So The Game Overthinker decided to address the controversy about the ending of Mass Effect 3 and in it, Moviebob manages to cram so many stawmen, that I thought my PC would overheat. As someone who has played the Mass Effect games (extensively), unlike Moviebob who feels capable of expressing an opinion on hearsay and assumptions, I felt compelled to point out that many many ways that he has completely failed to address the issue at hand, in favour or basking in his own elitism.
“You can’t have a different ending for each minor choice”
First of all, he is amazed that people are upset that there aren’t many different endings for “every little variable”, which just shows not only the fact that he hasn’t even heard someone explain the ending to him, but he hasn’t even bothered to do cursory research on the extent of the lack of choice in the endings and why fans are upset about it. Seriously, this is not hard to find, and for someone who has already claimed he will probably never play the games, the use of spoilers should not be an issue in their drive to do justice to the critics and other point of view.
But this is not done in the slightest, because it wouldn’t then be as easy to paint critics “entitled” brats much as he is expecting due to how he has seen comic nerds act.
So let me make this clear, Bob, this is not part of the criticism in the slightest. Almost nobody is asking to have a different ending depending on each minor choice we made in the game. You would have known this had you done your homework. It would have been nice to have, but most people wouldn’t have minded had the minor stuff been ignored1.
“Nobody won a Pulitzer for Choose-Your-Own story books”
This argument is given to show that audience-driven choice is counter-productive to good story telling. This is based on absolutely nothing but some previous bad books and live theatre. This is only used as a beach-head to once again point out gamer entitlement when he claims that “people think they should be part of the story team, and the story should thus be changed to cater to their preferred whims”. This is so stunningly inaccurate on where the criticism actually is, that it can only be seen as a deliberate insult.
Bob completely misses the fact that almost everyone admits that Mass Effect 3 was brilliant, except for the 10 last fucking minutes. For a story driven by something that can only be as good as a “fucking choose-your-own story book”, this seems to be a resounding success. The only reason ME3 is not being hailed as an immense success of the audience-guided model of storytelling is because the ending so thoroughly sucked that it was bad enough to retroactively go back in time and make Mass Effect 1 and 2 feel less good as well. If they hadn’t managed to fuck the closure so absolutely, you wouldn’t be here making this argument, Bob.
It is not a “whim” to point out that the ending was downright atrocious. You are acting like an insufferable elitist jerk to imply that we’re trying to modify the story in a hundred different ways. We’re trying to modify the story in a way that makes sense, acknowledges some of our major choices, even a bit and hopefully provides some closure. This is not a lot to ask for, Bob, in a game built around choice. The failure to provide these is not a failure of the choice-driven storytelling. This is a failure of the developer who can’t even provide the absolute minimum of their fans expectations. The absolute minimum, Bob.
You would know that had you played the game, or read about the criticism, or, you know, engaged in any way with the community you broadly paint as entitled brats…
“If your choices are different in some way, depending on the choices you made, then Bioware didn’t lie”
Then, after Bob allows us to be upset (jeez, thanks?) he then start with a ridiculous amount of strawmen. First is the above quote where he claims that critics say that Bioware lied to them.
Well, you see Bob, the choices were not different in some way depending on the choices you made. In fact, I will go right ahead to point out that it doesn’t actually matter what choices you took. The endings are not different. One can be the nicest fuzziest paragon, or the nastiest puppy-kicking renegades, and it wouldn’t change the 3 choice of endings in the slightest. And no, just slapping 3 choices in the end, completely disconnected from everything else you did in the rest of the game, except from an arbitrary number that you have to grind via a minigame or multiplayer, does not count!
So while I wouldn’t call it lying (as that implies a specific intent), I will call it a catastrophic failure on Bioware’s part.
“Bioware owes me”
Another strawman that Bob uses in different ways, and the last version, in which he claims that a common point is that “Bioware owes the fans a different ending because they were very invested in the story”, is just…I dunno, cringe-worthy? I mean, sure, there are idiots out there who might actually make this argument, but to present this as a major point in your criticism Bob, are you serious? This “you owe me” is a marginal opinion at best, Bob, and you’re presenting it with a multiple of different versions as if it’s one of the most common complaints. You disingenuousness is amazing.
