So, people are upset about Mass Effect 3’s ending. And I mean really upset. Yeah, I know, “Thanks for noticing, idiot! It’s only been going on for a month now.” Good point, but there’s been a lot to talk about on the subject, so shut up and let me ramble. OK? OK.
Mass Effect fans (or perhaps former fans in some cases, because we all know one upsetting entry retroactively destroys an entire series) were understandably miffed about the ending of Mass Effect 3, which is, let’s face it, pretty stupid. There is a fan theory that makes things a whole lot more interesting and a whole lot less stupid, but you can read up on that elsewhere. What we’re talking about here is the taken-at-face-value ending. I've had some strong words to say on the subject myself, but I've decided to take a more analytical look at the issue than I had on previous occasions.
So, let’s talk spoilers.
Fighting through Reaper forces, Shepard arrives on the Citadel to activate an ancient super-weapon that will, hopefully, send the Lovecraftian cuttlefish straight to hell. The commander’s best-laid plans soon go awry, as they’re wont to do, and s/he encounters a being known as the Catalyst. The Catalyst explains that it wipes out sentient organics every 50 millennia or so in order to prevent sentient organics from being wiped out. (Makes sense, right?) Furthermore, Shepard must pick one of three color-coded space magics to eliminate the Reaper threat in one of three basically identical ways.
So, people got a tad irritated at a game that’d already received negative press for its day-one DLC and inclusion of the dreaded homosexuals. Following this latest kerfuffle, the “Retake Mass Effect” movement exploded across the Web. Thousands of fans expressed their disappointment and outright hatred for the ending in a variety of ways, but there's one you’ve probably heard of: A massive ChipIn fund (aimed at Child’s Play), which raised a staggering $80,000 in about 10 days. “Retake Mass Effect” had a simple, solid idea that did real good for a lot of people, though the fund stopped taking donations in the wake of some confusion.
But the reasonable folks were fewer in number, and this was part of the problem. Even if the fans were right and the ending was terrible, the most vocal people were decidedly unreasonable, prone to flaming on forums and sending hate mail to those who dared defend the ending—or BioWare itself, in many cases. It was a mess. Complaints were filed to the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau (though in fairness, a BBB blogger agreed with the claim and made her point very well) and the rage train kept a-rollin’ for both proponents and opponents. Forum debates across the Web resulted in condescending remarks and petty insults.
And then, of course, there was the recent Consumerist poll, which ended with Electronic Arts being voted the worst company in America, over companies like Bank of America, one of the major contributors to the recession—not to mention getting it jollies from attempting to illegally foreclose on homes. It’s “just a silly Internet poll,” yes, but the lack of perspective on display was nothing short of baffling. There’s no doubt that EA is a bad company—terrible, even—but a change of phrase might not be such a bad idea. “Most hated,” as suggested by Forbes contributor Erik Kain, would be more appropriate.
BioWare had by then eased up on its defense of Mass Effect 3’s ending and announced “extended cut” DLC for this summer. The reaction was mixed, understandably so. Some were upset that BioWare had “sold out” to its detractors. Others were satisfied that it had listened to their feedback. But many fans wanted a completely new ending, and BioWare has no intention of removing the current ending. Although BioWare, as the artist, is entitled to alter or maintain its intellectual property, fans were skeptical when BioWare announced that the ending would be “clarified,” rather than altered. This fiasco isn’t likely to go away, but it’ll be damned interesting to see what happens in the coming months.
Where the extended cut will take Mass Effect 3 remains to be seen, but this does set an important precedent. Fans now know that developers are listening, and that they will cave if pressured enough. This has already done a lot of good for the industry, depending on where you stand, and it stands to do a lot more if fans decide to focus on content other than story. One thing's certain: Now publishers should be on their best behavior.
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