God only knows.
[Ed note: As you may have seen yesterday, I went live with a piece containing the moments of the generation past featuring contributions from several writers, from the likes of specialist, enthusiast and freelancers plus more. However, one such bit stood out for me – and not just because it massively went over the 50-100 word limit I placed on everyone else who added something to the main piece yesterday – that I wanted to give it its own special post. Here, in this guest post, Paul Presley gives his Moment of the Generation to BioShock Infinite’s ending and how it resonated with him as a father. Oh and it should be obvious at this point given that the ending is being discussed, but just to, you know, put it out there, MASSIVE BLARING SPOILER ALERT. – Johnny]
It’s a hoary old cliché that becoming a parent changes you, but as with all clichés it has a foundation in truth. Bioshock Infinite may not be anywhere close to being the perfect game – it’s combat is as repetitive as it is often illogical, it’s world has none of the finesse and clarity of design that its predecessor Rapture offered, and the high school political ‘message’ might as well have been delivered by characters repeatedly smashing a mallet into the screen while screaming “Power corrupts, yo!” – but the one thing Ken Levine and his writing team nailed absolutely for me, was the heart-wrenching emotional pull that exists between a father and his daughter. I’ve not played The Last of Us as yet (for shame!) but it would have to go some to beat the end sequence here.
What makes these closing scenes all the more powerful is that you remain in (partial) control of Booker throughout. For most games, winning the final boss fight would lead to a pre-rendered FMV sequence, often of varying quality and often fulfilling every criteria of that oft-overused game criticism buzzphrase du jour, ludonarrative dissonance.
This will often serve to distance the player from the action. Not here. Elizabeth talks directly to the player in the role of Booker throughout – the emotional power of the closing scenes made all the more powerful by what are some of the best eyes I’ve yet witnessed on an in-game character – full of emotion and resonance – and some astonishing voice acting by Troy Baker.
As Booker’s initial sin is revealed, the sequence reaches its high point as the baby is passed through the portal, an act unthinkable to any father, and Booker’s raw emotional cry of “Anna! Give me back my daughter!” has lived with me ever since.
Then on to the final baptism and the aforementioned eyes, this time in multiple forms staring almost into your soul as you submerge and allow Booker his final act of paternal redemption – by this point it took every ounce of restraint in me not to wake my eight-year old daughter from her sleep and just hold her till the morning rose. And still Irrational isn’t done. The post-credit final mini scene back in Booker’s office, just about pushed me over the edge and I was such an emotional wreck I couldn’t go near the Xbox 360 for days.
So no, Bioshock Infinite is far from the perfect game. Very far. But it’s probably the most perfect depiction of the desperate lengths a father will go to I’ve ever encountered.