If Mass Effect 3’s Ending Changes, We Can’t Call it Art

Mass Effect 3 is one of those games that bends the laws of time. The only other consistently relevant example is the Civilization franchise. Where players succumb to the gentle flow of ‘one more turn… one more turn… one more turn…” until its 4 a.m. Not many games do that to me anymore.

What’s that Hackett? I just saved (Spoiler) and now Cerberus is attacking (Spoiler)? I’m on it. Voosh, I’m off, glancing over my real life shoulder and noticing the clock ticking into the less forgiving p.m. hours of the weekday work night. Do not underestimate how rarely a game comes along with that type of raw power.

It’s also effortlessly intelligent with how it deals with a science fiction universe. Even experienced sci-fi novelists get buggered by unbelievability when they deal with real science like space-time physics, binary star systems, terraforming, alien species, invasive foreign bacteria, artificial intelligence. Mass Effect 3 handles each topic it approaches with a maturity and self-confidence that shows itself as clearly a sci-fi story for adults.

Pivot to the ending. A lot of people don’t like it. That’s not what I’m here for. My problem with these complaints is they deny agency. You can’t strip an author or an artist from their license to create what they want. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, that just means it isn’t for you. A lot of people didn’t like The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or the Star Wars prequels. This is a bad example only because many people famously did the exact same thing they’re doing here. They had and have childishly petitioned George Lucas to fix it, fix it, fix it. We may all agree about Lucas’ horrible late-career film choices, but he is absolutely correct when he responds: tough shit, it’s my movie, I’ll do what I want with it.

ABC News embedded this video about the ending controversy. Besides obvious glitches in the game programming (such as dead characters somehow finding themselves quite alive in the closing cut scene) this list of 10 faults is a very weak argument. At this juncture though, we depart, dear reader. You’ll either watch this and foam at the mouth and demand changes or you’ll shrug at the entitled voices that clearly don’t want this game to be art. They want it to be a pizza they paid for and goddamnit the pizza was cold when it got here and you better fix it.

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3 Responses to If Mass Effect 3’s Ending Changes, We Can’t Call it Art

  1. You’re right about ME being a series that approaches sci-fi in such a mature way. I don’t think it gets enough praise for that.

    I have to disagree about the ending though. I think it makes players feel like all the work they put into all 3 games counted for nothing since you get the almost exactly the same ending no matter what you do or have done. I think gamers who have invested a lot of time and money in the series deserve better than that.

    I wrote an article about it here if you want to take a look. I’d be interested to know if it alters your opinion at all.

    http://iplayvidiogames.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/bioware-promises-more-closure-for-me3-via-dlc/

  2. T. B. King says:

    Here’s what I get, and a lot of what you mentioned is in the video I linked.

    Glaring plot-holes: The list of 10 plot holes in the video I watched and in a lot of what I read comes down to “so and so wouldn’t do that!” Is it wierd that (spoiler) was running away in the final cut-scene instead of staring at the citadel blowing with his dick in his hand, only to crash land conveniently on a verdant planet? Yea, that’s weird. It’s also not a plot-hole. “So and so wouldn’t do that! He wouldn’t!” That’s not your choice. It’s the author’s. Yeah, its convenient that it was a habitable jungle world, too. It’s also really convenient that every alien in the ME galaxy (minus the… dranar?) is based on the evolutionary patterns of Earth (two arms, two legs, a neck, a head on top, et cetera), something almost no contemporary scientist believes is likely.

    Part of the draw of stories like Game of Thrones and Mad Men is when a character you love does something you didn’t expect, and then disappoints you, but maybe you learn to love him anyway. Let’s take an example: I’m not thrilled my Shep threw the “love you” word to one of the women I slept with in ME3. I guess my Shep is OK with lying to women because my Shep is a heartless lady-killer. Do I have a right to demand that I get the option to have a Han Solo line for my Shep to say? Where’s the line on protests for changes? A Disney ending?

    As far as not factoring in all the choices you have made in the series so far and making sense in the context of the series… I’ll deal with the latter first. What wasn’t in context? I haven’t heard this elaborated properly. That the ending wasn’t the ending you wanted is the only thing I can generate from that, and guess what, that’s not your choice yet again. Its the author’s.

    Apparently Bioware made a lot of promises about how much your choices would matter in the ending, potentially there would be more than a dozen different endings to ME3. That’s certainly a bad on Bioware. It certainly didn’t matter how much you boosted your War Readiness. These are bad game mechanics. Not plot holes. They’re broken promises, yeah, not story-breaking. Let’s disseminate the differences then. It appears the problem with a lot of these change-people is that they just didn’t like Mass Effect 3 and they’re furious that Bioware would make a game they didn’t like. Oh well, too bad. Let me be the first to tell you, sometimes as an adult things don’t happen the way you want. There’s a strange sort of beauty in that.

    And I want to apologize for my tone being so strident and arrogant and condescending. I don’t really have an excuse for it, but I feel like I’m fighting a gas fire with a bomb.

  3. Pingback: Spoilt Goods -The Mass Effect Ending Debacle « The Halfway House of Jack Happy

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