Mass Effect 3: Passion and Hypocrisy

So, Mass Effect 3 is a bit of a thing. If you're on any kind of gaming forum on the internet, you know that. And Mass Effect 3's reaction has become kind of important, in how it relates to games and how they are perceived as art/entertainment/machines etc. To sum it up, either you're angry at BioWare, or you're angry at Bioware.

One side is displeased because of the large number of plot holes and contradictions within the last 20 or so minutes of the game. They are deeply invested in the ME universe, and feel betrayed, because whether this is reasonable or not, they had a huge passion for the universe, and believes it deserves a send off that makes sense. Not a happier one, as many detractors seem to simply assume.

The other side is displeased because BioWare's own Doctor Ray has responded. And many people, including most of the staff on this very site, are angered by this. These are the people who are passionate about another thing: Video Games being taken seriously, and feel like that an acknowledgement that they are listening to fan feedback, and are making an announcement about possible changes in April, undermines the artistic integrity of video games, if they can be changed on a whim.

Mass Effect 3, either way, is taking Gaming into Uncharted Waters. And here's a picture that slightly relates to that statement.

Each group has had pretty much a similar reaction of hitting the moment that makes them feel betrayed by the thing they were most passionate about, and knee-jerk reacting to the same conclusion: Getting pissed off with BioWare. One side tends to see the other as either bunch of entitled whiners who have no right to suggest changes be made, or conversely, snobs who feel superior, hiding behind the excuse of artistic integrity to defend an ending that was bad.

Now, that's a problem. Essentially, combined we have a group of people, who are all passionate about games and all believe BioWare have made amazing work in the past. And now they are all pissed off with a company that simply wants to get out of this with a group of fans that still like them, and the respect of their critical peers. The announcement today was pretty much a non-announcement, saying that they are listening to fan-feedback, but don't want to sacrifice artistic integrity. No one has any idea what they'll do, whether they'll go with the popular indoctrination theory, add more choice, re-write the ending, or simply add scenes that better explain what happened, without changing the outcome.

So yeah, the point of this blog was to show that really, both sides are not that different. Each have had strong reactions, and some individuals have taken things way way way too far (the FTC guy, for example), but it's just people reacting loudly to what they are passionate about. Personally, I'm strongly passionate about both things, the Mass Effect universe, and Games being taken seriously. And whilst I was dissapointed in the endings, I don't know how to feel about all this. I don't feel great, but I don't feel the worst.

I know one thing I'm actively trying not to be, though: Angry at BioWare.

21 Comments
22 Comments
Posted by Tylea002

So, Mass Effect 3 is a bit of a thing. If you're on any kind of gaming forum on the internet, you know that. And Mass Effect 3's reaction has become kind of important, in how it relates to games and how they are perceived as art/entertainment/machines etc. To sum it up, either you're angry at BioWare, or you're angry at Bioware.

One side is displeased because of the large number of plot holes and contradictions within the last 20 or so minutes of the game. They are deeply invested in the ME universe, and feel betrayed, because whether this is reasonable or not, they had a huge passion for the universe, and believes it deserves a send off that makes sense. Not a happier one, as many detractors seem to simply assume.

The other side is displeased because BioWare's own Doctor Ray has responded. And many people, including most of the staff on this very site, are angered by this. These are the people who are passionate about another thing: Video Games being taken seriously, and feel like that an acknowledgement that they are listening to fan feedback, and are making an announcement about possible changes in April, undermines the artistic integrity of video games, if they can be changed on a whim.

Mass Effect 3, either way, is taking Gaming into Uncharted Waters. And here's a picture that slightly relates to that statement.

Each group has had pretty much a similar reaction of hitting the moment that makes them feel betrayed by the thing they were most passionate about, and knee-jerk reacting to the same conclusion: Getting pissed off with BioWare. One side tends to see the other as either bunch of entitled whiners who have no right to suggest changes be made, or conversely, snobs who feel superior, hiding behind the excuse of artistic integrity to defend an ending that was bad.

Now, that's a problem. Essentially, combined we have a group of people, who are all passionate about games and all believe BioWare have made amazing work in the past. And now they are all pissed off with a company that simply wants to get out of this with a group of fans that still like them, and the respect of their critical peers. The announcement today was pretty much a non-announcement, saying that they are listening to fan-feedback, but don't want to sacrifice artistic integrity. No one has any idea what they'll do, whether they'll go with the popular indoctrination theory, add more choice, re-write the ending, or simply add scenes that better explain what happened, without changing the outcome.

