That’s What She Said: Goodbye Booker DeWitt
Foreword: Everyone please welcome Deshni to the column-writing fold. You all likely know her from her previous contributions and now she has moved into a regular column slot, offering up columns alternating with me every Monday. Wish her luck. (She’ll need it.) — Cavie.
“When I was a girl, I dreamt of standing in a room, looking at a girl who was and was not myself, who stood looking at another girl who was and was not myself.”
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My deep affection for the BioShock series is something that developed very recently. I remember when BioShock was released and I remember trying to play it once on a friend’s PC. The trauma of having to deal with a PC (don’t understand how you people do this, it’s just quite unnatural), a FPS (at that stage I was very much a 3PS and action/adventure fan) and (this was the most important consideration) Jack Wynand having such incredibly ugly hands due to the plasmids resulted in a very short-lived campaign. And that’s not even considering the splicers and little sisters which are still giving me nightmares. So I resigned that series to one that I would just never get into, like Call of Duty, and I think my life is much better off for it.
BioShock 2 came and went, basically not even featuring on my radar and then BioShock Infinite was released to many calls of “best game ever” and “game of the year” and “blew my mind”. Whatever common people, you had clearly not played the Last of the Us and if you had, you would not be making irresponsible statements like that about another game.
But then a very good friend of mine, whose opinions on taste and intellectual things I respect, told me that I absolutely must play BioShock Infinite and that I would love it. And so I did, but only in January this year. I admit that it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I would never want Booker’s hands anywhere near me but what ensued was this pervasive and reluctant character (exactly my type of guy) whom I fell in love with and a relationship with Elizabeth which I found endearing and sincere. To cut to the end, as expected I was in tears. It was a beautiful ending, profound and sad and almost inevitable. And it was an ending and a game I thought about a lot. Not because I was trying to wrap my mind around multi-verses and lighthouses but around the emotion; the futility, the finality, I might have been channelling some David Cage at that stage.
I’m someone who is delighted to find things that make me happy that I never envisaged would, and I was so happy to have made a mistake about the BioShock series. And I loved BioShock Infinite, absolutely and entirely. So the next logical thing for me to do was not play the Burial at Sea Ep. 1 DLC but to instead play BioShock. Playing a series in reverse and then the right way around again seems to be a habit of mine and there was so much I read written about BioShock Infinite that had to do with BioShock that I felt there would be a gaping hole in my brain if I didn’t play it. And so I set out to do that.
Columbia is very different from Rapture. I learnt this in about three seconds. No wide open spaces, beautiful blue skies and puffy clouds, everything was dark and under water and there were flickering lights everywhere. Add the splicers to that and I am pretty sure I could motivate for this to be classified as a horror title. The female splicers, and the ones that wear animal masks I actually cannot deal with. And then they ramble on frantically and there are abandoned prams everywhere. This is basically what my nightmares are made of. So I stopped playing. It was a rational decision.
And then this past week happened. I think lots of people cried inside, and lots of people cried for real. In Irrational Games’ honour, I played BioShock and Burial At Sea Ep.1 for most of my weekend. The point, and we learnt this with Mass Effect, is that as gamers, we are not entitled to certain expectations. Sure we have them, and sometimes it’s reasonable for us to have them, but ultimately a studio has the say with what they want to do with a title. Creatively, or more harrowing, whether or not it continues and how it does. Personally, as sad as I am about BioShock in the way that I have come to love it not really existing beyond Burial At Sea Ep. 2, I can respect the decision of someone who could very easily have created a yearly franchise from this (think of series like Assassins Creed and God of War which should have ended a long time ago) and made buckets of money deciding that a project, an idea, a vision as it was imagined had achieved what it was intended to and that the time had come to move on. I do respect that, and that there is a finite body of work on which BioShock can be appreciated.
It makes everything in BioShock Infinite all the more profound. The futility of choices, paths which are already laid. What lives, had lived and will live. And so, goodbye Booker DeWitt. You will be missed.
“There’s always a lighthouse, there’s always a man, there’s always a city.”