Spoilers + conjecture = Fun!
Here's the video if you haven't seen it. If seeing exactly what you're going to see when you first see the game is a spoiler, then this spoils it completely in that, here, you can see it just as it will be seen. Do you see?
The quote from the apparently fictional (at least in this universe) book Barriers to Trans-Dimensional Travel (R. Lutece, 1889) reads, "The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist..." Ken Levine is telling us that this self-rationalization induced by changing dimensions will play a large role in Bioshock Infinite's protagonist Booker DeWitt's life. The game starts with Booker in the back of a row boat in a storm. A man and a woman sit in front of him discussing rowing and why they're performing this particular, "thought experiment." Their interaction with Booker is minimal, ignoring most of his questions, as they calmly, politely argue among themselves.
Booker must have just been warped to where he is. He acts like he knows why he's in the boat, but I don't think he really does. It feels like a dream where the situation you're in is absurd, but your mind rationalizes it so that it must make some sort of sense because you're there. In the dream, you don't question it. It's only when you wake up you can see the holes in the story.
The dialog between the other two in the boat is amazing. They have a bit of a Laurel and Hardy routine going as the woman wittily and deliberately misinterprets what the man says. She won't row, because this thought experiment was his stupid idea. You don't embark on an experiment that has already failed, she says. As implied by the Infinite title of the game, these series of events have already happened, at least in some universes. Why do it again if it's already failed? Perhaps the man knows something that will change it. Perhaps he already has.
Like the first Bioshock, the protagonist has a package that starts the unfolding of events to come. The lady, without looking back, hands Booker a small box with a brass plaque reading "Property of: Booker DeWitt, 7th Cavalry, Wounded Knee." Wounded Knee was the last battle of the American Indian war in 1890. In it, the 7th Cavalry Regiment surrounded a band of Lakota Sioux Native Americans and then things went horribly wrong. Many on the U.S. Calvary won Medals of Honor, which would be presented to the recipient in a box just like the one Booker is handed.
Wounded Knee was a debacle. While disarming the surrounded Lakota, there was a weapon discharged, and suddenly the U.S. side is firing on everyone, including their own troops. In the chaos, Lakota started returning fire. Hundreds died needlessly. If Booker was there and won a Medal of Honor 21 years before the start of the game, he must have been a young soldier. Chances are good this awful experience helps inform Booker's hard boiled outlook on life in the present day (whatever present day means for a dimensional traveller). It also sheds light on Booker's muttered comment of, "Good luck with that," after reading the sign saying all sins will be washed away.
In the box is a pistol, one of a type that Booker seems familiar and experienced with, a postcard for Columbia, a pictogram that we discover is the combination for a lock later, directions on the latitude and longitude of where to bring his target Elizabeth in New York City, a picture of her, a large coin, and an ornate key. If you're driving somewhere you get an address. If you're going to fly somewhere, a latitude and longitude can be more useful. Booker's expected to fly Elizabeth to her destination.
As we look at the contents of the box, the couple up front continue to argue. We hear this exchange:
Because he doesn't row.
He doesn't row?
No. He *doesn't* row.
Ah. I see what you mean.
The man is saying that in the story that Booker's about to star in, Booker doesn't row on the way to the island lighthouse. That's not how it happened, so he won't do it this time. I expect the snake-eating-it's-own-tail nature of the story will come back around later. Are Booker and Elizabeth the other two in the row boat putting on accents and making sure they successfully meet, Marty McFly style? Booker doesn't seem like the accent type. Their children, perhaps?
Booker climbs up through the lighthouse and sees signs of things to come. Religious texts on the wall are from Comstock. The bodies may very well be from Comstock as well. I'm sure the maps and other knick-knacks will make sense after more of the story is revealed. The map, with push-pins over the United States and yarn between them is probably tracking the position of Columbia as it floats through the sky.
The opening parallels the first Bioshock in so many ways. From the main character holding a package that starts the unfolding of events, to the lighthouse, to getting into a contraption that will take you where you need to go to fulfill your part in the story. It's that thing I love, but different enough to be new. I'm as excited as a murder of crows. Can't wait.