BioShock Infinite has been the subject of a lot of debate. The wide, toothy maw of the games press has rambled on about this shooter non-stop, often describing it as ‘brilliant’, ‘lovely’ and ‘a game’. But what of the storyline? The final twist answers many of the player’s burning questions but leaves some things completely unexplained. For example, how does Columbia’s water sewage system work? And why do people keep throwing money into bins? It is possible that such plotholes are merely an oversight. But it could also be an elaborate conspiracy to keep people talking. Whatever the reasons, the questions remain. Here, we cover ten of the most pressing quantum conundrums.
1. How many universes are there?
After several playthroughs we got in touch with a physicist who, based on the information we gave, put the number of possible universes in the BioShock franchise at 56lots. Other scientists we contacted agreed with this approximation, although some voiced concerns that many of the universes would simply collapse in on themselves upon creation, such as the universe which contains five hundred Macaulay Culkins. “Such a place,” said one scientist, “would be unsustainable.”
2. How come people don’t get altitude sickness?
Judging by the clouds at the beginning of the story and the time it takes for De Witt’s rocket to ascend, Columbia is floating at approximately 8000ft above sea level. At this height human beings struggle to breathe comfortably and become victims of altitude sickness, commonly known as ‘the sky bends’. So why does nobody in Columbia suffer? One answer could be the pilgrim’s baptism, which Booker underwent. When the player emerges from the welcoming centre, one of the believers is heard saying: “Our prophet fills our lungs with water, so that we may better love the air.” This could refer to a custom among mountain climbers before they ascend the Himalayas, which involves being resuscitated after drowning oneself while listening to religious music, thus granting the lungs of the drownee an abnormal tolerance for high places. This drowning ritual is known as the ‘Buckley Procedure’.
3. What is: the 'honor system'?
Soon after the first chapter, the player finds themselves in a grocery store which is operating on something called ‘honor’. But what is this ‘honor’? And why do we hear no more about it for the rest of the game? Some speculation I saw on a forum suggests it is a branch of quantum mechanics which powers services on the European continent, such as trams. Others insist it is a special kind of vigour that was cut from the final game, which granted Booker the power to stop stealing everything.
4. Why does Booker Dewitt never use a handkerchief?
Like so many video game protagonists, Booker Dewitt suffers from chronic nosebleeds. The source of which is revealed to be Booker thinking too hard about central plot points. Indeed, the artistically defining moment of BioShock Infinite is doubtlessly the part when the game emits a blast of high-pitched white noise and the player’s nose begins to bleed in tandem with the characters on-screen. But as we, the player, reach for the toilet roll, we are led to wonder: why does Mr Dewitt never do the same? When faced with a set of bloody nostrils, he just catches the haemorrhage on his fingers and (presumably) wipes them on his trousers. Is this because of his upbringing?
No, says our resident historian. “In the early nineteen-hundreds it was actually illegal to sully a clean handkerchief,” says Dr Harrison Plop. “This was to do with various chastity laws. Instead, it was customary to catch all nasal fluids on your hand, or simply wipe them directly onto the person next to you.” Fascinating. If this is the case, Booker could have also rubbed his blood on Elizabeth. However, it is currently thought that Irrational did not have the resources to complete this animation in time for the game’s final release.
5. What’s a voxophone?
6. What makes the crows invincible?
There is a moment in the Cult of the Raven clubhouse when Booker arrives to find a lavish feast taking place on a long table. But before he can say hello to any of the distinguished guests sitting enjoying their meals, a dark realisation descends on him. They are crows! This is one of Binfinite's many thought-provoking twists but rather than providing an answer to a big question (‘who are those people at the dinner table?’) it simply raises more questions – where did these crows come from? What are their names? Why, upon being shot, do they not act like normal crows? Why do they just sit there acting solemn, perhaps mildly puzzled, but certainly not dead? What is the cause of all this? One answer comes in the form of a hard-to-find voxophone, tucked inside the entrails of the juggling clown beside the high striker in the funfair. Here is the transcript in full:
A Crow: [Caws] [Caws] ... [Sound of scratching]... [Caws] [Recording cuts out]
7. What is everybody’s fascination with pineapples?
Food is an important part of BioShock Infinite’s universe. One of the most commonplace foods in Columbia is the pineapple. Here are some charts illustrating the proportion and distribution of pineapples in the game.
What can explain this? Well, we’ve already looked at how height affects breathing in human beings but what you may not know is that extreme heights are also responsible for a three-hundred-fold increase in human appetite. Over the course of the game Booker Dewitt will eat approximately 700,000 kilocalories in chocolate bars and fizzy drinks as he attempts to counteract the effects altitude has on human metabolism. As it happens, the humble pineapple is full of essential anti-stratospheric vitamins. So this could explain why there are so many around. However, it has been pointed out that many other fruits also contain such vitamins, including peaches, plantains and pomegranates. So, the question remains: why pineapples exactly? Is it because they are pleasant to look at? Or is it something much, much darker? “I don’t know,” said one expert. “Probably?”
8. What state is Songbird from?
Analyses of Songbird’s cries suggest that he is a returning character in the BioShock series and may indeed star in his own comedy spin-off game at some point in the future, alongside Sander Cohen and a flying sentry gun. But one thing that has remained a source of debate is Songbird’s origins – in particular, his home state. Some have posited that Songbird is clearly a Texan, pointing out that he has a ‘larger-than-life’ personality and also leaks oil. Others dispute this, claiming that he is very obviously a Californian, citing as evidence his toned physique and love of music. The truth, of course, remains unknown.
9. Have the Lutece twins ever considered a career in TV presenting?
This is a difficult question to answer and is considered by many Binfinite watchers as the game’s most thoroughly inexplicable plot-hole. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the Lutece twins were working towards a joint venture in television – their japes and tricks being part of one of the most well-practiced comedy routines of all time. Other duos suspected of being the same person stretched across an inter-dimensional divide include Ant & Dec and the Twins from Fun House.
10. Why do we hear ‘Fortunate Son’?
An interesting moment of BioShock Infinite is when the player finds a tear through which is blasting a rendition of ‘Fortunate Son’, a well-known anti-war song originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The suggestion is that there is an alternate universe in which Creedence Clearwater Revival were abducted by Comstock and forced to play concerts in Columbia. Many have pointed out that this jars with the idea of a relevant ‘possibility-space’, since Creedence Clearwater Revival were famous for their collective fear of heights, once saying in an interview: “No, none of us like heights. That is the one constant we have. It is definitely not a variable trait of ours.” So why then do we hear the song at all? What is the hidden meaning? Perhaps a clue can be found in another secret area of the game wherein another tear opens, through which the player can hear Avril Lavigne’s magnum opus ‘Complicated’, in a clever nod toward the game’s final scene.