Irrational Games made it clear with BioShock that toying with players’ minds and perceived realities was their top priority; for BioShock: Infinite, they took that idea and ran even farther with it. But with ideas of fate, time travel, alternate realities and quantum entanglement all at work in between the gunfights and ‘Vigors,’ some clarification is likely needed.
BioShock: Infinite‘s ending moments will no doubt leave most players speechless (as predicted by Ken Levine months ago), but it shouldn’t leave them confused. At least, not in a bad way. So to truly grasp the story that Ken Levine and his studio managed to tell from the game’s opening scene, we thought we’d explain Infinite‘s ending more plainly. Needless to say, spoilers lie ahead.
The Quantum Conundrum
Quantum mechanics is a field of theoretical physics that even experts will claim is hard to understand or explain, but everyday analogies are numerous when discussing it for the layperson. For instance: you are walking down the street, and decide to cross from one side to the other; your day goes on normally thereafter. Scientists originally thought that your choice shaped your personal reality, and affected the universe as a whole in a minuscule way.
Quantum mechanics disagrees, with its developed theories claiming a single decision has vast ramifications. It was physicist Hugh Everett who first popularized the “many-worlds interpretations” of quantum physics, going one step further and explaining that every choice made also meant that a parallel universe was immediately formed in which the very opposite choice was made. The result of every past, present, and future decision of every single entity is an endless – or, one might say “infinite” – number of parallel worlds.
The reason that theories like these don’t send the science community into anarchy is that the same beliefs which make the many-worlds interpretation possible also claim that it would never be possible for anyone to observe a universe other than their own. Not unless they were somehow able to look, listen, or even move through some sort of ‘tear’ between parallel realities.
Theoretical physics is a field usually restricted to the brilliant, and this explanation of just one facet of the study should illustrate why. But to anyone familiar with Everett’s theory, the game’s final scenes of Elizabeth explaining a vast star-scape as not stars, but “worlds” made perfect sense.