Never Satisfied

“Maybe you’re just like my mother,” a great man once sang, “she’s never satisfied.” It is a truth universally acknowledged that gamers, like the fictional mother of The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, find satisfaction an elusive prize. Ours is a subculture plagued, if not defined, by complaining. There is always something missing from our experiences, some intangible omitted element that, if the designers had only had the sense to include it, would have alchemized the game from lead into gold. Complaining is so ingrained in us that opening an article by complaining about complaining is a viable tactic.

Alright, I’m kidding. But only a little.

Few things have put me in mind of Prince’s figurative progenitor as much as the recent controversy over Mass Effect 3’s ending. The issue — which mutated from Minor Kerfuffle into Full Boondoggle in record time — revolves around a petition created by dissatisfied fans asking developer BioWare to patch in alternative closing sequences. “Whereas,” the petition begins in deepest sincerity, the ending fails on at least four different levels, the petitioners “respectfully request” that additional closing sequences be added to the game. Instead of signatures, the petition asks supporters to make a donation to Child’s Play, the charity founded by Penny Arcade.

I haven’t played Mass Effect 3, much less finished it. For all I know the final cutscene could feature Commander Shepard forgoing saving the galaxy to open her own pancake restaurant. But regardless of the ending’s narrative consistency or emotional impact, there’s a key misunderstanding happening here: This ain’t our story. By demanding the creators change it to suit our preferences, we’re breaking an unstated contract. Not between designer and player, but between magician and audience.

Video games are magic acts in any number of ways, but mostly because they create illusions. Narrative-heavy games like BioWare’s are vehicles for fantasy, for immersing ourselves in other worlds. But they also fool us into thinking their stories are our stories, that we players are in control of our experience. We’re not. We’re merely choosing from options presented to us. The results of those choices — a poignant cutscene, a new mission opportunity — can be rewarding in and of themselves. But just as rewarding is the process of choosing, of engaging in the fantasy not that we are intergalactic heroes, but that we are actually authors of our own story. It's the same feeling we get when a magician convinces us, if only for a second, that by saying Abracadabra we really did make our card disappear. The illusion of agency can be just as exciting as the illusion of magic.

The greatest trick game designers ever pulled is convincing the player they didn’t exist, some might say. But marketing plays a role as well. In the case of BioWare, design and marketing are aligned in a way that’s more effective than in perhaps any other major studio. Fans truly feel ownership of their experiences, despite the games being story-focused, transparently authored products. This speaks to the superb quality of the authorship, but also to a design ethic and marketing strategy that work together effectively to further the illusion of player authority, of being in control. "Our choices matter," the design and the marketing tell us. And because of the complexity and elegance of their interaction design and the depth of their fiction, BioWare can pull it off. They are, in other words, excellent magicians. Brian Taylor’s brilliant analysis links this trend to fan culture and speculates why BioWare fans feel so comfortable petitioning for a new ending and filing false advertising complaints with the Better Business Bureau:

BioWare games exploit these participatory aspects of fan culture in their game design. The company knows that fans like to ask ‘what if?’, to maneuver characters into romantic relationships, and so they build in the options. They appear responsive to the desires of their fans and so it’s not really surprising that rather than use older forms of remixing like fan fiction [...] the fans go to the company itself. Maybe it’s a desire for validation, or some kind of misguided creative impulse.

And this is where the unspoken contract is violated. When you go to a magic show, you understand that you will see a series of illusions, that your senses and your mind will be fooled, and you’re content to plunk down your money for the pleasure of being tricked. If you're lucky, the magician may call you up to the stage as a volunteer, having you enact some minor portion of a trick — usually to distract you and the audience from the real action. This is what narrative-focused video games do: They give you a few moments on stage with the magician, a brief span in the spotlight. But you, the audience participant, aren't the one in control of the performance. So you play along. You don't demand the lovely assistant be sawed in thirds instead of halves, because you are not the one performing the trick.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t subject games to thoughtful critique. As a reviewer, I obviously find a lot of value in that process. If we don’t demand more from games, they won’t get better. If we think something sucks, it can be worthwhile to talk about why it sucks, about how we think it could be improved. But players are not creators, and consumers are not designers. We do not have ultimate say over what the game includes or does not include, despite the convincing responsiveness of corporate social media and the panacea of the almighty patch.

Some argue otherwise, that because games are more malleable than other media, consumers should be encouraged to have a more “participatory” relationship with creators. But applying that logic to a series like Mass Effect, which is decidedly not a playground for collaborative storytelling like Sleep is Death, seems misguided. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how a story-driven game works, miscasting creative choices as bugs to be fixed. Of course, viewed through a more cynical lens, you can imagine the DLC Alternate Ending taking off as the next monetization trend.

