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I don't understand the final "baptism" scene. How can it have any effect on how the story ends?

I understand that Booker dying should prevent Comstock from ever existing. I understand that the Booker we play as is the result of denying the baptism, and Comstock is the result of Booker accepting the baptism.

What I don't understand, is that if PlayerBooker has already previously made the decision to deny the baptism, how did killing him destroy Comstock? He already made the decision!!

No, the answer isn't, "Well, Elizabeth brought Booker back in time to where he was supposed to be baptised." While she may be able to do that, her and PlayerBooker would see PlayerBooker from the past, or PastPlayerBooker. If they wanted to kill PastPlayerBooker, that would make sense to kill him to prevent Comstock from ever existing, but that didn't happen. We saw PlayerBooker being drowned by Elizabeths.

Someone please explain to me how drowning PlayerBooker, again since he already made the decision to deny the baptism, fixed anything.

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1) This is a duplicate. 2) Please use the actual spoiler tags. –  Oblivious Sage Apr 11 '13 at 20:03
    
Not to mention the inconsistencies between Booker and Comstock. Booker saw what happened in Columbia, and that by treating the "Negroes" badly, it will uninevitably lead to Columbia's downfall. Had Comstock walked the same path, he would've abused them only for as long as necessary and thus avoided the catastrophy altogether. Also, during the game it is revealed that Comstock "foresees" the future by looking through the Lutece Fields/Tears, but there is no mention of his own experience in Columbia. I therefore have difficulties believing that Booker's death was necessary as well. –  Nolonar Apr 11 '13 at 20:34
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I didn't even know Infinite had an ending. Thanks for spoiling that for me. –  oscilatingcretin Apr 11 '13 at 20:37
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ouch i think i got spoiled as well -_- –  corroded Apr 14 '13 at 13:53
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9 Answers

Note: This answer contains spoilers.

I'm going to start this answer by saying that, unless we get word from the people who wrote the story for the game, this question will result in inherently speculative answers. Regardless of what makes sense based on our frames of reference regarding time travel and multiple universes, any of us could be correct. The actual correct answer lies within whatever "laws of the universe" the writers of Bioshock Infinite created.

Multiverse theory posits that, for every decision that is made, it results in a new universe. There's the existing universe, and an alternate universe where another option was taken. You can visualize this as a series of paths which continue to fork at each decision point.

enter image description here

When you hop between "alternate realities", you're actually hopping between universes where different decisions were made. If you change something in one of these alternate universes, it doesn't actually change anything in any of its variants. Traveling between multiverses at the same point in time would be like traveling horizontally across the image above: you see what would have happened if a bunch of different decisions had been made, but you don't affect any of the other branches.

An example: If I killed Comstock in one alternate universe that was formed based on a decision after the baptism, he'd be alive in another alternate that was formed based on a decision after the baptism.

Elizabeth's tears were essentially travelling horizontally across different multiverses... at least, the ones they entered. You do see a few tears that seem to cross time as well (like the Paris tear in her room), but these are colored red and they never enter the red tears.

During the ending, Booker and Elizabeth enter the "lighthouse ocean", which essentially takes them in the space outside of any of these branches. They start going through a series of doors. These doors are doing more than the blue tears did (which allowed them to travel between universes at the same point in time)... they're allowing them to go backwards and forwards in time. In other words, they can travel vertically in the image as well as horizontally.

After going through one of these doors, they travel back to the original baptism, thus becoming PastPlayerBooker. Here, PastPlayerBooker either decides to back out of it or to continue getting baptized. Think of this decision as the bottom point in the image.

When he backs out of it, he follows path '0' and becomes PastPlayerBooker0. Every universe where he never got baptized would be the ones ending in '0' in the image (the entire left side). This represents the Booker Universes. The first time you go back to the baptism, this is the path you see play out.

This decision spawned another universe where he didn't back out of it. This is path '1', where he becomes PastPlayerBooker1. Every universe where he gets baptized would be the ones ending in '1' in the image (the entire right side). This represents the Comstock Universes.

Decisions continue to be made in both universes, thus causing more branches. Each branch, however, shares a single parent point in time: the time when Booker decides whether or not to go through the baptism.

Later, when Booker decides to go back and kill Comstock before he's 'born', they travel through another door and go back to the baptism again (the bottom point).

This time, you begin to see him going down path '1' into the Comstock Universes: he accepts the baptism. However, before any further decisions can be made, the Elizabeths drown him. This action snuffs out the entire set of Comstock Universes (the right side of the image) because it changes the result of the decision: Instead of the baptism decision turning him into Comstock (or PastPlayerBooker1), it turns him into a corpse.

