‘BioShock: Infinite’ Ending Explained

Published 2 years ago by , Updated April 8th, 2013 at 10:36 pm,

BioShock Infinite Ending Explained

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

BioShock Infinite Explained Quantum Theory

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.

BioShock Infinite 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.

Next: The Role of Robert and Rosalind Lutece…

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TAGS: Bioshock, BioShock: Infinite, Irrational Games, PC, PS3, Xbox 360

  • NeoSmart

    Dimensions,dimensions..In many of them they are dead and many of them they are alive.Doing different stuff..Perfect for DLC business.No need to continue main story and show different scenerios to players and get money…

  • Ken J

    Why couldn’t they just go back in time and prevent Booker from meeting the physicist? Then he wouldn’t become sterile and they wouldn’t build a city in the sky. Comstock would simply be leading a Cult somewhere with his actual child with Lady Comstock and Booker and Anna/Elizabeth will be together living a normal life in another universe…

    • Antionne

      Booker is actually comstock he takes the name Comstock after his baptism and that sets everything in motion

    • CBz

      Because then there would be no game to play, just accept it and enjoy in my opinion the best game of 2013

  • Mark

    Hey I hope someone reads this but I found a major flaw in this Ending and actually this explanation proves it very well.
    1. Going by Point one, for every time Booker dies/drown or allows himself be drown there must be a time he does not allow himself or wouldn’t drown. as well as fact the infinite

    2. The Lettuces which did this all, in ways… If Beth never happened, then she could never go back and never stop booker, there for creating a loop were they do exist in some form, just to allow it exist in another form.

    3. as we never see Beth vanish, and going off theory she Needs exist for Lettuce’s to exist and for this whole game exist, for without the lettuces, nothing happen, which leads to Beth. but in reverse same is almost true, but also, booker could not be drown or make choice without that Special Beth who figured out and won, so I don’t thick she died/winked

    4. Booker and Comstock will always exist, because by rule one, for every time booker chooses drown, another would not and could become either of them. Also, for every Time booker failed. He could successes, or another pay. Just going by the explanation in first area

    5. To Me the unanswered questions not what happened, but really what the truth is. You don’t see Bookers hand, and the way he wakes up seems remember more. I feel the dice will deal with this I hope. I just am a classic nerd but to me…

    • Ken J

      I think you meant cabbage, or maybe even broccoli… But personally I prefer spinach.

  • tm780

    It wasn’t meant to be a lesson in quantum physics, it was meant to be an entertaining game. and it was damn sure an entertaining game, well written with beautiful scenery. well done

  • Mark

    I am just taking the game for the rules it established, used and made.

    • kaz

      Make, makes, will make.

  • Dan

    I’d like to know who the guy was in the lighthouse, and why he had to die. Before even going to Columbia, this guy’s been popped in the head.
    Also, Elizabeth/Anna killing Booker creates a time travel paradox: if she kills Booker, then Booker can never have a daughter Anna, who can never go back in time to kill Booker, which means Booker lives, has a daughter named Anna that goes back in time and kills him. Meaning Anna is never born, can’t kill Booker, etc, etc….

    • TheGreyNoble

      You see, the thing you must understand is the “what if” part. When booker is getting drowned WHAT IF Elizabeth/Anna decides to pull him back up? That there creates an alternate universe, and so on. My theory is that there is no physical way to stop the cycle of com stock and them, they can only stop it in the universe they are currently in.

  • Sean P

    et me throw some stuff out there for you. You said Booker “could” have been com stock, problem is that Booker IS comstock. Elizabeth actually explained this plainly, when Booker refused the baptism he made a choice and thus he created another parallel universe that he accepted the baptism and with being reborn he had new goals new wants and new perceptions. After the accepted baptism as they said in the game “things are set in motion” Booker changed his name to comstock, and we all know what comstock does after that. As for the open ended ending, where they don’t show the elizabeth you saved disappear along with the other versions, and that pre credit cut scene showing Booker looking for the baby, I am going to throw out my theory about what it means. I charted out all of the major events for bookers life starting with wounded knee which was the earliest event they mentioned and then made a tree diagram showing each choice and parallel universe that he made. Elizabeth said that com stock was born after the baptism and they needed to kill him before he was born meaning Booker had to die before he had the choice to get or not get baptized. She drowned Booker maybe just before that baptism. The other Elizabeth’s were created by choices made through the game, so (in theory) if comstock never existed she would have never been sold by Booker and the events and the choices that made all the elizabeths would have never happened erasind all but the original one, if I am right the reason for this is that she was born before the baptism so killing him there wouldn’t erase her but would get rid of all comstocks. The second video I haven’t figured out or have any viable theories about.
    Lastly the Rapture discussion. I have heard many people explain it the same way you do, not to say your wrong or right, but I did some research and found some more tangible proof. Y’all over looked the time periods they are set in! Bioshock 1 was set at around 1960, one of the song that plays over the intercom in rapture was called beyond the sea, this song came out in 1949. While infinite is set in 1912. Look it up cuz the makers said nothing on the topic but its fun to come up with theories.

