#1 Edited by JazGalaxy (1638 posts) -

The game is getting a lot of praise for how well written Elizabeth is. My questions is, is she really?

I'm trying to come to grips with this in my head because, I have to start my line of thinking out with the statement that:

I understand it's not important for a character to be written realistically to be written well.

But doesn't it play a part? Elizabeth is the least realistically written character I think I've ever seen in a game. She has lived her entire life in a tower, by herself, reading books, and yet is the most well character in the entire game. She reads social cues well, she understands sarcasm and inflections of tone, she relates well to people her own age as well as people older than her, and she relates perfectly well to people of the opposite gender. She expresses immediate revulsion at Booker's violence, but then becomes more and more okay with it relatively quickly as the game goes on. Her voice and mannerisms are completely anachronistic for the time period. When faced with the revelations of the game, she doesn't react like an 18 year old girl, she reacts like a character who is moving the plot along for Booker to react in the way appropriate for someone going through those revelations.

So why is she such a good character? Because she sings like a disney princess and dances like River Tam from firefly?

I feel like she is a good character, but I'm at a loss as to why. I think I have the same problem coming to terms with why I like Booker as a character even though his behavior is completely irredeemable. If you wind up liking the psychopath, is that good or bad writing?

#2 Edited by TwoArmed (129 posts) -

I think most of the praise is really stemming from how well animated she is, particularly her facial animations, and her voice acting is good, which helps sell her dialogue and people are ignoring the things you pointed out. It makes sense that they totally ignored the fact she would have to "adapt" to anything because then there would be no game.

#3 Edited by believer258 (12695 posts) -

So why is she such a good character? Because she sings like a disney princess and dances like River Tam from firefly?


I hardly think that the similarities to a Disney princess are accidental and I did notice how immediate someone who was stuck in a tower for her entire life got used to the idea of another person, but I hardly think it matters to the game. In fact, I think that acknowledging this issue by making her awkward like you might expect her to be would have made the game's dialogue and writing far less captivating and far more grating. No one would have been able to take the character seriously because, while potentially still book-smart, she would fumble around social situations for the entire game.

Besides, the beach scene would have been nowhere near as charming and the guitar scene nowhere near as touching if her character was socially stunted.

If you wind up liking the psychopath, is that good or bad writing

This guy is pretty entertaining.

#4 Posted by BeachThunder (13083 posts) -

Booker, Catch!

I think her biggest accomplishment was her wide array of ambient animations. I loved seeing her rub her hands near a fire, walk over to a poster to read it, or find a bench to sit on. Having said that though, her animations did remind me of Sam and Max Hit the Road where Max would hyper-actively do silly things in the background, like constantly wave his arms in front of an automatic door or pull goofy faces.

#5 Posted by Barrock (3758 posts) -

Doesn't it say something about a world when the most well adjusted individual in it is one that was locked in a tower all her life?

#6 Posted by Fredchuckdave (6944 posts) -

She's not well written in the sense that you could believe that she'd randomly become a murderous monster if tortured for long enough. That's a pretty big issue with most of the characters in Bioshock though; Daisy is evil for no reason, Comstock is evil for no reason, Elizabeth is evil for no reason (well not to the extent that they're evil, everyone turns into Hitler more or less, pretty ridiculous). The only one that's kind of believable is Andrew Ryan. Now there is a way to suggest that if given enough universes everyone could eventually be evil, but the game implies a 50/50 split with only 2 major eventualities (ludicrous); ultimately you'd wind up with an infinite number of different possibilities and occurrences which is why time travel/dimensional travel straight up doesn't work in fiction unless you set rigorous limits like Inception did (and only skirted on the periphery of time manipulation). Vinny's point that you can sell him anything once you say there's infinite universes is spot on; nothing really has any weight once you remove the boundaries; unless you make an extensive or well developed philosophical point in the process; but the deterministic theme in Bioshock is weakly developed and is kind of overshadowed by "everyone is evil" melodrama.

#7 Edited by JasonR86 (10003 posts) -

She's fine. She takes a backseat to the world and Booker for me. I think it's impressive how big of a focus she is in the game and I didn't get tired of her by the end. She wasn't a brand new 'Navi' surrogate.

#8 Edited by rebgav (1442 posts) -

Elizabeth is enjoyable to watch, charismatic, she has good dialog, is well animated, well voiced, has a strong character arc over the course of the story and remains interesting and pleasant to experience over a full playthrough or multiple playsthrough of the game - all of which is more than can be said of most other videogame characters or protagonists in genre fiction regardless of medium. So I'd say yes, she's well written.