Basically, every Booker that decides to get baptized dies because, at the point of the drowning, Booker has committed to path '1'. However, this doesn't affect any of the Bookers that committed to path '0' (no baptism).

In your question, you posit that this explanation can't be the answer because, by traveling back in time, "PlayerBooker" would see "PastPlayerBooker" and have to kill "PastPlayerBooker" rather than "PlayerBooker". Since they kill "PlayerBooker", they didn't kill the one that makes the decision.

Your assertion that this can't be the case seems hinged on the fact that, by traveling through time (rather than across universes at the same time), you'd be a different physical entity than the PastPlayerBooker.

This would be the case if traveling backward along the forks worked like traveling across them. You're right in that there are tons of Bookers running around at that point in time that are temporal decedents of PastPlayerBooker.

However, when you travel back to the baptism, you're traveling back to a point where those temporal decedents are all the same person: PastPlayerBooker. Until the baptism happens, the multiverses with all the other Bookers that result from the decision don't exist. When you travel back, PastPlayerBooker is PlayerBooker and also Booker100 and also Booker10101, etc (this is confirmed when Booker says "I'm both" in the end). He then decides to undergo the baptism (becoming PastPlayerBooker1), then drowns immediately before he can become any other PastPlayerBooker on the right side of the image.

This is also how, after the credits, you see Booker again, and he heads to the crib to see Anna. What you're seeing is one of the Bookers who spawned from PastPlayerBooker0 (the one who decided not to get baptized) and later decided to do something which resulted in Anna being born.

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Great answer, the visual aid helps too. But now I've read "Booker" so many times it's lost all meaning. Booker. Booker. Boo! ker. Words are weird. –  Alex Apr 12 '13 at 8:46
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@Alex "Words are weird." See: Semantic satiation –  galacticninja Apr 13 '13 at 9:05
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Elizabeth is capable of taking the "player" Booker back in time, (time travel is something she does from time to time - see also the Comstock House scenes).

The does this earlier in the ending (showing him at the baptism the first time - when he denies it and confirms he is Booker DeWitt). She appears to be able to accompany him back in time, and set the stage as it was when the events first occurred. For example, during the first endgame baptism scene, there is only one Booker present, and he (at times) acts as if this is the first time the event has occurred.

During this final scene, she takes him back to the same place again, and in the background you can hear the preacher giving the same speech he does the first time (and, in fact, it's the same preacher as the beginning of the game when you first arrive in Colombia).

As far as it making sense and not having any paradoxical implications, there's not really a way that that happens without some suspension of disbelief, sadly. Time travel and alternate universes tend to cause issues for continuity if you think about them too long.

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On an alternate note, is it possible time travel disintegrates a person, and a different version is assembled at the other end? Sort of like teleportation? –  ヴァイシャリ Feb 17 at 16:34
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At the end of BS:I there are at least 3 parallel Bookers

  1. Booker who accepted the baptism, blacked out his past, ended up as racist nutjob Comstock.

  2. Booker who refused the baptism, descended into debt and ended up selling his daughter. When Booker arrives in Columbia Elizabeth has already been moved to Comstock house, so he turns the tide for the Vox instead and dies in the attempt.

  3. Player Booker who arrives in Columbia in time to save Elizabeth.

However there have been many more parallel Bookers, as many as 127 (given the number of times Booker has tossed a heads at the coin flip after the very first vigor).

At the end Elizabeth realised that there is no combination of Comstocks and Bookers that doesn't end in pain and death, either for Columbia (Vox revolution future) or the rest of the world (80s New York future with old Elizabeth).

It's Elizabeth/s who go back in time and drown Booker before she was born, meaning that none of the Bookers/Comstocks ever come to be, including the player.

However, it's already been established that there is some bleed-through of reality - enemies killed in a parallel universe are traumatised and Booker 3 gets a nose bleed when Booker 2 dies and when he kills Booker 1/Comstock himself.

As Elizabeth goes back she takes Booker back through his memories and he gets closer to, er, the root Booker. When you (as the player) see Comstock steal Elizabeth you're playing as both Booker 2 & 3. When you go all the way back to before the baptism then you're playing as Booker 1/Comstock too.

In order for the pain and death of Columbia to never have happened every possible Booker has to be drowned. So every Booker experiences it.

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Just to add to Shaun's excellent answer, one thing missing from that explanation is how & why Comstock-Booker would get the daughter of Player-Booker.

As is made pretty plain throughout the game, Comstock-Booker could not have a child with Lady Comstock. But his prophecy required an heir to the throne. Meanwhile he had the two quantum physicists working for him who were able to manipulate tears thanks to their quantum-devices. So Comstock-Booker used the physics's devices to go into another universe, one where he did not take the baptism (thus becoming Player-Booker), but did have a daughter. As Elizabeth tells you, Player-Booker then spends 20 years regretting it.

