Mass Effect complaints promote artistic growth
Online discussion about Mass Effect's ending seems fixated on the lack of "player choice."But there's much more reason to complain. Angry gamers are upset that Bioware created an ending that throws out logic, narrative themes, and established lore. By complaining, upset consumers who care about the artistic integrity of the medium are holding the industry to a higher standard of storytelling.
In his most recent installment of The GameOverthinker, Bob “Moviebob” Chipman argues that, by complaining about the ending of Mass Effect 3, disappointed fans have trampled on the artistic integrity of video games. He actually states on Twitter that it has set the medium back by a “DECADE.”
I disagree. In fact, I feel the complete opposite is true: By complaining, fans are forwarding the movement of games as legitimate pieces of artistic narration and I congratulate the angry consumers for holding their ground. And let me make that point clear: We are not “fans” of the video game industry. We are CONSUMERS. Our voices and our money matter.
The Rest of the Story
In Bob’s movie and in countless forum threads/blogs, it seems like those who face palm in response to the ending controversy simplify the argument as “fans are upset because their choices didn’t matter and they feel entitled to something different.” And, though the lack of player choice in the ending is indeed a valid and significant complaint, it is far from being the most important. The debate has centered on this one point because it’s the most “spoiler-free” and easiest to understand to outsiders who haven’t played the game.
Without spoiling anything, the ending of Mass Effect 3 breaks the established lore of the game’s universe, contradicts thematic elements that have been omnipresent throughout all three games, and throws logic out the window. In other words, it isn’t just unsatisfying or “not what we expected,” it’s sloppy and, quite frankly, disgraceful to the brilliantly-crafted world and expertly-handled stories that came before it.
Let me hammer this home, because, honestly, it’s hard to understand if you haven’t played the games or done the research yourself: these are not nit-picky errors. THESE ARE LARGE, GAPING PLOT HOLES THAT FUNDAMENTALLY UNDERMINE THE GAME'S PRIMARY THEMES AND NARRATIVE. To top off the ending’s complete disregard for everything that came before, you’re immediately treated to an advertisement for DLC content post-credits. THOSE are the main reasons the endings deserve this much ire.
Maintaining a Higher Standard
Bob states, “How the hell can we insist that the broader culture take games seriously when we refuse to take them seriously.” But that is exactly what this movement is doing. It is holding Bioware and EA accountable for their story, calling them out for neglecting to stay factually and thematically consistent with the narrative they’ve established. It’s not setting us back ten years. Quite the contrary, it’s calling for a higher standard. It's asking a company that has proven itself capable of elevating the medium over three games and 100+ hours of gameplay to finish strong in its final and most crucial 20 minutes.
These aren’t “entitled fans” destroying the artistic credibility of the medium. These are people invested in the narrative expecting the authors to adhere to the rules of their own creation. Gamers who didn’t take this medium seriously wouldn’t bother trying to “Retake Mass Effect.” When Ghostbusters on the NES ended with a “Conglaturations” for having “prooved the justice of our culture,” there was no backlash. Our medium has evolved since the days of “A Winner is You,” and Bioware’s space opera served as the shining example of that evolution.
Bittersweet player-choice endings or deterministic palette-swap disappointments aside, we just want the authors to take their work as seriously as we do. In the case of the Mass Effect ending, it seems like they didn’t. And that’s what the rage is about. NOT complaining about it would set us back ten years.
Yours In Theory,
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Here's the problem: At this point, too much has been said and done for them to simply change the ending and move on. No matter what kind of fanfare they give this, BioWare is setting a very disturbing precedent.
And you can bluster about "higher standards" if you want, but here's an unfortunate real-world fact: People like BioWare games because they have good writers. And If big-name game designers/publishers start looking to buy into the notion that consumers have a moral right to change an ending just by whining loudly enough, no writer worth a damn will ever want to work in video games again.
Which means Mass Effect will not happen again.
Publishers are already terrified to take risks, and if the Retakers "win," that will make things a gazillion times worse. It doesn't matter if the new ending is "good" or not, because this isn't about Mass Effect. It's about the NEXT game series, the next one that might have the guts to do something different, to engage the player with an interesting narrative. That won't happen if writers know that their work will get tossed out whenever the fans start bitching.
Thank you for this excellent article.
Hey, thats cool man. As I discussed with CapGARI, people like you are part of the solution. If the geniuses at retake ME3 complain about a new ending then shell out the cash when they get it, then they've won nothing at all. In fact, anyone who purchases a post release DLC ending is part of the problem, thats why I disagree with this article. You have to put your money where your mouth is and follow through. Its not about just voicing discontent and demanding more integrity in the story, but its about showing that, just like books, movies and music, we wont pay full price for an incomplete product just so they can release the real ending for an extra 10 bucks and literally make millions on that.
I applaud this article. You have balls of steel sir. It's about time someone with a voice on Screw Attack counter argued Bob.
Azrael I did look at the Indoctrination Theory watched the videos, read as much of it as I could. but it Just seems like the people whining for a new ending trying to give Bioware a means of a cop out, or give themselves hope. Thats my Opinion and I dont buy it regardless. To me This is exactly what fan fiction is for and honestly I like one of the theories I heard of from friend but I wont get into this.