    • Ken J

      @Sean P

      Hey man. I see you put a lot of thought into your theory and that’s the cool thing about this game. It makes us think. But unfortunately there is a flaw in your theory. Elizabeth/Anna was born AFTER the baptism and only by Booker, not the baptized Comstock. That’s why Comstock had to kidnap Anna from another dimension because in his dimension, after his baptism he sought out the scientist who experimented with quantum physics to look into the future. With that he saw that he was supposed to have a daughter, and told all of his followers of this prophecy. But the radiation from the machines he used to see that future made him sterile. So he had to kidnap his daughter from a dimension where he stayed Booker and never looked into Quantum Physics, never became sterile, and had a daughter.

      My theory to the ending is that since there’s always an opposite dimension to every decision, there must have been one where Booker didn’t allow Elizabeth to drown him or where Elizabeth decided not to drown Booker but at the same time that Booker, since he was brought back to before the Baptism, is now aware of the situation and does not give up his daughter. Thus that after credits scene where he wakes up and rushes to check on Anna to make sure that’s the case. Or that could be wishful thinking. I wanted a happy ending for Elizabeth/Anna…

  • Dan

    The fact that what appears to be an infinity worlds exist should allow for another ‘world’ where Booker was not drowned, failing to kill Comstock. There must be a place in the ‘omniverse’ where Booker was not killed appropriately, as we witnessed in BI, to put an end to all Bookers and all Zacharys.

    Hence, perhaps Booker’s drowning did not destroy ALL Zachary Comstocks in ALL universes. Nor ALL Booker Dewitts who father Anna. or the Booker Dewitts that don’t father Anna etc…

    (I assume that an infinite number of worlds exist, both in ‘reality’ and for the purpose of this discussion. Since I assume that to be true, I believe it implies EVERY SINGLE OUTCOME and EVERY SINGLE SET or SEQUENCE or PERMUTATION of outcomes exists.)

    As for other ideas discussed, especially regarding how killing Booker would prevent the events of BI from transpiring in the first place…

    I considered Quantum Physics’ resolution of the grandfather paradox due to time travel. You kill your grandfather before he meets his spouse-to-be (your grandmother), but you do not die because this occurs in another world. You can leave the world where you murdered your grandfather and return to the world from whence you first came where nothing has changed!

    My mind is reeling, contemplating the idea of babushka dolls, and sets of babushka dolls within a doll within a doll etc… So I think I’ll take a break.

    Anyway, any thoughts would be appreciated. This seems like an awesome topic to discuss! 😀

  • Stonersimpson

    I’m still confused sort of. Can someone put the pieces together for me???

    • Ken J

      @stoner (name might explain some things, lol)

      Basically, a guy name Booker DeWitt fought in some wars, did a bunch of stuff, then one day he goes to a religious meeting to be baptized to “wash away his sins.” There, assuming the theory that there are infinite dimensions that exists where every possible decision has been made (in one you turned left at a street, in the other you turned right. Or in one you decided not to shoplift an item, in another you decided to do it, etc. etc.), at this point there is a split between a Booker Dewitt that went through with the baptism and a Booker Dewitt that decided against it. In the universe where Booker Dewitt decides against it, is the character you play as in the game.

      In the universe where he goes through with it, the event has a profound impact on him and he decides to change everything about himself, to be a new man. Including changing his name to Zachary Comstock. He discovers a woman, a quantum physicist that has discovered how to manipulate the physical qualities of molecules, and even make portals through time and space (this is the woman of the two “twins” you keep running into that helps you throughout the game). With this, Booker Dewitt (now known as Comstock) looks through the portals and looks into the future. In the future, he sees many things including that he has a daughter. So he uses this knowledge to trick people into thinking he has prophetic properties. He forms a large cult, and with the help of that quantum physicist woman, she finds out how to make things levitate, and thus the floating city is formed. Comstock keeps using the device she made to look into the future to keep being the prophet to his followers, but this exposure to the device had side effects. It made him age prematurely (thus why Comstock looks like an old man while Booker Dewitt looks normal, they are actually the same age) and it also made him sterile. So now he’s unable to father the daughter he originally saw in the future for himself and that he already told his followers he will have. The quantum physicist woman uses that device to look into parallel universes and finds the one or the ones where Booker doesn’t perform the baptism and is still trying to live a normal life. Through this they discover he did father a daughter, Anna Dewitt (who we know in the game as Elizabeth).

      They also discover the quantum physicist’s equivalent in that universe, but instead of a woman, he’s a man. They convince him to join their cause and together they manipulate Booker into accumulating a large debt, which he borrows from them thinking they are just normal people loaning money. They eventually convince Booker to give them his daughter to settle the debt. Booker does, but at the last minute realizes what he has done and changes his mind. He goes after them to get his daughter back, but they step through the portal, and as the portal closes, the baby reaches out for her daddy, and the portal closes on her pinky, chopping it off. So not part of Anna Dewitt is in Booker’s dimension and the rest of her is in Comstock’s. This allows Anna the ability to create portals into other dimensions.

