When it comes to the world of BioShock: Infinite there’s just so much that gamers have either no clue about, or that Irrational Games has merely implied through trailers or behind-the-scenes conversations but never overtly explained. Among those elements that are integral to the story and the gameplay experience is the Songbird, the villainous mechanical bird that seeks to take Elizabeth from Booker DeWitt.
Though Irrational’s Ken Levine has talked a bit about the Songbird in relation to Elizabeth and the world of Columbia, he hasn’t gone into too much detail. Thankfully, in an interview with IGN, the conversation is all Songbird all the time, and while many of the answers Levine gives don’t directly reflect on BioShock: Infinite, he does set the scene nicely.
Among the juiciest of details Levine drops in regards to the Songbird is its relationship with Elizabeth. Having been around her since she was very little, the Songbird and Elizabeth have developed a very unique relationship in that the Songbird was the only thing Elizabeth could connect with, but it was also the key symbol of her oppression. There are still some residual feelings left between the two, but ultimately Elizabeth wants to be free.
“There’s much more the complexity of a parent/child relationship, and not necessarily an ideal parent/child relationship. I don’t think Elizabeth really had a normal, straightforward relationship with Songbird. Essentially he kept her trapped but he was also her only friend and you see these sorts of dichotomies. People who have long imprisonments often form a bond with the person who keeps them there and that bond is very, very hard to break. People need emotional connections and when they don’t have anything else they’ll turn to whatever is there. Elizabeth forms a bond with him which is very complicated and messy, and he in his capacity, his limited capacity, has formed this bond with her.”
Going back to the early stages of development for BioShock: Infinite, Levine says that it was Elizabeth and Songbird’s design that went through the greatest series of changes before becoming the iterations we see today. Some of that change had to do with the protagonist’s evolution into an active participant in the world (complete with dialogue), and some had to account for Irrational Games trying to capture a particular emotion (ambivalence).
There’s still plenty more that Levine wasn’t willing to comment on, most specifically whether or not the Songbird is the central villain of BioShock: Infinite, but that’s to be expected. If someone had spilled the beans on key details about BioShock’s story beats before it released, I think it wouldn’t have made as big of an impact as it did.
How do you see the Songbird in BioShock: Infinite? Do you think he is the villain, or just a misunderstood mechanical bird?
BioShock: Infinite is still targeting a Spring 2012 release for the PS3, PC, and Xbox 360, but that is subject to change.