The Music of Tomorrow, Yesterday! Music, Time and Technology in BioShock Infinite
Filmmakers such as Kenneth Anger, David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino have taken full advantage of the disconcerting effect that pop music can have on an audience. Recently, video games have followed their example, with franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, Fallout and BioShock using appropriated music as an almost integral part of their stories and player experiences. BioShock Infinite takes it one step further, weaving popular music of the past and pop music of the present into a compelling tale of time travel, multiverses, and free will. The third installment in the BioShock series has as its setting the floating city of Columbia. Decidedly steampunk, this vision of 1912 makes considerable use of popular music of the past alongside a small number of anachronistic covers of more modern pop music (largely from the 1980s) at crucial moments in the narrative. Music becomes an integral part of Columbia but also an integral part of the player experience. Although the soundscape matches the rest of the environment, the anachronistic covers seem to be directed at the player, the only one who would recognise them as out of place. The player is the time traveller here, even more so than the character they are playing, making BioShock Infinite one of the most literal representations of time travel and the tourist experience which video games can represent.