. I’ve no objection to Irrational using that line if ever they want to defend their game’s greatest failing.

For a further, even more eerie parallel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum also wrote a novel called Sky Island. It concerned a magical country in the clouds, locked in civil war, and whose rulers espoused racism and hated the world below them. It was published in 1912, the year in which BioShock Infinite is set.

A IMPORTANT REQUEST: if you want to include spoilers in any comment you leave on this piece, please be a dear and paste in the following before it: SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. This in order to save innocent eyes from seeing the game’s secrets revealed in the sidebar.

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54 Comments »

  1. Frypan Jack says:

    I hate to be rude, but Wizard of Oz was written by L. Frank Baum, not Frank L. Baum.

    The Columbia/Oz connection sailed over my head, but now that its pointed out it seems obvious. I think the Lutece twins fit better for Glinda, though (giving the quest, helping along the way). For Elizabeth’s analog you could look to the books. Princess Ozma seems like a good fit to me.

    • Alec Meer says:

      That makes a lot of sense too, actually. And it could leave Elizabeth as Toto, which also makes a certain sense even though Toto’s the least fantastical character in Oz – the perpetual follower, the only link to home, the character Dorothy loves the most…

      • son_of_montfort says:

        SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

        I actually think you are on to something here, but I disagree that Elizabeth is Glinda and Booker is Dorothy. Elizabeth is clearly still Dorothy – the end result of Oz is that she had the magic within her the entire time, able to use the slippers to go home through force of will. Glinda, like the Luteces, purely facilitated. Booker, IMHO, is the Wizard (because Comstock is also the Wizard), he just represents the benevolent form of the wizard and not the charlatan, imposing, crazy form. The scene where Booker and Comstock finally meet is the scene behind the curtain and where they merge into the same character (one dies, while the other takes his place). Remember, the Wizard is going to go back to Kansas too, in his hot-air balloon, but leaves without Dorothy (parallel to Booker abandoning Anna?).

        In a sense, Oz is about Quantum Alternative Realities too – and Dorothy is the only one to cross them, so she surely is Elizabeth.

        • son_of_montfort says:

          I also think the songbird is Toto. Faithful, noisy, protective, boon companion, and pet.

      • mulberry says:

        I’m probably doing this explanation an enormous disservice as I’m only half remembering things from a class 15 years ago, but its worth noting that the wizard oz itself was an allegory for the turn of the century populist movement. The scarecrow for example was representative of the rural poor, farmers oppressed by the railroads and the tinman was a metaphor for the impoverished urban workers packed into factories. The slippers were originally silver and intended to represent one of the main populist platforms of the time: the adoption of a silver standard in parallel to the existing gold one (yellow brick road).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_interpretations_of_The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz

        • Frypan Jack says:

          I had a history professor that was fond of that political interpretation too, though that interpretation of Wizard of Oz is really just as speculative as Alec’s Biniverse interpretation. It was first brought up in 1964 and there’s no evidence that Baum meant it that way.

    • KristaMitchell says:

      before I saw the paycheck which had said $8505, I didnt believe that…my… neighbours mother woz like they say trully bringing home money part-time at their computer.. there uncle had bean doing this 4 only 9 months and at present cleared the debts on their appartment and got a gorgeous BMW 5-series. I went here, . http://www.Buzz54.com/money

    • buxcador says:

      Watch “The secret of Oz”, on youtube, and you will see all of this under a different, conspirative, light.

  2. Premium User Badge

    elderman says:

    Spoilers in the comments, too, I imagine.

    I’ll be back to read this article after I’ve played Binfinite, which will be in at least a few years’ time.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hardlylikely says:

      I too, will be back to read at a later time, but only because the save system is causing me to take longer to play the game. Sometimes I have to play games in relatively short bursts, but still want to explore and enjoy myself. So I save when I have to and get on with my life in between playing.

      The first few times of playing I didn’t hit a checkpoint when it was convenient, which makes me postpone playing until I can set aside a longer amount of uninterrupted time; which is much more rare for me than short stints. Next week might be less busy, or I might start just pausing the game and walking away, but then there’s the risk of a crash, and the computer burns power. Fucksake Irrational, just implement saving please!

