This post concerns the recent backlash to the endings of Mass Effect 3. If you’re either looking for a political post or don’t want to the endings spoiled, I would suggest you stop reading.
I started playing BioWare’s Mass Effect in 2008. My best friend and I were walking around Place D’Orleans and we wandered into GameStop. I was looking for a new game, but I didn’t see anything interesting. It was then my best friend starts flipping out. On the shelf in front of us was a new copy of Mass Effect for $9.99. He told me that he was angry because he had paid full price for the collector’s edition when it came out, and that I should take advantage of this summer sale GameStop was having and pick it up. I took a look, it seemed fascinating, and before I could even think about putting it down, he started demanding I pick it up. It didn’t cost much, and I got more joy out of that game than I have from most full-priced titles I’ve picked up. From then I was hooked on Mass Effect. I picked up the collector’s edition for Mass Effect 2, as well as BioWare’s other big titles, Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age: Awakenings and Dragon Age 2.
Suffice to say, I was really looking forward to Mass Effect 3. I had just started a new character in Mass Effect 1 to carry through Mass Effect 2 so I could be ready to play the new game right after it came out. Maybe I shouldn’t have been reading the forums, maybe I shouldn’t have been watching the YouTube videos, but I did and what I saw made me delete all my Mass Effect saves. To tell the truth, it’s been four days since I played any video game, and I don’t know if I’ll ever pick up my controller and play any of the Mass Effect games again. I’ve even been thinking about returning my unopened Mass Effect 3 collector’s edition. I can’t even imagine picking up the next Dragon Age title after this apparent betrayal by BioWare.
For those who think I’m overreacting, and that the ending can’t possibly be as bad as I’m saying it is, watch it yourself. YouTube has all the ending videos, including the hidden ending players are given if they beat the game twice. As Forbes’ Paul Tassi, paraphrasing one player’s opinion, wrote, “it as if Star Wars was wrapped up with the final moments of 2001: A Space Odyssey.” This is my biggest complaint about these endings. Simply put, it doesn’t make sense in context of the established canon, nor is it the ending fans like myself were promised by BioWare employees like Michael Gamble, Casey Hudson and Mac Walters. There’s also the issue that for a series that is so dedicated to giving players choices which shape their game, it’s unforgivable that at the end of the final game that players don’t have any choice and are forced to choose between endings that are almost identical.
I’m not the only person angry and confused about what’s going on. There are thousands upon thousands of Mass Effect fans who find themselves in this very position. Aside from the various memes that fans are coming up with, there are mainstream gaming publications like Escapist Magazine which posted this ‘Critical Miss’ cartoon about the response to Mass Effect 3’s endings.
I also found this ‘Mass Deffect’ YouTube video from Kanal von ACAVYOS which had myself and others in stitches.
Joking aside, this backlash from Mass Effect fans over Mass Effect 3’s ending is causing not just BioWare, but Electronic Arts (EA) some serious problems. Right now, there is a Facebook Community Page, ‘Demand a Better Ending to Mass Effect 3’, a Twitter account, @RetakeME3, and a website organized by the greater community of Mass Effect fans, ‘Retake Mass Effect’ which is also raising funds for children’s charity Child’s Play. There’s also a rallying call, which comes right from the series itself, more specifically Captain Kirrahe of the salarian military, “HOLD THE LINE!”
I would imagine that this isn’t the response BioWare was hoping for from an ending which, as Casey Hudson said in a recent interview Digital Trends, keeps the game from being “forgettable.” Forgettable? No, but I doubt they would want Mass Effect 3 to be remembered for the wrong reasons.
The problem is that this negative reaction is having a noticeable effect on the game’s rating and sales. As of now, Mass Effect 3 has a 3.5/10 rating on Metacritic, and despite being released a week ago, the game is being sold on Amazon.com for as low as $46 American and as low as $40 Canadian on Amazon.ca. After all the money EA has put into funding, promoting, producing and distributing this game, I would imagine this whole ordeal is very troubling.
What’s even worse is that BioWare’s staff is either being tight-lipped about this overly negative reaction to the series’ conclusion, or sending out extremely cryptic responses to fan complaints. Some staff members have even insulted those unhappy with the game’s ending. For example, Manveer Heir, a senior designer at BioWare Montreal, retweeted comments made by Penny Arcade’s Ben Kuchera, mocking Mass Effect fans who wanted a happier ending to Commander Shepard’s story.
