When Mass Effect 3 was released earlier this month it was met with much anticipation and critical praise as the popular space epic concluded. Immediately, however, a certain subset of fans became enraged by some of the decisions Bioware made with respect to the series. Even before the game was announced fans expressed anger that the series was daring to go multiplatform. At launch gamers raged at the “day one” inclusion of downloadable content, something quite common in games today but the real spectacle was the fan reaction to Mass Effect 3’s ending and the subsequent hate campaigns targeting Bioware staff, the FTC complaints of false advertising and the seemingly never-ending series of petitions to force Bioware to alter Mass Effect 3’s endings. It was on this topic that I thought I’d weigh in and add my voice to the many who think some gamers have lost their damn minds.
First, I’d like to say I understand some fan disappointment. Without going into spoiler territory, Mass Effect has always been about choices and the choices the player makes throughout the game brings with it a very personal connection to the characters and events as they play out. It’s the interactive nature of our media that differentiates the consumer experience of videogames from that of other media such as movies or television. Bioware has never been shy about discussing and promoting the impact of the moral choices in their games, however those familiar with the series know that when it came to player decisions versus main plot points, plot points won out every time. This should not have surprised anyone when it came down to the series conclusion. Criticisms regarding plot holes and the lack of a satisfying ending may be warranted, but the fan reaction seems completely out of proportion. We’ve all been disappointed by the ending of something or another and the more complicated a plot, the harder it is to wrap everything up into a neat little package. This may come as a shock to some fans but you can’t always get what you want.
Good stories have a beginning, middle and end. Not “ends.” I feel it is unrealistic to expect writers to create a strong, complex plot and then be expected to create multiple, satisfying endings. I’m happy with one satisfying ending but many would argue that Mass Effect didn’t even give players that. Many also think the ending was just fine. I feel the gamers being the most vocal need to ask themselves, what would actually make you happy? If there was an update tomorrow and when you replayed the game the ending was completely different, would that erase the memory of the original conclusion you received and leave you satisfied? If the new endings still didn’t satisfy a certain amount of fans would you demand they do it again? What are the rules on how many fans need to be vocally dissatisfied with an ending before you feel a company should be forced to change their artistic vision for a game? What consideration is given, if any, to those happy with the current ending and what gives you the right to change the experience for those gamers?
You can’t please everyone all the time. Whenever anything becomes popular, there will always be a subset of fans that find a reason to hate simply because they can. There is no pleasing them. It doesn’t matter if it’s videogames, music, movies or television you’ll always have a vocal minority that will hate what you’ve created just for the sake of hating, especially if something becomes popular. We saw fans turn on Rockstar after their masterpiece Grand Theft Auto 4 was released; we’ve seen a backlash against Infinity Ward despite consistently shipping an excellent product. We’re seeing it now with Bioware. To cave into these vocal fanatics sets a dangerous precedent and takes creative control away from the artists to see their creative visions realized. I firmly hope Bioware doesn’t touch the ending. All it does is teach the entitled among us that if they scream and cry long enough and loud enough, they can get their way and as a parent I can attest, that’s a recipe for future disaster. Give in and it will never end. Bioware needs to stand by their work and continue their strong stand against those targeting their staff directly. If gamers don’t like it, let them vote with their wallets.
Fans have often influenced their favorite series and if a writer wishes to remain popular it is important to listen to fans to an extent, but ultimate creative control needs to reside with creators. Sherlock Holmes appeared to be famously killed off only to be resurrected at a later point due to fan demands. Spock met his heroic end in Star Trek 2, only to be brought kicking and screaming back from the dead in the terrible, terrible Star Trek 3 but some Mass Effect fans are asking for a complete do-over of the ending. Bioware has commented that they were willing to possibly have loose ends addressed in upcoming DLC (and I support this move as should fans) but imagine Star Trek 2 edited so Spock makes it out alive and pops out of his coffin at the end to yell “Hiyoooo!” because it would be more pleasing. Expecting Bioware to simply rewrite their ending is carpet chewing mad and Bioware shouldn’t even entertain the idea. Already we see Hollywood taking fewer and fewer risks with story-telling trying to cater to everyone. The end result is often bland and generic. This happens to an extent currently in the games industry with developers and publishers erring on the side of caution in an attempt to protect the massive investment associated with developing big titles. Gamers always rally against this effect but here the message Mass Effect gamers are sending resoundingly to the game industry is “Don’t take risks and don’t upset us or we’ll turn on you in a heartbeat.”
I’ve heard others draw parallels with Stephen King’s Misery where a crazed fan holds a writer captive and submits him to numerous tortures because she’s unhappy with his recent book’s ending. She forces him to write a follow-up novel bringing the main character back to life to continue the story. I don’t think this is a fair comparison. Even in her madness, Annie Wilkes never expected the author to rewrite history and change the ending as some Mass Effect fans are demanding. For the good of games as a truly creative medium, this movement needs to be squashed. #ChangeTheEnding