      Point being, looks interesting Alec, I look forward to reading when I am hardcore enough to have the amount of spare time the devs deemed I should have.

  3. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    I was pondering similar ideas yesterday. It fits rather well. Then I stopped thinking about it, because my racing brain did always get back to that horrible new Oz film. Bah.

    Oh, and Elphaba of Wicked is very much a revolutionary trying to overthrow a racist. The groundwork was there.

    (What is a tornado, but a tower of wind?)

  4. hbarsquared says:

    Also, the full title of Sky Island is “Sky Island: Being the Further Adventures of Trot and Cap’n Bill after Their Visit to the Sea Fairies”, and it is a sequel to a fantastical visit to an underwater city…

    • ArtyFishal says:

      And here I though Irrational was just plagiarising Ayn Rand…

  5. Nenjin says:

    In the next BS:I article, we’ll discuss the parallels between the storyline, the Kennedy assassination, string theory and the mysterious deaths of bee populations globally.

  6. martyrshow says:

    It also reminds me quite a bit of Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

    Not only do the Lutece “twins” behave in the same strange manner as R and G (and sort of re-enact the coin toss), but by the end of the play (SPOILERS!) the main characters have also reached the conclusion that they’re doomed to repeat the same events an infinite number of times (whenever a production of Hamlet occurs). Guildenstern points out that “There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we’ll know better next time”.

  7. Jason Moyer says:

    I think the parallels between the Wizard of Oz and BSI were fairly obvious and intentional.

    Having said that, the first thing I thought of the moment I finished the game, and something that I don’t think Levine invoked intentionally, was Mostly Harmless. I guess that would have more to do with the over-arching idea of quantum mechanics and multiple divergent universes and having to make a change that affects all of them simultaneously rather than specific scenes or themes from the game. Although I personally would have called the female lead Random.

  8. Alphabet says:

    Wow. What an impressive piece. I think one could quibble with any of the details, but I think Alec is utterly right in his general contention that BI is drawing aesthetically, narratively, and characterologically on Baum and the most famous movie.

    I loved this game and think it’s one of the best I’ve ever played (Torment and Morrowind are my usual benchmarks for anyone who wants to calibrate my opinion). I think the depth and resonance of its world and characters are what give it the kick it has (in my experience of course). Thanks Mr Meer for illuminating (at least one aspect of) the game so beautifully.

  9. DrGonzo says:

    I think everyone is over thinking Infinite quite a lot. It’s a trashy shoot em up, with a poorly thought out twist at the end.

    • Techercizer says:

      It’s also a masterpiece of tragedy; How well the story is depends on how deep you want to look.

      Heart of Darkness is just a boring story about some guy who takes too long to leave a jungle, for many people.

  10. Techercizer says:

    The analysis is fairly well done, but I think it stretches a bit too far, a bit too often for my taste. I don’t think it’s outrageous to postulate the presence of an allusion in Infinite’s narrative, given some of the interesting parallels, but I don’t feel it conforms enough to warrant a direct comparison.

    Personally, I find the antiparallels between Bioshock Infinite and Hamlet much more compelling; not necessarily in terms of exact plot and events, but in its themes and the material it discusses. I’d love to elaborate further on this if anyone has an interest, though I would of course need to venture into spoilers.

  11. realitysconcierge says:

    Infinite is the first game in a long time to stick with me after finishing it. With these theories I wonder if the original has any unannounced parallels to another well known story?

  12. McCool says:

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER.
    The Good Witch of the North is Rosalind Lutece, silly. She plays that role in the narrative. Elizabeth is so clearly Dorothy it hurts. She is the one in the wrong universe, after all. It’s her story. Booker is an unholy cross between The Wizard of Oz, the Lion and (more closely) Toto.

    Other than that the analogy works surprisingly well. In an alternate universe somewhere, maybe Columbia really was called Oz.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Doesn’t Comstock actually directly refer to Booker as the Tin Man at some point? I could have sworn he did.

      Edit: Herp, maybe I should read the article more closely.