But I wont be purchasing the DLC. Because I see no problem with what Bioware did. I enjoyed the endings, and I have talked to people have had small differnces then I did. Which to me s.hows that choices did effect the outcome. ^^ anyway I have given more then my two cents
I'm not saying that Bob is totally right here, I'm just saying that his views reflect those of an outsider looking in on this issue. Are there some people out there who's arguments make them sound entitled? Yeah, but there are also PLENTY out there who raise very legitimate concerns. Frankly I applaud the efforts of the fan base of Mass Effect to demand that Bioware adhere to its own standard of quality. What is happening with this game has, to my knowledge, never been done before and is due to the devotion of the fans to the characters they know and love. Hell, I was tearing up when *Spoiler Alert* Mordin, Thane, and Legion died. And when I got to the end and went through the endings I didn't feel satisfied at all (the plotholes pissed me off too). I knew of the Indoctrination Theory already and went with Destroy but even if I didn't the only other option I might have gone with would have been Synthesize for whatever that's worth.
Just do what I do and don't watch him. The first episode I watched of his was the one on Resident Evil 5 and how it was racists, I kinda knew from that point on this guy was talking out of his ass, and it would get progressively worse from there, up until now, where he is basically telling his fan base they are "morons" because they demand that a company be responsible for their product and it's consumer. If he tries to the use that this is an "art" argument, then I say go look at the movies, for example look at Army of Darkness, the movie's original ending was that Ash was going to go too far into the future after the end of days, but the production company had them change it because they thought it was too much of downer. And games themselves have done this, look at the Colony Wars series, there was at least 10 different ending to the games, but the difference was that you had to earn each ending, (or do really crappy) so it kinda motivated you. But here, not only dose Bob show his lack of knowledge by over burdening his arguments with both his personal beliefs, and by trying to make the gamers themselves feel dumb for standing up for what they want, but he also show what he thinks of his listeners, which is a mighty low opinion of their intelligence, which is very insulting to me.
But the whole counterpoint is that "he didn't play the game", when you play a game like Mass Effect, with it 100-120 hours of gameplay (the entire series, not just any one game) your putting in a effort, your developing a person that you get emotionally attached to, and in many ways it is a reflection of you, and you put in all this effort, and then all the sudden all this attention and effort that gave this character is just thrown out the window, it kinda feels like the developers are giving you the finger, and it's just very insulting and frustrating
Agreed with the whole Bioware vs EA thing. One of the reasons I suspect Bioware 'caved' so easily is because they didn't like where the ending was going, and just used the fan outcry to help their own case of having the ending re-written to what they had originally envisioned.
I guess this is dangerous ground we're on. Because the Retake ME3 movement may have good intentions, but the future of gaming will come down to wether people will pay for a new ending. Personally, I haven't ruled out the possibility of executive meddling. I dont think the designers are as in it for the money as the EA and BW execs are. The problem of this stems from people generalizing the two. Bioware is more than just the writers. Pretending they have complete control of what gets into the final game is not up to Bioware as a whole, just the cocks who represent it.
See, fans can beg for a new ending all they want. But the problem will be if they pay for it. And if they do, which im thinking a satisfying ending will sell like hotcakes, they're basically telling EA/Bioware execs 'yes, we are gullible enough to think we won this empty victory'.
The real battle for videogame integrity has not started. The real battle will be there when the DLC releases. And it will be lost when EA/BW sees they can make mass profits from pushing an incomplete game out on purpose.....
The only solution is to NOT buy the DLC. For the community to stand up and stay consistend with their demand for an entire game, a finished game, at release date. Not the most awesome blowjob ever, then charge an extra fee if we wanna cum and feel satisfied....
I wasn't disagreeing with you when you said the theory made sense or that the evidence wasn't there. What I was saying was the the ending was so convoluted and poorly put together in the first place, that it's doubtful that the was the original intention. Most of the evidence for the theory also counts towards evidence of plot holes or sloppy production values. That said, there's no escaping the fact that this ending is a replacement for the ending Bioware originally intended, as the DLC ad in the credits so proudly boasts.
Yes, its a theory but to minimalize it to something so simplistic as unintended is ignoring the evidence outright. The description of indoctrination, the choices which seemed to be reversed morality wise, the hallucinations, the trees in the Marauder Shields scene. Its not like someone got up one morning and just said "ITS A DREAM! Like LOST or something! That explains it!" Instead, you have carefuly gathered information, proof from previous ME games, that show this to be more than just coincidence. At first, I had thought synthesis was the best solution to the problem, but then I realized "Oh shit, Im Saren!" The indoctrinated eyes are put on Shepard on only Control or Synthesis choices, NOT Destroy. This isn't a glitch or anything. The trees were also not glitched, the game was designed to have those trees before you jump into the portal. Shepard's wound, Harbinger retreating, Hackett knowing you're up there, the catalyst manifestation.
Its sad that, with all the proof, people aren't taking it so seriously because it doesn't explain if Garrus fucked Tali in the end or not....
The 'Indoctrination Theory' is just that, a theory. Though it does make sense, due to the sloppy execution I highly doubt that it's what Bioware intended. To me, it says a lot about the poor quality of the story telling when the best theory fans can think of to explain what happened is "It was all a dream."
I take it no one has taken a look at the "Indoctrination Theory"? Ive been wondering for a few days why no one in ScrewAttack has said anything about it.....