It isn’t just BioWare staff that are insulting upset fans. As the gaming media begins to take notice of this fiasco, there is a considerable amount of outrage directed at those upset with the current endings to Mass Effect 3. In what I can only describe as a knee-jerk reaction by the “intelligentsia” of the gaming community, the response has been swift as particularly vicious. Kotaku’s Owen Good was one of the first to attack, claiming those who had set up and signed various online petitions asking for new endings were part of “[a] community that spews nonstop hatred of a game it bought at full price and plays religiously.” The main problem with Good’s assertion is that, if he bothered to read the response coming from Mass Effect fans, he would have known that not only are they not playing Mass Effect 3 anymore, but that they aren’t even playing the other two titles in the series. The endings are just too much for some of us to bear. He also rants about how “games are art” and that this is BioWare’s story to tell, an ignorant and irrelevant point echoed by Luke Plunkett (which goes to show that Luke might be bipolar as he was ranting about how much he hated Mass Effect 3’s endings lacking any real choice a daily earlier) and Kotaku Australia’s Mark Serrels, but I will deal with that in a later.
Next is Destructoid’s Jim Sterling compared upset Mass Effect fans to Kathy Bates’ character from Misery, the film adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same. If those upset with the ending are supposed to be civil, why shouldn’t those attacking them be as well? It should be noted that Sterling isn’t a stranger to offensive remarks or grossly inappropriate behaviour. According to Anna Anthropy at The Border House, Sterling called her girlfriend, among other things, a “cunt,” “sweetcheeks”, “an attention-seeking,” a “little bitch,” “an embarrassment to her gender” and a “feminazi slut” during a heated Twitter exchange last year. I honestly don’t know why Destructoid would want to employ a liability like him. Controversy generates attention which generates hits and revenue, I understand that, but he’s clearly one ‘Jimquisition’ rant away from a costly lawsuit.
It doesn’t surprise me, however, that this kind of language is coming from someone at Destructoid. Just listen to the language Max Scoville and Tara Long use to describe upset Mass Effect fans (if you’re short on time, skip ahead to the 12:30 mark when the insults begin).
“Incompetent, whiny, twats”? If Tara ever loses her job at Destructoid, there’s always an opening for someone of her “class” on Jersey Shore. Max is no better, and aside from being equally offensive, the comparisons he makes clearly shows he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I mean, it’s not like Sir Author Conan Doyle, after killing of Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem,” gave into public pressure and brought the character back to life right? Oh wait.
IGN’s Colin Moriarty also weighed in and, instead of presenting a balanced, let alone coherent argument for his position, he attacked upset Mass Effect fans for acting like they are “entitled” to a better ending. His argument quickly devolves into a rant about Mass Effect being BioWare’s creation and that fans should simply accept the endings because that’s the game’s creators decided to end it. This, as with much of the other response to the criticism of Mass Effect 3’s ending goes back to this idea that “games are art” and thus the ending should be simply accepted because that’s what the “artist,” the game’s creators, wanted. This argument is pure and utter nonsense.
(UPDATE: After sleeping on it, I wrote a post solely dedicated to rebutting this utterly nonsensical argument. Aside from the fact that it deserved its own post, I felt this post was already too long. If you’re interested, check it out.)
Not all gaming media coverage of the response to Mass Effect 3’s endings is negative, however. Forbes’ Erik Kain has been fairly supportive of those upset with Mass Effect 3’s endings. His recent article “Mass Effect 3 And The Pernicious Myth Of Gamer ‘Entitlement’” is definitely worth a read as it is a direct response to Colin Moriarty’s incoherent rant. Ross Lincoln at Game Front wrote a very in-depth article which exams the major complaints fans have with the game’s endings. It’s an article everyone interested in this topic should read, especially those who do want better endings as it lays out in full detail why the current endings aren’t acceptable. Chris Matyskiel of Robot Geek wrote a good piece about the importance of, what is now being described as a movement. With more and more people finishing Mass Effect 3, and with more and more people learning about this apparent betrayal by BioWare of its loyal fans, I expect this movement to become much bigger.
In any event, BioWare should be happy at this reaction to their game’s ending. Of course the negative publicity, and the loss in sales isn’t something they should celebrate, but I would imagine it’s hard for them not to look at what is happening and realize that it’s because they created such a compelling story which thousands upon thousands of gamers are invested in that there is this kind of reaction to this an apparent betrayal on their part. If it was just another game, gamers could simply ignore the incoherent and depressing endings and move onto something else. That isn’t the case, however, and BioWare should be proud of that at least.
It is because that so many have played and replayed the last two games countless times over the last five years that it means enough to them that they are willing to “HOLD THE LINE!” and demand better endings for this game.