      • McCool says:

        Arguably he is all the male characters. In The Wizard of Oz, they take the place of the male figures in her life, in their phantasmic state. Booker plays exactly the same role to Elizabeth, he is the male in all of its violent/reassuring glory. He is everything that is terrible and wonderful about men/father figures all rolled into one.

  13. GameCat says:

    Ok, but real question is…

    Who is the auntie Em and uncle Forgot-His-Name-Too-Lazy-To-Check then, eh?

    • Lagwolf says:

      The odd English couple who keeping popping up and taking the piss out of Booker?

      • GameCat says:

        -SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

        -SPOILER Spoiler

        -SPOILER?

        -SPOILER!

        Luteces are more like Glinda (they use Booker same as Glinda was using Dorothy to kill Wicked Witch) and they are the same person from different universes.

  14. SirKicksalot says:

    Correlation does not imply causation, but maybe it does when your game is in development hell for so many years and you’ve got nothing better to do.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Based on how amazing the game is, I’d say it was less development hell and more “holy crap, so this is what a talented studio can do if they don’t have to pump out shovelware every 1-2 years”.

    • Ruffian says:

      It does seem a little rushed and messy in places, imo, as well, but I also think it still easily craps all over most other modern shooters.

  15. Lagwolf says:

    I thought there was a touch of Alice in Wonderland as well or certainly the Alice series of books. But yes there was a heavy Wizard of Oz influence in this game and this piece does a good job at explaining it if a bit too decontructionist in tone for my tastes.

    Not bad that we get a video game heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now in Farcry 3 a few months ago and then this.

    It is obvious that Levine & Co are well-read and that is something to be welcomed.

  16. serioussgtstu says:

    I never noticed the comparison, so thanks for pointing it out. That stuff about ‘Sky Island’ is really interesting. I think Booker is Toto, he’s just along for the ride; it’s Elizabeth’s story. After all, she’s the one who allows herself and Booker to go home, by simply tapping her shoes and drowning her (spoiler) Dad.

  17. meeks1991 says:

    SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

    Okay, now this is going to seem downright ridiculous. Well I’m pretty sure that Booker Dewitt is the Tin man in the story. But not exactly the traditional one. He has a striking resemblance to Wyatt Cain in the Sci Fi series “Tin Man,” which was a very odd take on the Wizard of Oz.

    But essentially, former soldier, family gone, has no ‘heart’, helps DG, etc.

    I found these two pictures that really hit home on this idea.

    http://images.wikia.com/bioshock/images/4/40/Booker_4.jpg

    http://static.tvguide.com/mediabin/archive/cms/FBF45332-D441-4545-9820-AB6BB633CF3C.jpg

    I realize the light is making him look more fair in that particular picture, but I thought it was pretty eerie.

    Edit: Also Wyatt Cain was trapped in a fixed metal suit where he couldn’t move until someone else intervened, much like how DeWitt is immobile in his home until the lutece siblings retrieve him.

  18. Shooop says:

    …Damn you internet.

    You’ve taken what seemed like a horribly lazy and convoluted twist ending at first and turned it into something I’m genuinely interested in reading about.

    Well played all of you, especially you Mr. Meer..

  19. Penguin_Factory says:

    Wow. That’s actually pretty convincing. This was an entertaining read.

    “Oh, and the civilians of Columbia, those unconvincing, credulous pantomime-people, are the Munchkins. I’ve no objection to Irrational using that line if ever they want to defend their game’s greatest failing.”

    I still don’t get why so many people have a problem with the Bioshock Infinite NPCs. They seem about on par with NPCs from every other game, just written and voiced better. Did Irrational claim Infinite would have some sort of revolutionary AI for them or something?

    • Premium User Badge

      LTK says:

      Where most of the rest of the game is outstanding, the NPCs are merely adequate. Which is why they stand out as comparatively bad.

  20. ArmasEctos says:

    I just realized when reading this article that the Wizard’s real name is an acronym! O.Z.P.I.N.H.E.A.D.

    OZ PINHEAD, roflol!

  21. son_of_montfort says:

    Just for fun, I looked through the library to see if The Wizard of Oz was a title on the shelf. I did not see it.

