Bioshock Infinite: Exploring Columbia - The City in the Sky

Greg Burn


Bioshock Infinite: Exploring Columbia - The City in the Sky

Bioshock Infinite serves as a definitive proof of the capacity of video games to function as an artistic medium and a platform for story-based narration. The game is globally renowned as a masterpiece for its ability to weave intricate storylines within a breathtaking, highly detailed world. Players find themselves engrossed not just by its top-tier gameplay but also by the immersive environment and captivating aesthetics it provides.

One of the most monumental aspects of Bioshock Infinite that sets it apart from other games is its unique setting – the floating city of Columbia. Built with careful attention to detail, the city comes alive to become almost a character in itself. Columbia's rich design and complex back story play major roles in the game's narrative, contributing largely to the game's enduring success and popularity among players worldwide.

This article aims to dive deeper into the aspects that make Columbia this unforgettable setting. It provides an in-depth exploration of Columbia's conception, shedding light on how and why this floating city was crafted the way it was. This exploration extends to the architecture of Columbia, highlighting the significance of its design and building in shaping the story of Bioshock Infinite.


Furthermore, a comprehensive look is offered into the story elements that are intertwined with Columbia, facilitating a better understanding of the city's role within the Bioshock Infinite narrative. A spotlight is also shone on the key characters who dwell in Columbia, with a keen focus on how their narratives contribute to the larger tale. Through delving deeper into these key elements, this article seeks to immerse readers into the compelling universe of Bioshock Infinite.

1. The Conception of Columbia

One of the unique elements that set Bioshock Infinite apart is its intriguing setting - the floating city of Columbia. Columbia's ethereal location, high amidst the clouds, distances it from the conventional idea of earthly habitations. The city is disconnected from the surface world, hovering above the nations and the mundane issues that plague them. This positioning aptly complements the narrative's trajectory and serves as a symbol of the tumultuous narrative concealed within its boundaries. Columbia is not just a location; it becomes the pivotal character around which the drama of Bioshock Infinite unfolds.

The inception of Columbia in the game's lore is linked with the real-world historical event - the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. The creators of Bioshock Infinite skillfully interweave factual events and alternative history to create an engaging backdrop for the game. Much like the real exposition represented the celebration of progress and innovation, Columbia was conceived as the epitome of scientific advancement and American exceptionalism in the game's world.


However, beneath its veneer of prosperity and progress, Columbia symbolizes a utopia gone awry. Its gleaming beauty belies the unsettling truth of a society imbued with a flawed dogma, teetering on the brink of chaos. This dystopian facet of Columbia serves as a critique of an extremist dream, a utopian ideal that has strayed far from its chosen path.

At the center of these upheavals is the enigmatic figure of Comstock. The manner in which he led precipitated not just Columbia's withdrawal from the United States but also triggered a series of tumultuous events that would thrust the city into a whirlwind of chaos. The seemingly peaceful sky-city witnesses a violent incident under Comstock's reign, further resulting in its disunion from its initial roots, both metaphorically and physically.

2. Architecture and Design

Columbia's architectural design is heavily inspired by various influential styles such as Neoclassical, Gothic, and Art Nouveau. The city comprises different districts, each with its charm, aesthetic, and functionality. For example, Battleship Bay resembles a turn-of-the-century beachside amusement park, retaining an aura of an innocent pastime amidst the ongoing turmoil. On the contrary, the Factory represents the severe industrial labor conditions, reflecting the socioeconomic divide.

3. Vivid Environment


In Bioshock Infinite, Columbia is more than a backdrop; it's a living, breathing entity. As players traverse through the city's various districts, they experience different environments that reflect the city's intricate social fabric. One moment, you're walking through a vibrant fair buzzing with life and excitement; the next, you're in the midst of an intense battle amid Columbia's militarized zones. These environments run the gamut from idyllic to chaotic, giving players a thorough sense of scope and variety.

4. Columbia's Story Elements

One of Columbia's greatest strengths lies in its use as a narrative tool in Bioshock Infinite's storyline. The floating city is bursting with details that unravel the plot, from its embedded ideological propaganda to the conflict between the Founders and Vox Populi. These elements, delivered through audio logs, visuals, and interactions, serve to enhance the game's storytelling, making Columbia an integral part of the overall narrative.

5. Key Characters and Their Association with Columbia


Bioshock Infinite is also celebrated for its strong character development. The primary characters, like Booker DeWitt, Elizabeth, and Comstock, are all deeply interconnected with the city. Comstock, for instance, is Columbia's self-proclaimed prophet and its supreme ruler. Elizabeth's existence drives the city's future. Booker, as he explores Columbia, exposes the city's hidden facets while dealing with his personal connection to it. Each character serves to propel players deeper into the world of Columbia.

6. Impact of Columbia on Popular Culture

Since its release, Bioshock Infinite has left an indelible mark on popular culture, much of which can be credited to the floating city of Columbia. Its visually captivating design, rich atmosphere, and enthralling narrative elements have been referenced and appreciated in various forms of media. Even gaming enthusiasts and critics alike often reminisce about their experiences in the city, attesting to Columbia's lasting impact.

In conclusion, Columbia is more than just a game setting; it's a character in its own right. Its comprehensive design acts as a cornerstone for Bioshock Infinite's immersive gameplay and compelling storytelling. Experiencing Columbia is akin to a journey through the best and worst aspects of humanity, presented through the lens of a floating city in the sky.