So the last question then is: How does Player-Booker get into Comstock-Booker's universe? If you listen to the two physicists throughout the game (both in person and on the voxphone tapes) you'll hear that Comstock-Booker eventually kills one of them. (The man I believe?) So the other one uses their quantum-tear device to bring the dead physicist back, and to bring Player-Booker into their universe presumably to kill Comstock-Booker as payback for killing one of them.

One last thing that seemed like a lose end to me but isn't, is early on when you are fighting against one of your war buddies. Remember you are in the Comstock-Booker universe, but he knows you, Player-Booker. He keeps mentioning that Comstock was never at any of these battles, but you (Booker) were. I believe this is because:

  1. Comstock-Booker obviously changed his name after the baptism, from Booker (which was his name when he was at these battles) to Comstock.

  2. After changing his name, he kept telling the stories of the battles he had been in. That's why people who had been at those battles with him when he was called Booker, don't remember anyone named Comstock being there.

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Multiverse theory get's complicated, especially if you add time travel to it (as the previous posts suggest).

Some theories claim that you can't actually exist twice in one place in time. So if Elizabeth actually took 'PlayerBooker' back in time to "smother Commstock in his crib" PlayerBooker would replace the Booker that existed in that time.

Drowning him from that point would stop him living from then on, it would make sense If this theory applies.

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Keeping in mind, the game is based around both alternate realities AND time travel.

The reason that drowning Booker then is relevant is because of the timings.

The first time we see Booker refusing the baptism, and where Comstock-Booker accepted it, there are numerous other people there. At the time where he is drowned, none of the others are there, other than the priest.

This would indicate that it is BEFORE the time when the baptism took place, so at this point in time, neither Booker has not made a choice and Comstock does not currently exist.

So, by killing him before this point, he isn't alive to complete the string of events that lead to Comstock taking the girl and causing all of the events. Then you enter the realm of paradox, but that's another question.

Edit: Thinking on this actually got me thinking of a H.P. Lovecraft story called Celephais, due to Anna's ability to warp time and the game ultimately ending in the PC's death.

It could be entirely possible that none of this occurred at all, that it was the last rambling visions playing through the mind of a Father, having regretted the decision to sell his child, drinking himself to death...

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In endgame when you are in the ocean of lighthouses, you end up seeing 2 Bookers and 2 Elizabeths. all together there are 3 Bookers, including yourself.

  1. Booker#1 accepts the baptism and becomes Commstock.

  2. Booker#2 refused the baptism, fell into his dept and ends up selling his daughter Ana (Elizabeth). When he first arrives in Columbia Elizabeth is already at the Commstock house, so he joins the Vox and ends up dying.

  3. Booker#3 Is the Booker you play as who has arrived in Columbia in time to save Elizabeth.

If you've played the game to the ending and were paying attention you would have noticed that when you and Elizabeth entered the world where Booker Dewitt is the hero of the Vox that your nose is bleeding. earlier in the game you found out when you entered a tear into the past that the people who were killed would have a bloody nose. later in that tear Daisy Fitzroy says that she saw her Booker Dewitt die and that you were either an imposter or a ghost. Later in the game when you are on the Hand of the Prophet and you drown Commstock in a birdbath Elizabeth tells you that you have a bloody nose.

In the end when your at the place where you earlier refused the baptism and moved on, you have a conversation with Elizabeth (I'm not going into detail on what they are talking about). After the conversation More Elizabeths start to apear. They then grab your hands and drown you.

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Needless to say — SPOILERS!

"One man goes into the waters of baptism. A different man comes out, born again. But who is that man who lies submerged? Perhaps that swimmer is both sinner and saint, until he is revealed unto the eyes of man."

– Zachary Hale Comstock, "Everyman, All at Once"

Why does Booker have to die?

"Booker, are you sure you want to go through with this?"
– Elizabeth

The idea behind the multiverse is the idea that for every decision that is made, an infinite number of universes will come into existence that explores every possible outcome of that decision. In this game, that crucial decision is the point where Booker decides to meet Father Witting to be baptized of his sins in the war. Here, Booker decides to either refuse the baptism, upon which he remains Booker DeWitt, or accepts it, upon which he becomes Zachary Hale Comstock. Now, while it is clear that there are two distinct characters that emerge from this event, what about the Booker right before the choice is made? This Booker can be considered to be simultaneously Booker and Comstock until his decision is made. This idea stems from the principle of the Shrodinger's Cat thought experiment.

Booker, right at this moment, is about to make the decision on whether to continue on with the baptism or not. The decision is right before him, and there are two possible outcomes: one in which he refuses the baptism and remains Booker DeWitt, and the other in which he accepts the baptism and becomes Zachary Hale Comstock.