  22. HolyCrossroads says:

    Having not read The Wizard of Oz, I can’t really say anything about Alecr’s assumptions – except that the article sounds convincing :P.
    However I don’t agree with the linked article -also interesting, by the way- [SPOILERish from now on]: the game’s prejudices are not towards black people, but anarchists; the average american (even though I’d like to be proven wrong about this) considers any leftist ideology (starting from, but not limited to, communism) a dangerous extremism and this is reflected into the game (not that I expect any mainstream american media to show any simpathy towards a radical ideal).
    I’m not particularly informed about early XX century anarchism, but there have been several violent episodes. Still, Bioshock Infinte becomes ridiculous with that Daisy Fitzroy’s blood thirst, it’s obvious that the developers needed a new enemy for the other half of the game (and why not be politically correct while you’re there). Vox Populi weren’t allowed to be the good guys. If the game had pursued the revolution subplot instead of the more existentialist-intimist-ipertangled main story it might have had a more powerful message (and about this I do agree with Stanton’s article). Well, it was pretty entertaining anyway.

    • Milky1985 says:

      SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

      “Still, Bioshock Infinte becomes ridiculous with that Daisy Fitzroy’s blood thirst, it’s obvious that the developers needed a new enemy for the other half of the game (and why not be politically correct while you’re there). Vox Populi weren’t allowed to be the good guys.”

      The Vox Populi not being good actually kinda makes sense in the game universe, the whole point is that comstock was making out that they were bad and making a enemy to unite Columbia against using his power and the media to sway the masses. I imagine this is drawing parallels to what America has been doing to the Muslim world for the past few years to the point where some Americans see all Muslims as bad, same sort of thing as the white population of Columbia was show to be thinking about the blacks and Irish of Columbia.

      However being under the heal of an oppressor causes anger and so the population got fed up of being oppressed, being classed as “bad” by the people oppressing them. Probably even annoyed by the acts of kindness from the progressives that are around as they are still treated as second class and looked down upon. This causes anger and as has happened in the past in the real world, when there’s a chance to fight back (one of the alternate bookers becoming a martyr) they go for it, anger takes over and they kill all that oppressed them, to there eyes, only doing to the Colombians what they have been doing to the vox all the years. Its shown in game that the police regularly shoot families of Vox and kill people who try to get the workers together to get better conditions, you are then shown the vox doing the same.

      They cannot be the good guys because of the years of oppression causing anger that when released will not be held back. Its a case of the world being told that the vox are bad for so long that the vox don’t feel bad when they do all of the stuff, because its what was expected form them anyway. All of that was comstocks fault for the oppression in the first place so while they are villains as well, they are tragic ones.

      Thats my way of seeing it anyway, there can be no good side because both sides are itching for a fight.

      • HolyCrossroads says:

        SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
        Well, the shootings of unarmed policemen and civilians (who still carry ammo with them, lol) are both plausible and terrible, I won’t argue with that; what I criticize is the unneeded scene with the attempted child murder, it’s only there to shout HEY WATCH OUT VOX ARE BAD GUYS and make the plot progress towards the sci fi section.

        This bioshock proves to be a mature game at many times, but it can’t get over the black and white morality cliché, here being both factions completely black (no pun intended), because they are equiparated. Storywise, the Vox rebellion is justified because of the victiorian era conditions of the poors and unevitable because the city is a closed microsystem; it’s 1912, how can it lack violence? What I’m trying to say is that the Vox are deliberately shown as over the top, not in an attempt to make them credible but to make them a morally justified enemy. The player has to become abruptly unsympathetic, after having aided them and even experienced their condition.

        And that’s, imho, because they have a “strong” political trait. They aren’t the good guys, but they are forced to be not the better guys in Columbia.

        ” I imagine this is drawing parallels to what America has been doing to the Muslim world for the past few years to the point where some Americans see all Muslims as bad, same sort of thing as the white population of Columbia was show to be thinking about the blacks and Irish of Columbia.”
        But do american muslims become terrorists any time they can? Only in Homeland :)

  23. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I do think you stretched it until it fitted, Alec. Maybe I wasn’t in the right set of mind, but the vast majority of the text read “an ant is like an elephant, they both have four legs”.

