Mass Effect 3: The Right to Complain

(Spoilers for Bioshock, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Mass Effect 3 within)

Okay, last post on ME3 for a while (its starting to get on even my nerves…), but there’s something that really does need to be addressed.

One of the major components of the ME3 hubbub is that there’s a strong sentiment that the people complaining about the ending are, to put it bluntly, entitled fanboys demanding that Bioware change the game that they made to suit the opinions of a vocal minority.

Well, questions on how much of a minority the Displeased are aside, this brings up a valid concern: Wouldn’t changing the ending compromise Bioware’s artistic vision? Shouldn’t they stay true to their artistic vision?

Yes. But.

Spending your own hard-earned money on something means that you’re allowed to judge a work of art on its measures of quality and entertainment value, and that’s the root of the complaints here.

I realize that I’m differing from big names like Ken Levine on this, but I still stand by it. If you pay money for something, you are absolutely entitled to voice your feedback and tell the makers that they did a horrible job. There might be some standards of decency and politeness that you should be mindful of, but if someone’s artistic vision cannot stand up to scrutiny? Then maybe there was something wrong with it in the first place. Artistic Vision does not mean “Its okay if it sucks”.

All over the internet there are thoughtful, reasoned responses to why, on a substantive level, the ending to Mass Effect 3 is not satisfying and not appropriate with the rest of the ending (AngryJoe’s 20 minute video is one excellent examination of the problems).

It’s been stated by Bioware that, at the end of a long running series, they wanted there to be a lot of speculation about what happened after the end of it all. I can respect that they have that concept, but I feel it should be contested. Ending a series where answering the big questions of your actions with a speculation-heavy non-sequitor?

Because, at the end of the day? Someone’s grand artistic vision can simply be bad. Neverwinter Nights 2 ended with, quite literally, rocks fall, everybody dies, pretty much the worst way you can end a game. Its so bad that a lot of people think its self-parody! Bioshock, Ken Levine’s baby, killed off a fascinating, iconic character in the most impressive way possible, but went on for another hour or so with a replacement villain that ended up just chewing the scenery and being a boring monster in the end. No one forced him or demanded that he change the ending to Bioshock, yes, but then again no one was attacking his detractors for saying that the game ended poorly.

So, yes. Bioware changing the ending to Mass Effect 3 because of fan feedback may compromise their artistic integrity. It depends on how they do that, really, as simply removing the Normandy fleeing and adding a 1-year-later epilogue would address many of the complaints without giving a purely happy ending. But isn’t is also important to know why the ending didn’t work? Isn’t it important to acknowledge when someone’s artistic vision ends up hurting their quality of their work?

In the end, isn’t it important to take that feedback, so you can make it better the next time around, and maybe end your masterpiece in a way that will keep it timeless?

Of course, there’s the obvious caveat: No one should force Bioware to change the ending. While I can imagine that EA has the legal ability to force them to change the ending, even they shouldn’t. We’ve had bad endings in video games before and the world has kept spinning. But nor should Bioware refuse to do so.

That said, I still hope they do. The ending that was given to their masterpiece was based off of a bizarre, nonsensical premise, that players would be happy for an ambiguous ending, as opposed to one that gives them closure. If that premise were stripped out? I would love to see how the whole thing turns out.


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  1. #1 by Jerome on March 21, 2012 - 9:48 AM

    I’m going to be very straight about this: the ending I was expecting for ME3 was along the same lines as ME2, so a sequence of boss fights and high spectacle, except that at the end, with some difficulty you’d have saved most of your crew, killed The Illusive Man, liberated the Earth and either destroyed or semi-permanently driven off the Reaper, gotten some closure about why the Cycles happen, and likely died right at the end.

    That would have been perfectly satisfactory, with an epilogue showing a happy and flourishing galactic civilisation rebuilding in lots of places.

    • #2 by wraithfighter on April 3, 2012 - 1:22 AM

      I didn’t really have an expectation for Mass Effect 3’s ending (aside, obviously, from “Good”). I rather knew that they weren’t going to be able to bring up everything that had come before, that there had to be some pragmatism involved…

      Yeah, I really don’t know. But I did expect an epilogue, something after the end of the story to wrap everything up. For all of ME3’s failings in the ending department, the biggest really was the lack of closure in the ending, and that’s what really hits home in the end.

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