Bioshock Infinite: Constants and Variables

On the precipice of our review of Bioshock The Collection, which includes all three Bioshock titles, we’re taking a step back and looking at one of the most unique entries in the franchise: Bioshock Infinite. Bioshock Infinite is somewhat removed from the rest of the series. It is only due to the DLC that it ties into the original installments. One of the most fascinating aspects of the game is a simple quote: “Constants and Variables.”

Now, where have we heard these quotes before? None other than the popular series LOST, which deals with time travel. Although it does not deal with alternate realities, constants and variables are an important part of the series and a focal point in the time travel aspect of the show. Constants dictate that you cannot change the past, but as one character figured out, variables could hold the key to changing the course of events.

“You can’t change the past, can’t do it, whatever happened, happened. But then, I finally realised. I had been spending so much time focused on the constants, that I forgot about the variables. And do you know what the variables in these equations are, Jack? Us. We’re the variables. People. We think, we reason, we make choices, we have free will… we can change our destiny.”

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Bioshock Infinite incorporates constants and variables, but in a very different way. There are constants, things that will always happen, such as the coin flip, and variables, which are based on choices the character makes in response to these constants, like Booker. It is not such a different concept than LOST, although much of the talk of constants and variables have to do with quantum theory and complex mathematical equations.

It would be quite interesting to know if the creators of Bioshock Infinite were in fact somehow inspired by LOST. While time travel isn’t necessarily present in Bioshock Infinite, alternate realities are and even a bit of quantum theory. In the end, both games are about choice and the power of human will. The characters in LOST are very much humanists and fought to change their destinies. In Bioshock Infinite, Booker, or at least a version of him, chose to become Comstock and was ruthless. While the stories have a wide array of differences, they do have their similarities and it both ends and begins with constants and variables — constants which cannot be changed, and variables which represent human will.

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