So yeah, the point of this blog was to show that really, both sides are not that different. Each have had strong reactions, and some individuals have taken things way way way too far (the FTC guy, for example), but it's just people reacting loudly to what they are passionate about. Personally, I'm strongly passionate about both things, the Mass Effect universe, and Games being taken seriously. And whilst I was dissapointed in the endings, I don't know how to feel about all this. I don't feel great, but I don't feel the worst.

I know one thing I'm actively trying not to be, though: Angry at BioWare.

Posted by Kaspar

Sums up the situation pretty nicely. Been following this closely and seen both sides play dirty. Neither side takes the other one seriously and it all comes down to people pointing finger and shouting names. This is basically a no-win scenario for almost everyone. Too many variables to predict the outcome. It'll be a challenge for BioWare no doubt.

Posted by Tylea002

Pretty much, so far everyone seems to hate everyone else, and the merits of some are not being acknowledged by others. I recommend this article as a great read, whilst it is definitely in favour of changing the endings, the more interesting points of it speaks to a larger point, in how people are reacting to the backlash, and the myth of constructive criticism.

Posted by TeflonBilly

Forbes have done a fantastic job at covering this debacle. I'm seriously gonna start looking to them for coverage about video games in the future.

Personally I think the ending is shite, but if Bioware and it's supporters are so staunchly gonna defend it, then how about adressing the numerous plotjoles, illogical leaps and in-universe inconsistencies that are presented in the last ten minutes of the game. Instead of attacking the child that points out that the Emperor is wearing no clothes, then explain to me exactly how those clothes look like!

I'll happily accept a video or article put up on Bioware's site with Casey Hudson and the team explaining this amazing artistic vision they have which seems to spring out of nowhere at the last ten minutes. They don't need to make any new DLC if they can justify that ending and how it's incongruity with everything they promised about ME3 adds up.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with an ambigious or sad/depressing ending. However don't give me some haphazardly thrown together bullshit and try putting it under the same umbrella and expect me to take it with a smile.

Posted by dagas

So you are saying that people with completely different viewpoints are basically the same just because they both feel strongly about it? So by that logic a pro-abortion guy and an anti-abortion guy are the same since they both have strong feelings about the subject?

I hope they explaining the ending will be enough. Actually changing it seems insane and I can't think of anyone who has done that before. Sure you can mention Fallout 3, but they only changed a couple of things there. While it seems people want them to redo 20 minutes of cut scenes in ME3 and then change it so that it is different for every ending which means 60 minutes of cut scenes.

I'm sure they actually have good reson for ending it like they did and I hope they can explain it. It won't satisfy everyone, but I think most people would be alright as long as they understood the logic behind the ending better. I can't believe they just didn't care like some people suggest.

Posted by Enigma777

How dare you compare me to those snot-nosed crybabies!?

Edited by Kevin_Cogneto

I think the passion comes from the fact that there's a lot more at stake than simply the ending of one game. How BioWare handles this situation will have massive ramifications for the Mass Effect franchise, for BioWare as a company, for EA, and I'd go so far to say for the industry as a whole. The argument digs deep into questions like "Are games an art form or a consumer good?" and "What are our rights as a video game consumer?" and "With the malleability of video game narratives, how much expectation should the end user reasonably have to influence his experience?"

There's a lot going on here, and a lot at stake. For once I think the internet firestorm is (mostly) justified, especially when compared to relatively trivial things like "Oh no the Ninja Turtles are aliens now"...

Posted by Tylea002

@Kevin_Cogneto: It does, that's definitely where the passions of one side lie. But because of all these passions and heated emotions, because this topic has become suddenly big and important in the wider context of entertainment, both sides are getting heated, and I thought it'd be helpful to sum it up in a post that points out the similarities of each side, and that both do have merit, and there is no right answer - in fact there is no answer at all, and so the blood, it doth boil.

@dagas: It's more pointing out that both the passions and the outcome are similar; everyone in the argument is passionate about video games, story in video games, and believes Mass Effect to be important in this context, and that BioWare is caught in a shit storm when they just want to do right by their fans and critics.

