Sensible Debate: Everyone Upset about Mass Effect 3 is Stupid

by Randall Cleveland

If you're not a gamer, you probably haven't heard and have zero craps to give about the "uproar" over Mass Effect 3, a highly-anticipated and now hotly-debated release from Bioware. People more heavily invested in the argument could go on ad nauseum about the implications and complications of the matter, but the gist of it is a bunch of people don't like the way the game ended and are pissed to the point where one horribly misguided fool is launching a lawsuit against Bioware has filed a complaint with the FTC and several people are mulling a lawsuit for...making a product they didn't like? Aside from the obvious need to seize the license of whatever lawyer was evil enough to convince him that case is worth making, do gamers have a right to take to the courts when they don't like the way their games end?

135/365: ... my job
"I was so distressed by the narrative incoherence of Ugg's motivation and backstory that I will never play another Q*Bert game again."


I know, I know; it's the year of the protest. Everyone's looking for their own cause to rally behind and rock the establishment, and gamers are a notoriously fanatical and easily-angered lot in particular, but this ain't the Arab Spring, guys. You bought a product. The product did what it promised. You didn't like the ending. In a logical world, your next thought would be, "Huh. I guess I won't buy any more of these Mass Effect games, since I didn't enjoy them as much as I'd hoped." MAYBE if you're really offended you'd swear off Bioware offerings. But no, let's start petitions and lawsuits. To take up some sort of indignant rage because someone dared to make something that didn't entertain you beyond your wildest dreams is the epitome of self-entitlement.

Day 325

"I roleplayed my hippo as anorexic, and Milton Bradley is telling me there's NO WAY to win the game that way!?"

And now that Bioware is already backpedaling, claiming they're "open" to "changing the ending," the situation can only get worse. I'm sure the team developing a new ending under the staunch guidelines of "MAKE IT SO AWESOME THAT NO ONE CAN BE OFFENDED BY IT AND EVERYONE LOVES IT" will come up with something super awesome. That's why focus groups always make everything great, right? People turn out their best work when motivated by an enraged, spiteful audience who accused them of being hucksters just for taking the time to create something. And no, I'm not so naive to think poor lil' Bioware made Mass Effect 3 as a labor of love and released it into the world for no financial motives at all like their own precious child and are now weeping as people tear it limb from limb. But people DID create that game. People worked hard on it. Some people probably DID love it, and poured their hearts into it. And people who create things need constructive criticism to get better at creating. "THIS ENDING WAS DUMB SO I'M SUING YOU" is not constructive. It's disheartening and, if your end result is another, fun to play Mass Effect game, it's hurting your cause.

Ugly Girls!

"What if I don't want lettuce on my Burger Time burger? Welp, guess I'm just trapped! The sandbox is beyond broken."

"But Randall," you say, "we were promised innovation! We were promised choices that really affect the storyline and alter the outcome, providing endless hours of replayability and enjoyment!" Why do you want that, exactly? So you can make Commander Shepard a man or a woman. You can fall in love with a man or a woman. In fact, Commander Shepard exists as a transparent, hollow vessel for the player to project themselves onto. Do you know what writers call that kind of character?


Strong, enjoyable characters are characters you IDENTIFY with, not empty husks you inhabit for an hour or two. Traits you admire, respect, or are fascinated by engage you to follow things further. Giving me the option of a positive, negative, or sarcastic response to every NPC dialogue option is just lazy and repetitive. I'm not denying some people enjoy games like this, and I've played plenty of Fallout and Skyrim and the like, but having the option to say "Of course I'll help you!" or "BURN IN HELL HAHAHA!" isn't awe-inspiring freedom. It's basically the same option we've had since Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic billed itself as a big morality play on the original Xbox. A couple of good or bad choices that don't do much more than offer window dressing, and one big choice at the end that determines which actual ending you get.

I'd much rather play a game with a linear but riveting storyline that keeps me engaged and my disbelief firmly suspended than spend hundreds of hours selecting sarcastic retorts just to see that some poor intern took the time to come up with annoyed dialogue scripts for every alien NPC in the galaxy. I don't care if my character is a man or a woman, gay or straight, human or alien so long as they're interesting. If I'm supposed to be a super soldier saving the planet from intergalactic war, fine. Paint the tableau. Explain to me how high the stakes are, drop me into the action, and let me get to savin'. Don't tell me the fate of the world can wait 45 minutes while I try to make a pass at my shipmate or change the color of my hair. And don't tell me those add replayability. All those add are button-pressing and box-checking for obssessive compulsive "completionist" types.

"The ATM display shows significantly less money than I'd like to have. I'm suing!"

You are not the first person to buy something and be disappointed by it. If the product is defective somehow and doesn't do what it's supposed to (and by that I mean "did it work in your console?" "were you able to actually play the game?" and not "were you as engrossed as you'd hoped to be?"), you have a valid complaint. If you happen to not like the ending, move on with your life and decide whether you want to spend money on stuff like it in the future based on your experience. Unless you're going to start going full bore with it. I didn't particularly like Catcher in the Rye; I demand the Salinger estate give me a new final chapter to my liking! I was led to believe the Princess would be in THIS castle! Where's my new, free, DLC ending?! Tetris doesn't even HAVE an ending! It just speeds up into a singularity! This completely ignores a gamer's needs and wants from a title!

And if you're REALLY that upset by the ending, if you really can't bear with the thought that your particular Commander Shepard didn't get the closure you were hoping for, here's a tip: just pretend something else happened. It will be just as real as the ending Bioware gave you, which is to say completely fictional.

This is an issue you'd think would be near and dear to my heart, but I say this as an overweight, long-haired, bearded video game player: get over yourselves, guys.





Flickr photos (in order) 135/365: ... my job by Mr. Thomas, Day 325 by Robbie Biller, Ugly Girls! by Lana_aka_BADGRL, and ewww by Gregg O'Connell used under a Creative Commons License.