Money, it turns out, is central to this controversy. According to their website, the ME3 petitioners have raised more than $78,000 as of press time for Child’s Play since March 13, an absolutely astounding total that could help a lot of sick children. Yet as a Gamer whose Job is With a charity, I’m conflicted about this. Funding is desperately needed in the nonprofit sector, and as long as it comes from legal sources, it’s hard to turn down money. But linking the petition to charity has the effect of diluting the petition's message. If the petitioners felt they were in the right in the first place, why bother with the charitable campaign? On some level, the creators of the petition had to realize they’d come under fire for their “request” to BioWare, so they couched it in philanthropy. They also must have realized how petty their request would seem, so they latched on to charitable giving to lend it an air of respectability. Their “win-win” argument — join together to fix this video game AND help some sick kids! — encourages people to support their position without resorting to too much critical thought. Nevermind the actual charity itself or the mission it pursues. You can feel satisfied knowing your outrage is going to a good cause. Giving to charity to insulate yourself from criticism is a time-honored tactic of the terminally disingenuous. One hopes that's not the case here.

Yet clearly, BioWare believes in the petitioners' sincerity. In a supremely ironic twist, I had to change the ending of this article after yesterday's announcement from BioWare's Dr. Ray Muzyka that ME3 developers are now working on "game content initiatives" which, if they aren't new endings, will at least "provide more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey." I don't even want to begin to parse Dr. Ray's statement or speculate about what BioWare's reaction to this controversy signifies. There have already been arguments on both sides, some calling it a blatant cash grab and some calling it a new standard for studio responsiveness. My gut feeling is that no matter what this new content ends up being, a good number of the petitioners still won't be satisfied. Eventually, they'll realize they'll never be — until they're the magicians on stage pulling rabbits out of hats.

Comments

TheHipGamer wrote:

Creation and absence are not the same thing. You are not harmed by something that you don't wish to see, and can ignore; the guy who can't experience a story because it doesn't exist is suffering from a privation.

You are not suffering an absence. There is an ending to ME3, but you don't like it. The privation you're suffering from is the lack of an ending that you want.

I'm sorry if you think I'm telling you not to talk about something you want to see. You're more than welcome to want to see whatever you want. Bioware just doesn't have to and (in my opinion shouldn't) care about what the fans want to see if they want to have any legitimacy as content creators. If they want the focus of their company to be to create entertainment that the greatest number of fans will like then they should change their ending. If they want to be a company that creates media and content that has artistic integrity then they should not change their ending. Either company is perfectly valid. I'm just a fan of one more than the other.

That all ignores the fact that some feel that their DLC practices lack integrity, but that's not a conversation that's covered by this thread.

I think what sets people off in this particular case is that BioWare pitched the meaningfulness of your choices as a hook to spend your money on, and invest your time in, not only one, but three games.

Then, they find that, at the conclusion of this three-game arc, your choices make essentially no impact on how the story ends, flying right in the face of what BioWare was happy to pitch you in order to get your $60 x 3.

I think demanding BioWare change things is over the top. But fans are absolutely valid in feeling like they've been let down. Possibly they should express that feeling by not buying the next game BioWare tries to sell them.

*Legion* wrote:

I think what sets people off in this particular case is that BioWare pitched the meaningfulness of your choices as a hook to spend your money on, and invest your time in, not only one, but three games.

Then, they find that, at the conclusion of this three-game arc, your choices make essentially no impact on how the story ends, flying right in the face of what BioWare was happy to pitch you in order to get your $60 x 3.

I think demanding BioWare change things is over the top. But fans are absolutely valid in feeling like they've been let down. Possibly they should express that feeling by not buying the next game BioWare tries to sell them.

I think the problem is thinking that the ending is the only valid part of the game. Your choices most certainly affect the way that all kinds of things play out in the ending part of the trilogy, they just don't have a tremendous impact on the final, biggest thing. After your final decision your choices in past games will still affect how the galaxy builds itself back up.

TheWanderer wrote:

Your whiny requests for change are delicious food to him and his kind.

Whiny.

Getting just a little sick of the insulting that keeps taking place here.

cosmonaut.zero wrote:
Scratched wrote:
Gravey wrote:

It seems to me that this problem, and so many of video games' problems, is that the loudest consumers are an immature bunch. Are they predominantly young, maybe still high school aged and don't have a critical education yet? Or don't have a very big sphere of things to worry about it yet, so slights in their hobby are magnified to Terrible Injustices? Are they impatient, or maybe just selfish?

Stereotype much?