Posted by Matiaz_Tapia

Artists, in video game companies DO get treated with kid's gloves. Everything they do is "amazing". I know, because I am one...Guys, it's our effing job to make you like what we put out! If we have this really cool and weird thing to show you, its our responsibility to make it so you like it! No compromises.

I've done stuff you didn't like....I actually worked on DNF ( very little, just some minor redesigns on Duke, the EDF trooper and some DLC stuff). And yes, it disappointed people. Because of perfectly good reasons.

Artistic integrity is not about being an artiste who's not willing to take criticism, like putting up a giant dick on a plaza and call people prudes for wanting to remove it. Not about doing what you're told either. It's about the responsibility of making you like something and out own ability to communicate old and new ideas.

I don't get this culture of " making games is sooo hard, let's give them a break!" You pay 60$ + per game...it better fucking be good. People in the industry get paid well. (Except for testers)

You have been putting up with terrible endings for a long time. Now this one made you care. Thank god to that...I hope.

Posted by Quarters

I think this whole thing proves that developers aren't what are holding video games back from being art...it's gamers. It's all fun and art until something happens that someone doesn't like. Then it's a "product", and it's their right as a consumer to get what they want. Gamers are still immature, all the way around. Until we grow up, games can't be art, plain and simple. Hideo Kojima's words on the matter suddenly make a startling amount of sense.

Posted by Tylea002

@Quarters: Unlike other media, though, Games have a tradition of fixing their problems with post-release support. Even if you do not agree, it is easy to see how this complaint and expectation to make it better has risen, when in every area but story, a top tier developer like Bioware WOULD do such a thing, so you can see how the issue is slightly more unique and complex than that. As I say, I feel strongly about both subjects, and am remaining on the fence about how important and big a deal it is until we see where this goes, but the issue is definitely more than just people are annoyed they didn't get what they 'want.' As the other side is about more than just looking down on entitled babies.

@Matiaz_Tapia: That's a brilliant way of putting an interesting new perspective - that expecting a higher quality of art may actually make games be taken more seriously, even though many do not see that. I applaud your post!

Posted by WinterSnowblind

@Quarters: I think the plot holes, bad concept and general poor writing within the last 15 minutes are the only thing keeping it from being art. Would people still consider something like Lord of the Rings or Terminator 2 masterpieces if they had completely shitty endings?

I do agree that some people are being a tad too immature, but so are the people who are trying to claim that those complaining are just being "self entitled". If you think that, you're really missing the point and listening to the wrong people.

Posted by clstirens

@Matiaz_Tapia said:

You have been putting up with terrible endings for a long time. Now this one made you care. Thank god to that...I hope.

Quoted for truth, man.

Posted by LawGamer

@Matiaz_Tapia: I say, thank God for you, Sir!

@Quarters: Who says that all games need to be "art" or all games need to be "product?" I don't think the categories are as mutually exclusive as you seem to imply. In fact, there is a substantial amount of overlap. Back in the Renaissance artists used to make a living by taking projects on commission for people, and it still happens a lot today. And you want to know what happened when a patron wasn't happy with the product? They sent it back and demanded a do over.

I think the whole "they shouldn't change it because its art art" argument only works when the creator of a piece is making it wholly for their own enjoyment and not for financial motives. If I make a sculpture to put in my back yard for no other reason than I enjoy sculpting, my neighbor can't demand I make changes to my work. But if my neighbor pays me to make the sculpture for their back yard, then they have a right to demand modifications if what I do isn't to their specifications. My neighbor is not "entitled" for demanding the change because they are a paying consumer of my work. Of course, I could always refuse to make the modification, but doing so runs the risk of losing future business. It might make financial sense for me to swallow my artistic pride and alter my work so I can get more business in the future.

That's what's happening here. Bioware didn't make Mass Effect only because they wanted to. They made it because they expected to make money off it. People who spend $60+ on the game are essentially subsidizing Bioware's efforts. They are, in effect, purchasing the work on commission, albeit in conjunction with millions of other people. Those unhappy with the ending have a right to demand a new one precisely because of that subsidization. Bioware is clearly deciding to make the change because of the huge amount of mostly negative press surrounding this issue. For them, it makes more financial sense to make the change than it does to stand by their original vision and risk losing current or future business. The singular glory of a digital medium like video games is that unlike a physical painting or sculpture, changing the work for some does not mean changing it for everyone. I'm assuming whatever changes are made will be released as DLC. This means that if you liked the original ending, you need not download it. If however, you were dissatisfied, you can at least feel like you got something closer to what you paid for.