Fans, by the large, do not want a better ending because Bioware owes it to them. They want a better ending because they love the franchise so much, they do not want it to see go down in flames due to how bad it ended. And yes, Bob, it is that bad comparatively. It is not at all weird that it’s the most passionate fans that are feeling most burnt by the “conclusion” (hah!), while the impassionate critics who haven’t even bothered to play the game to completion, like you, Bob, sit on the sidelines taking potshots at the fringe opinions and painting everyone with the same brush.
The reason why fans want Bioware to change the ending is because it ruined the universe, and it ruined the story they were telling about Shepard. The former is ruined, both literally (which I cannot expound upon without spoilers) and in the meta sense as it was so counter to everything they had on the lore until now, that it retroactively went back and wiped whole parts of canon. The latter is ruined because Shepard’s story didn’t matter. At all. But alas, We can’t expect a self-professed critic to know what they’re criticising first…
The outrage is here because most people are angry that 1. Their personal Shepard story didn’t matter and was completely out-of-character. 2. They are so disgusted by it, that they will never be able to enjoy either any new ME content in this canon, or even the previous content they were enjoying until now.
“The medium will never be taken seriously as long as you’re all so entitled”
And here Bob, you spew the largest load of garbage I’ve ever seen.
You claim that the medium will never be taken seriously when the audience is so passionate about the story, that they cannot accept the canon that has been given to them?Hey Bob, remember Arthur Conan Doyle? I guess Books are not taken seriously by “the broader culture” now?
And this proves that we do not take games seriously, how exactly? What kind of argument is this, Bob? Where does it stand? You claim that if ME wants to get the same “serious analysis” as Movies and Books, we need to accept the same limitation? This is absolute nonsense of the worst degree. First of all, no, Bob, fans have not been claiming that Video Games are similar to Movies and Books, they have simply been claiming that video games are a form of art. To claim from there that they are similar and should have the same limitation, is equivocating, Bob. It would be akin that Movies should be judged by the “broader culture” in the same way that painting are!
In what world is this a compelling argument? Video Games are art, but they are a different form of art in which case interactivity can very well take part. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t and “it cannot be done” or “you won’t be taken seriously” is not an argument. In fact, Mass Effect is the perfect sample that what you say is absolute nonsense. Had the ending not been so atrociously bad it would have been one of the first samples of games as interactive art that would have been both immensely successful and taken seriously by “the broader culture”.
This is another reason why many people are criticising the ending on the basis of being bad art, because it destroys this perfect opportunity. I am not so much dismayed by the lack of choice in the ending. I am dismayed because the lack of choice destroys such possibility for the video game medium as a whole (which cheapens the medium). I am dismayed that professional critics like you Bob, feel the need to throw in your two cents on an issue you have not bothered to understand, therefore proving that video game critics actually suck (which cheapens the medium). I am dismayed that all the professional reviewers of the game praised it without even finishing it and then turned around and snubbed their noses at those who actually know what they are talking about (which cheapens the medium). I am dismayed that it takes an outsider with no conflict of interest in the game’s success to point out hypocrisy in the detractors of the critics (which cheapens the medium).
This is what is not making the “broader culture not take the medium seriously”. It is cultural dinosaurs like you, Bob, who need to shape everything into their own preconception of “serious art” before you accept it. Where in the age of unprecedented capacity for criticism and constructive feedback, you have to ask everyone to “sit down,shut up, and let the professionals handle it.”
“Entitled fans” has become the keyword of the moment, and is being thrown around by every established entity in the reviewing industry and their peripheral “serious critics”. It feels like we’re being likened to the “unwashed masses” flinging shit at the ivory towers of the enlightened few who feel their precious art is being dragged down by our lowly opinions. It stinks of elitism and snobbery and I am glad that slowly more and more people are picking up that there’s no reason to rely on the self-proclaimed “professionals” with established conflicts of interest or critics with outdated cultural assumptions, rather than our own opinions.
I find a future in which the audience of a game/book/movie can reach the ear of the creator directly, to be a far brighter one, than one in which we passively consume and hope some critic is lucky enough to have an effect.
- Althought I fail to see how they couldn’t even address these within a text-only epilogue [↩]