KILLING THE BOOKER WHO ACCEPTS THE BAPTISM WILL NOT END THE PROBLEM. As soon as a decision is made, an infinite number of possibility spaces come into exist. The only way to truly stop this space from forming is to kill Booker while the possibility of Comstock exists, but he has not made a decision yet. This is the state in which Booker is simultaneously Booker and Comstock, and this is where the multiverse Elizabeths drown him. This can only be possible when Booker realizes the existence of this loop and accepts his death.

But the Booker we played was the one that was drowned...right?

"The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist..."
– R. Lutece

So, throughout the game, we see instances of Booker's memories getting rewritten, as well as some other people. Whenever this happens, it is indicated by dizziness and bleeding from the nose. It's hard to draw a conclusion when only Booker, Chen Lin, and the guards having been affected, but I'll do my best.

Whenever Elizabeth opens a tear, she is moving to a universe that contains the conditions that she wants or needs at the moment. However, her ability also has a small area of effect, bringing with her people around her in a small radius. We can see this shown when Fink's Head of Security is unaffected, despite being dead in the first timeline. Whenever a tear is opened and the people step through, the mind will attempt to settle paradoxes by rewriting memories.

The first paradox we see is the state of being alive or dead, which affects Chen Lin, Booker, Lady Comstock, and two guards. What happens here is that the memories of the dead and the living are in conflict with each other, so the mind will attempt to combine memories of death with life. The effects of this seem to vary in intensity and results. A common ailment is that people will end up feeling traumatized and deeply disoriented, often seen struggling with their deaths. A possibly more intense reaction is the formation of new abilities, although Lady Comstock's situation is a bit special as 1) Elizabeth's powers were forced by the Siphon and 2) the Lady Comstock brought over is the one that encompasses the traits that Elizabeth imagined her to have.

Booker's situation is a special case as he is actually stepping into another universe. Thus the memories that merge will collect in his mind, which is seen in the case where Booker has memories of leading the Vox revolution. What is interesting is how Booker is unaffected when he's jumping from the first to second timeline in The Good Time Club. My guess is that because Booker is stepping into a timeline where there isn't a Booker. However, because the circumstances would've been the same, the mind does not have to rewrite his memories. This idea is tenuous at best, and could simply be the result of an oversight by the developers unless someone can explain this better.

The second paradox is the state of existing or not existing in the timeline, which is what affects Booker and Robert Lutece. Because Booker steps into a timeline where he doesn't exist, Booker's mind is trying its best to rectify that, muddling his memories to fit within this new universe. Robert Lutece also experiences this as well when he crosses over to meet his sister. This is a type of paradox where the memories of the same people will not merge.

Why is it the second paradox people will merge, but not the first type? Well, I can theorize that it has to do with whether or not the memories merging belongs to the same people. The Chen Lin in the first and second universes have the same identity and are practically similar, so their memories will merge. However, Booker, Comstock, Rosalind, and Robert are largely unaffected by the paradox of being in two places at once, with some minor hemorrhaging on the side of Booker and Robert. This may be due to the fact that there is enough of a difference between them that the universe allows them to exist simultaneously. In the case of the Lutece twins, what separates them is their gender, where combining them would probably induce another paradox of being both male and female. For Booker and Comstock, it is mentioned that Comstock's own identity has been eroded due to repeated exposure to the tears, thus making his identity different to that of Booker's.

So, what about Elizabeth? Why is not affected in any way? Again, we have a special case where Elizabeth's power over the tears allow her to retain her identity and memory. We cannot say for sure, as the origin of Elizabeth's powers is simply explained with a hand wave of being in two places at once, and the game doesn't delve deeply into this.

So, what does all of this have to do with the ending? Well, at this point, Elizabeth has the ability to open any tear she wants and can access the infinite doors that lead to different timelines. So, when Booker steps through, he is essentially going back and time, his own self is reverted to that time period's Booker. This can be seen when you accept Preacher Witting's hand for baptism, Booker's own hand is young and has no AD or bandage wrapping around it. This signifies that Booker has merged with his younger self, starting again at the baptism scene. This points to the fact that the Booker that we play through and the Booker that is drowned by the Elizabeths are one and the same person.

Source: Reddit /r/BioShock post by Reddit user awchern

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The devs knew it was a time paradox and that's why it's called infinite. As soon as you end the game and have "killed" Comstock it creates another parallel universe. You start again in the boat, saving the girl.

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Travelling on a circle is only one type of infinite. Do you have a source for the claim that the game developers called it Bioshock Infinite because you could replay it infinite times? –  Joshua Shane Liberman Jun 22 '13 at 18:52
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protected by agent86 Apr 15 '13 at 16:00

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