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Old 03-31-2012, 06:56 PM   #1
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Arrow The Perspective Corner: Mass Effect 3 and Episode V

RandomRob, here. You know, this business with Mass Effect 3 has had me thinking about alot of things related to media, social politics, electronic validation, etc...

But mostly I'm envious. Envious of the consumer power on display! At a time when videogame publishers are getting record budgets and bending over backwards to please a pretty unique and eclectic fanbase, complaints about products are being heard and responded to in a way that I'm not sure has ever happened in this country. It's wonderful and awful. Wonderful that communication works, awful that storytelling is not being honored more.

The fact is no-one's rights have been violated by believing the hype machine that tells us our choices matter at the end of a game. Caveat Emptor. When have they NOT advertised this nonsense and in any case when have we cared?

It's a fact that the more endings you add to a game, the more you violate a story's integrity, and water down the player's involvement with their character.

(BTW- sequels suck. More on that later)

So ME3 had a down ending. To me, it was obvious from mission 1 of game 1. Eden Prime is destroyed. Eden Prime is this super important colony world that's decimated. The name Eden foreshadows biblical level disaster coming. Which it does, in the form of space locusts who will eat everything in the universe. One lone prophet must warn humanity, etc. Who thought this would end happily? You're on a spaceship with mercenaries and mad bombers and genocidal scientists and you're surprised it's not a happy ending?


If you didn't see the ending of Mass Effect 3 coming, all I can say is you should read more stories and see more classic films, because that's part of the agreement between audience and storyteller. As an audience, it's your DUTY to consume all kinds of fiction, so you can better pick up on the clues the storyteller is dropping all over the place. The more kinds of fiction you consume, the more kinds you can appreciate.

The storyteller's end of the agreement is to tell the best story they CAN. It's not part of the agreement for the storyteller to provide happy endings on demand, though. Good writing should speak to the human condition.

The ending of ME3 does. War sucks. Sacrifice sucks. Losing friends sucks. The Universe is going to be eaten by Dark Energy Monsters. Those are things that bear repeating in fiction, in conversation, wherever...

Frankly, I'm surprised no-one I've read has noticed the obvious parallel to the ending of Star Trek: Voyager. Mass Effect relays, Transwarp conduits... anyway, that's another article. I need to make a point.

Let's talk Star Wars.

I was 10 when Star Wars opened in theaters. Without going into an essay about how it changed geek culture forever, I'll simply say, it changed my imagination. It was an astonishingly ripe, fertile piece of cinema that fed my boyhood fantasies for years to come.

Then the Empire Strikes Back came out. I went to see it on a cold rainy afternoon by myself. When I exited the theater after it ended, I waited in the rain for the bus and felt betrayed. The way all the story tropes and scope of the first film got shoe-horned into this seriously boring father-son story just reduced the whole universe of the first film to it's most tedious elements. Worse, a hellacious cliffhanger that wouldn't resolve for another 3 years. I was 12.

3 years is forever when you're 12.

I felt really alone, too. Everybody LOVED the Empire Strikes Back. I couldn't even talk about it with anyone. And it didn't end. It wasn't until I played KOTOR years later that I felt like someone had understood those boyhood fantasies and indulged them. And that's a long, long time to wait for validation.

But as I get older I see it very clearly. What I loved about Star Wars was it's potential. That first viewing was burned into my brain, how it made me feel was burned into my heart. That's what I remembered later that I couldn't get back from the other films. How it made me feel.

I'd be willing to bet that alot of people who played the first Mass Effect felt the same thing. That the scope and intrigue of that universe in that first game made them feel something that the sequels didn't.

But the difference is you Mass Effect fans are NOT alone. You are, in fact, legion. And the game companies are listening.

But I worry that if Bioware bends to this fan judgment and lightens up the ending of ME3, it will set a TERRIBLE precedent. Not just for how games get made, but for writing, and the expectations put on writers. Which are already pretty brutal.

I'm sorry Mass Effect 3 has bummed so many people out. Look at it this way, at least you didn't have to ride home in the rain in 1980 and not have anyone to talk to for 20 years about how you didn't like the Empire Strikes Back.

There's that.

Last edited by RandomRob; 03-31-2012 at 07:00 PM.
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