    I’m not trying to deny the author’s nods at various influences, Wizard of Oz inclusive. But like so many of the comments show, there’s plenty of other stuff to go around. I’ve read so far: antiparallels to Hamlet, Rosencantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Alice in Wonderland. What does this mean? That with a bit of imagination sprinkled with enough wishful thinking, one can just as well write lengthy separate essays on how much Bioshock Infinite drinks from each one of these influences. And do it with the same level of depth as you did, overlapping in fact many of your own comparison targets.

    There’s no reason in my mind to believe Wizard of Oz has nothing more than a moderate influence and the game doesn’t live and breath through it. The more I read your article the more I’m convinced of that. There’s just enough of Wizard of OZ to fill two or three paragraphs of your article. The rest is ants and elephants.

  24. Runs With Foxes says:

    Hey I’m just wondering if, given RPS’s continuing commitment to addressing social issues, you will do some articles addressing the fairly blatant racism in this game? I notice you linked to an article that discusses it, but it would be a shame if such an important issue is only dealt with via the occasional link. I feel that racism in a less-hyped game would draw much more criticism than has been levelled at Infinite so far, so a more critical analysis of this game than what we’ve seen from reviewers so far would be welcome.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      One fad at a time, please. No more.

      But make no mistake. RPS will eventually start covering racial prejudice in the video gaming industry. Not right now, though. Right now it isn’t the thing that is cool talking about. RPS needs some high profile event to suddenly awake and realize there’s far more troubling bigotry in this industry than women discrimination. Then suddenly and magically, RPS will gain a cause. Not before they are gently pushed though. They don’t seem to have a mind of their own of social issues. They aren’t the ones starting the debate. They just… follow through.

      They probably don’t even know how the Chinese owners of LoL completely changed all original game characters with any racial depiction to white characters. They have yet to care how few black people actually end up showing in games as main characters, or even NPCs. How Arabs are almost always depicted as antagonists, or Africans are almost always depicted as inept. They will only care when it becomes cool to care.

      With that all said, I do not agree though that there’s blatant racism in the game. The game instead exposes racism as the destroyer of a society. Have you played it?

  25. schmidgley says:

    Hey RPS, can we expect more of this sort of a dissection of Binfinite from youse guys?
    SPOILERZ!!!
    As soon as I finished it I was struck by how the whole thing might be a metaphor for playing video games – the whole variables and constance business, the “infinite” nature of play, etc. – and I’d love to see that explored properly by someone. Seems like there should be all sorts of interesting intersections between narrativity and agency and authorial intent or whatever.
    SEEMS LIKE A GOOD TOPIC FOR RAB’S LOST HUMANITY COLUMN BUT OH WELL. :(

    I dunno, it could be slightly reaching/more than slightly stuffy, but I would read the shit out of it.

    • schmidgley says:

      Like maybe you can sort of read Binfinite as a companion piece-of-sorts with… uhh… Spec Ops: The Line?

  26. P7uen says:

    I didn’t really enjoy playing it or get very engaged with the story. Same with Bioshock 1 or 2, yet I completed them all. Not sure why, same reason I might finish a bowl of rubbish crisps at a party.

    Still, the last section was very engaging (even though I can see why people might feel a bit cheated). I’m not familiar with with Oz, but I would like to read more on people’s opinions about it.

  27. DarlingDildo says:

    Found this post from 2011.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.275501-I-found-Bioshock-Infinites-Ayn-Rand

    Someone made the same connection to Sky Island, but suggested that Elizabeth is really Trot, a character in this book. I have yet to read it (it is available freely, online, at Project Gutenberg; the Kindle (mobi) version comes with illustrations.)
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/39159
    http://img6.imageshack.us/img6/6436/skyisland.png

  28. Drooglez says:

    so, i just got to the part where Elizabeth is being tortured by evil science people and you have tot shut off the generators. Then something happened after i shut of the second one…
    A GIANT TORNADO SUCKED UP A HOUSE IN A KANSAS CORN FIELD. i didn’t remember that being mentioned in this article and though it bizarre as heck as that’s got to be one of the boldest hints they could of given right?