There are plenty of niggling imperfections in how the character has been realized, from typical videogamey problems when navigating and interacting with the world to lesser concerns like her VO's accent drifting in occasionally but these are minor issues compared to the state of your typical videogame protagonist, nevermind lowly npcs. There are many characters that I might like more than Elizabeth but in terms of how well-realized they are or the quality of their dialog and presentation, the comparison isn't even worth making.

#9 Posted by syzygyeolith (109 posts) -

I have to say, the OP of this thread brings up some of the biggest issues I had with her. It could be the way it felt like the game clearly tried to manipulate the player into liking her, which made me more skeptical of her as a believable companion. Maybe it was the lack of being able to carry health packs or 'eve hypos', often making me impatiently wait for her to 'find' which ever I was low on at the time. Perhaps it was the uncanny-valley way the mo-cap actor trotted her around, exaggerating the 'disney princess' feel to her in a world that was anything but whimsical. I think just as like several people in the thread have mentioned already, a character who has spent her whole life in a tower alone isn't exactly relatable.

I didn't dislike her, but when people gush on about how she is the pinnacle of AI companions, it makes me wonder if 'not getting shot in combat' is really all it takes.

#10 Posted by oraknabo (1567 posts) -

Ken Levine always talks about growing up practically in isolation and he understands social cues, sarcasm and inflections of tone well enough to write a character like Elizabeth.

#11 Posted by ShaggE (7094 posts) -

Well written? ...Well, I'll concede that she's nothing amazing in that regard, especially if you weigh her against examples outside of games. "Cleverly written" might be more accurate.

Well animated and acted? Very much so, and I believe that both of those things pick up any slack in the writing.

#13 Posted by Winternet (8234 posts) -

I didn't dislike her, but when people gush on about how she is the pinnacle of AI companions, it makes me wonder if 'not getting shot in combat' is really all it takes.

She is no Alyx Vance.

#14 Posted by 9cupsoftea (676 posts) -

The best thing you can say about her as a character is she has nice idle animations.

#15 Posted by Winternet (8234 posts) -

Let's just say that she is well designed, well animated, well characterized, well developed, well voice acted. And all of that is better than many, if not all, other characters out there.

#16 Edited by OurSin_360 (994 posts) -

She's well written in the fact that, when she gets in trouble the few times in the game, you really want to save her. If she was written as a shut in and socially awkward, she may not have been as likeable and probably would have gotten pretty annoying. Sure it's realistic, but is it beneficial to the game play and game experience? Also I think she stated that when she was younger she would open tears to anywhere she wanted but always came back because she felt at "home". So it's implied that she could leave anytime she wanted, and often did growing up.

#17 Posted by laserbolts (5444 posts) -

As far as videogames are concerned she is a well written character and one of the better ones in history. Personally Mordin from Mass Effect is probably my favorite character ever in a video game. I could listen to that dude for hours.

#18 Posted by GERALTITUDE (4220 posts) -

You're not wrong, but you're missing the point. She's a good character because characters in games are made up of much, much more than "writing," or words:

Let's just say that she is well designed, well animated, well characterized, well developed, well voice acted. And all of that is better than many, if not all, other characters out there.

#19 Edited by JadeGL (1011 posts) -

I though that she hadn't been in the tower all of her life. She did live with her father and Lady Comstock at their house for some unspecified amount of time, at least that was the impression I got. I mean, she always said that she had control over the tears and could even create new ones, but lost that ability when she went to stay in the tower where the siphon was built. I would assume that she would have gotten some contact with people before her powers began to manifest and then when she showed the abilities and that they were growing stronger they realized she needed to be kept apart from others, even her father.

I mean she talked about how Lady Comstock treated her. She would have had to have had some contact with her to know that she was so hated even if she was very young at the time.

She also had access to other people or viewing other people through tears. Not only that, but she had access to virtually any book as well which Songbird provided to her in the tower.

It's not perfect characterization obviously, and she goes from a very strange situation with an extended period of no human contact to being in contact with other people over the course of a few hours, but I didn't have an issue with it. In the end, it's a game and they made me believe in the characters and setting more than many other games, so I give it a huge thumbs up for that. I think the best achievement was the animation and the fact that they really tried to make her do things that real people would do if they were waiting around, looking at items, sitting on a bench, playing with something in the environment. I was more taken out of the game by her interrupting me at weird times to throw me money, not at the way she acted in the character moments.

#20 Edited by Klei (1799 posts) -

I don't think Elizabeth is a great character. She's fine, at best, but that's about it. I played the game three times now, and I never felt like I needed to protect her. She's super generic and it's hard to believe how someone cut from the world since birth is so charismatic and enthusiastic. She should have been more like Leeloo from 5th element.

Also, i'm not too fond of her dramatic Disney-ish animations. It doesn't ring with me. I really liked how she waited around, snooped around and sat down at times though.