Posted by Quarters

I understand why people would think that, I just don't agree with the mindset behind it. It's one thing when a game is mechanically broken, or full of glitches. Something like a plot is merely subjective. Much harder to argue for patching it. And I know that it's more than people just not getting what they want. It's people wanting to take ownership of the franchise, hence something like "Retake Mass Effect". I just can't agree with that. It's one thing when it's something like Star Wars and the EU, where George Lucas all but abandoned it for a while and practically told people to do whatever with it until he came back. In this case, however, BW has been creating this series nonstop for the last several years, spending infinitely more money than our measly couple hundred bucks than we've spent in buying them, and have shown no sign of leaving it. They still have full ownership. It's just a linear story that we get to alter the storytelling in as it progresses.

I actually think Lord of the Rings has an extremely lackluster final part. I thought Two Towers was a far stronger story. Doesn't mean I have to demand a better ending. It happened, and that's all there is to it. I still recognize it as an influential work, despite its flaws. It was the story that Tolkien wanted to tell. And besides, you can't judge art based off of quality. Art's just an expression of a person's soul. Doesn't mean that it has to be good. I get that people want better writing in games, but I don't think this is the way to go about it. And again, it's something too subjective. Some people liked the ending. It can't be treated as universally bad, despite plot holes and such. And again, I just don't get why this ending is being singled out so much. Sure, it has issues, but there have been WAY worse endings. Whether people want to admit it or not, Bioware has had a target on their back since post-ME2/DAII, deserved or undeserved. You can't deny that the prejudice against them has fueled this just a tad.

I don't think that they're exclusive, actually. I'm just saying that's the mindset of people. I believe that games are art when it comes to story, visual and art design, and sound design. I believe it becomes a product in terms of gameplay. It's a hybrid. Yet barely anyone looks at it as such, or at least says it like that. It's always either one or the other. I think part of the reason that ME3 has drawn so much ire is because it has the gameplay and story blended with the dialogue choices, so the boundaries start to blur. You start trying to judge story with gameplay rules, and vice versa. Suddenly, you're now making the same demands from the story like you would a bug fix in a game. It's a weird thing.

Posted by Nottle

What I don't get is why the anti-change side would say changing the ending effects how seriously you can take video games.

Where were they when Portal and Dragon Age: Origins had their endings changed? In Dragon Age your given a huge decision,

Sacrifice yourself, sacrifice Alistair (your BFF), sacrifice Loghain (that dick that wants redemption), or make a baby with Morrigan that could be some hellish abomination.

When you download awakening and you choose the first choice from the spoilerbox, guess what? your fine, you've conquered evil with no negative impact on the universe, unexplained your in perfect health ready for adventure, completely killing any tension in that decision because why not pick the first choice, nothing changes in the long run.

Also Portal, it's ending was changed in an attempt to advertise Portal 2. Isn't it kind of dirty if the reason you change an ending is because of advertising? But I'm sure the anti-ending change people still look at Portal as art or whatever.

People are perfectly fine downloading mods all the time, I'm sure some of these people saying that the ending being changed is ridiculous have downloaded something to make Skyrim a more enjoyable experience, or something to that effect.

Posted by CaptainCharisma

@Matiaz_Tapia: Props to you, bro!

Posted by JordanK85

Every single piece of art that has ever been created can be argued to have at least one flaw. If you change the art after the artist created it, it's no longer art, it's a committee-designed product.

Posted by Agikamike

@JordanK85 said:

Every single piece of art that has ever been created can be argued to have at least one flaw. If you change the art after the artist created it, it's no longer art, it's a committee-designed product.

And you think Mass Effect 3 wasn't designed by committees?! They had a team of writers work on the game, another team of writers that came in late in the process that also contributed, company administration within BOTH Bioware and EA, focus testing, the whole shebang. This was a group effort. Whatever vision they had was changed a dozen, or a hundred times by other people while still in development. The game needed to release on the release date. If given more, or less, time, who knows what the endings or the vision would have been?

While buckling to fan outcry may not be how I wanted to see Bioware address a poorly written and inconsistent ending, (I would rather them just be up front about about it, and let everyone know whether this ending was entirely how they wanted it, which I doubt due to the DLC hook you get,) I certainly am not complaining about results.