      Booker is ashamed of himself for giving away his daughter so he brands himself with her initials, “AD” on his hand for Anna Dewitt. He eventually goes into denial of what he has done, and just lives a life of shame and loneliness. Meanwhile in Comstock’s dimension, how Comstock gets the baby becomes a big controversy, and Comstock’s wife threatens to tell everyone that the baby isn’t theirs, so Comstock has her killed and blames it on her servant who then becomes the leader of the resistance The Vox (French for “Voice”). I forgot what the circumstances were behind this, but Comstock also tries to kill the physicist woman and her male counterpart from Booker’s dimension. But since they were so involved in jumping between dimensions and all of that, instead of simply dying, they become these kind of beings that exist and don’t exist in any time/dimension/space they choose. That’s why they can seemingly teleport to anywhere they want.

      These twins, kind of as an experiment and also as revenge of Comstock for trying to kill them, go through between many of these dimensions and timelines and brings a Booker Dewitt onto Columbia to see if he can destroy Comstock and what choices he will make while doing so. When you meet them and they tell you to flip a coin, and it lands on heads, that wasn’t the first time, they asked every other Booker from other dimensions doing the same thing to do it, and they mostly all have had the same result. That’s why the chalkboard they had read all heads, probably over a hundred or even two-hundred times (this tells you they’ve brought a Booker Dewitt onto Columbia that many times).

      When they bring Booker through the portal, Booker Dewitt is in denial of what he has done so he kind of makes up a reasoning on his own. Now he thinks the whole “bring them the girl to settle your debt” thing meant to go to Columbia and bring the girl back to New York to settle his debt. He doesn’t realize his debt is already settled when he brought them HIS girl… His mind was justifying why he was there and why he was going to Columbia, all the while not acknowledging the bad thing that he has done.

      Comstock, knowing that Booker might want to get his daughter back, tells everyone this made up story about a “false prophet” to get them primed in the case that Booker shows up. He even “prophesizes” that he will have that “AD” mark on his hand, because he knows Booker has this mark.

      So you play the game, you “rescue” Elizabeth, and at the end, she regains her power and she shows you the whole picture. You tell her that Comstock has to be stopped at all costs and that you are willing to kill him as a child just to stop him from doing what he has done to Elizabeth in that and all other dimensions. She reveals to you that YOU are Comstock, so the only way to accomplish what you said you’re willing to do (kill Comstock before he becomes the Comstock we know) is by killing yourself before the baptism. So the Elizabeths from the many different dimensions created in your adventure to save her, all come together and you basically allow them to drown you and kill you to save them all. But really, that means you “save” them by not only making Comstock never exist, but now Elizabeth never exists either since Booker fathers her after the baptism. That’s why they all disappear. The last Elizabeth also disappears but they don’t show it in order to keep a little bit of ambiguity.

      The after credits scene of Booker waking up and checking on the crib is meant to be ambiguous so you can make up your own mind. In my opinion, what would make sense is that since there is a dimension where every different decision has been made, there must have been one where Booker does not allow himself to be drowned and killed, or where Elizabeth decides not to kill Booker, but instead probably returning him instead to the point where he gets baptized to the point before he gives up Anna to allow him to make the correct decision to not give her up. I think that after credits scene is where Elizabeth brings Booker back to the point in his life before he gives up Anna. So now that he knows what will happen if he gives her up, he wakes up, and checks to see if she’s there, and will eventually turn down their offer to settle his debt with the girl… Or perhaps he was brought back to before he gets manipulated to racking up the huge debt in the first place…

  • Fnar

    Booker and Elizabeth traveled back to the ‘root’ of every reality where Columbia/Rapture exist: That is, the moment Booker either accepts the baptism and reinvents himself as Comstock, or rejects the baptism and stays Booker, fathers Anna/Elizabeth, and is a drunkard and gambler. By ensuring that the branch where he accepts the baptism ends with him drowning, all that’s left is the branch where he remains Booker. This leaves him alive in only that reality with Comstock never existing in any other reality, which means Comstock will never cross realities to take Anna, but it doesn’t mean that Anna isn’t born. Whether Booker cleans up and has a good life with his daughter is left up to us, but she was definitely in that crib in the end in my mind.

  • Mutosheep

    Obviously, if Booker stopped himself from murdering innocent Native Americans at wounded knee and getting a medal of honor for genocide, this would stop the underlying psychological damage. Probably.

  • B Lock

    1 possible theory to explain why when booker was sent to Columbia to save Elizabeth and his “soul” stayed inside his body rather than going into Comstock’s(because they are the same person). but when he went back in time to the baptismal and he was reincarnated into his 20’s booker body is that when a person travels into the past he becomes his younger self, however when he went to Columbia he was still in the present. just a theory though i personally love the game, but hate that always in time travel/alternate dimension games their are always loopholes/paradoxes.