Posted by Nottle

@JordanK85 said:

Every single piece of art that has ever been created can be argued to have at least one flaw. If you change the art after the artist created it, it's no longer art, it's a committee-designed product.

But things are made all the time by a group of people checking and agreeing on something or having to go through a bunch of red tape. Before Mass Effect 3 was finished I'm sure it was passed though many hands, I'm sure there is a document somewhere that says DLC schedule on it. Do you think Bioware wanted Multiplayer in the game. I don't think so. It was committee designed before this whole ending fiasco.

Also, would you call Taxi Driver a committee designed product? It had to be resubmitted to the MPAA numerous time to get an R rating.

Or Star wars, I've heard the original was saved in editing.

Edited by SpaceInsomniac

@Quarters said:

I actually think Lord of the Rings has an extremely lackluster final part. I thought Two Towers was a far stronger story. Doesn't mean I have to demand a better ending. It happened, and that's all there is to it. I still recognize it as an influential work, despite its flaws. It was the story that Tolkien wanted to tell.

What I would say to that is did you understand the ending to Lord of the Rings? Did it contradict basic concepts and principles established in all three books/movies? Did it introduce an all-powerful character in the last five minutes who announced that the one ring couldn't be destroyed without some sort of ridiculously arbitrary sacrifices that are never explained?

Go watch Return of the King, and skip to when the primary task has been completed. Now watch the rest of the movie, and you will see closure on a level not even HINTED AT with ME3. The scene with Shepard and Garrus shooting bottles on the top of the damn citadel was longer and given more attention than what happens after you make your final choice in ME3.

This was the end of a TRILOGY, but BioWare was clearly more interested in giving players more questions than answers, and trying to string them along until ME4 and/or the inevitable closure DLC. That's simply shameful. Fans deserved real closure, and they didn't get it.

If you don't believe me, read the Tweet that the game's producer made just two days after the release of ME3, when the backlash began:

Hardest. Day. Ever. Seriously, if you people knew all the stuff we are planning...you'd, we'll - hold onto your copy of me3 forever.

To me, that doesn't sound like fans weren't given closure because it was artistically the right choice to make. That sounds like fans weren't given closure because it was financially the right choice to make. Then again, with day one paid DLC featuring a character that strongly ties into the main story, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.

But I'll fully admit that it's BioWare's right to end the game however they decide, and I'm not sure how I feel about this backlash possibly leading them to create an alternate ending. Personally, I just wish that BioWare had simply given fans the proper closure to the trilogy that they deserved in the first place.

Posted by Quarters

@SpaceInsomniac: Again, that's all entirely subjective. Personally, I found ME3 to be a much more satisfying story and ending than ROTK, and felt more closure. Sure, I understood what happened at the end of ROTK, but I didn't enjoy it. I don't feel that ME3's ending betrays the entire series in any way, and the plot holes just don't sink it for me. So, that makes me "wrong" to think that? Or, flip it around, it makes me "right" and everyone else wrong? Of course not. They're OPINIONS. That's the entire problem with this movement, on both sides of the fence, are that opinions are getting destroyed. It's just becoming about who's right now. Part of the reason why I get so agitated with the "Change Ending" side is that they make you sound ignorant if you like the ME3 ending, because obviously that can't be a valid opinion. While the other side has their own insults, at least for the most part they believe that it's not a problem that people are complaining, just that they are demanding for the new ending.

As for the DLC stuff, I still don't believe that Bioware/EA are just out to get people. I know, big business = Satan for the most part, but there are still human beings that work at those companies, who genuinely do want to make people happy. I hate that modern gaming has kind of come to this state amongst the community, where we've all become so bitter that the worst case scenario has to be what occurred. I don't want to live like that. If they reveal that that is indeed what happened, then whatever, I'll react to it then. But I feel they should at least be given the chance. I mean, with From Ashes, for example, I felt they've given plenty of reasoning why he wasn't in the main game. I expect them to do the same here.

Besides that, on a less idealistic note, their previous comments about the ending before this announcement haven't sounded like they were going to change it. Their tone only started to change about this last week, as pressure started getting heavier. I really don't think it was planned. I'm sure there are definite cases where things like this are, but I don't think that's the case here.