Not really. The loudest ones tend to be immature, because immaturity lends itself more easily to loud proclamations.

The loudest ones tend to be those that have observed the fact that on the internet, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Make no noise, get no change, suffer silently, and you just suffer.

EA/Bioware sold a game based on promises. Consumers that paid for a product that turned out to not live up to those promises should just shut their mouths and suffer silently, and let EA/Bioware walk off with the cash? Its pretty clear that lots of people don't agree with that, all the insults tossed in their direction not withstanding.

LtWarhound wrote:

EA/Bioware sold a game based on promises. Consumers that paid for a product that turned out to not live up to those promises should just shut their mouths and suffer silently, and let EA/Bioware walk off with the cash? Its pretty clear that lots of people don't agree with that, all the insults tossed in their direction not withstanding.

Walk off with the cash is precisely what they are going to do regardless, as there's absolutely no legal case to be made here. Best case scenario is Bioware makes an alternate ending as DLC and charges for it, walking off with even more cash. The only change you are going to make with this outcry rewards Bioware. So, um, good job I guess..?

Can someone point me to the explicit promise(s) that bioware offered? I am curious how this argument is being constructed. Truly, I am curious.

I don't recall being promised that the ending of ME3 would satisfy everyone, and that the agency I was afforded throughout the games would result in unique, satisfying endings. Merely that I would be allowed to make important decisions in the world and see the effects of those decisions.

I honestly don't see how you get from A to B (that you have agency with consequences to you now owe us a new ending).

Also, fwiw, I think the word promise has some issues inherent in its use or interpretation that lend to a lot of this disagreement.

LtWarhound wrote:

EA/Bioware sold a game based on promises. Consumers that paid for a product that turned out to not live up to those promises should just shut their mouths and suffer silently, and let EA/Bioware walk off with the cash? Its pretty clear that lots of people don't agree with that, all the insults tossed in their direction not withstanding.

I have played a lot of bad games and have seen a lot of bad movies. Not once did I ever think that I deserved to be compensated for not enjoying myself or that the creators need to go back to the drawing board and make something I approve of.

If we were talking about severe bugs blocking people from being able to play the game, I would be on-board. That is a defective product. ME3 may be a bad game, but it works as designed. It is unfortunate that some fans did not like the ending, but tough sh*t. When you buy a game you are buying the right to play the game. It is not some contract that guarantees the user a fun or satisfying game play experience. Sure, marketers will claim it is the best game ever, which it isn't, but if you take that sort of hype to heart, then you have bigger problems than the ending of ME3.

The only thing I am truly pissed about is Bioware not coming to the defense of their development and creative teams. They should not be placating the angry consumers with ambiguous promises. They should be standing behind their game and employees, because the vast majority of people who bought it actually like the game.

I guess I am just coming from a totally different place. I don't think there is any reason to claim entitlement to something different, and I agree that the way the message is being communicated stinks. However, I DO think that a fan base has the right to say, "we dislike your creative decisions, and would pay for more options in regards to them".

Bowing out of the thread.

The point of the charity is just to put your money where your mouth is. How much do we not like the ending? 80,000$ worth of not liking it. For me at least it's not about hiding sinister intentions behind a charity or anything like that. It's a peaceful protest, that's all.

TheHipGamer wrote:

I guess I am just coming from a totally different place. I don't think there is any reason to claim entitlement to something different, and I agree that the way the message is being communicated stinks. However, I DO think that a fan base has the right to say, "we dislike your creative decisions, and would pay for more options in regards to them".

Bowing out of the thread.

I don't feel that anyone is disputing the right for people to say anything like that. Maybe I am misunderstanding everyone. Which is entirely possible.

ElCapitanBSC wrote:

I think the problem is thinking that the ending is the only valid part of the game. Your choices most certainly affect the way that all kinds of things play out in the ending part of the trilogy, they just don't have a tremendous impact on the final, biggest thing. After your final decision your choices in past games will still affect how the galaxy builds itself back up.

This is the part I don't understand. If you take the "ending" to be that last 5 hours and not the final decision within the last 3 minutes of the game, then the choices you have made in all 3 games makes a difference to what you experience in numerous ways.

TheHipGamer wrote:

I guess I am just coming from a totally different place. I don't think there is any reason to claim entitlement to something different, and I agree that the way the message is being communicated stinks. However, I DO think that a fan base has the right to say, "we dislike your creative decisions, and would pay for more options in regards to them".

I agree, but that isn't quite what's happening here. There are some fans who are saying that they'd like to see DLC that clarifies the ending, and there are some fans who are saying that the ending just isn't very good and they're unhappy about that. I don't think anyone's suggesting that it's not okay to tell BioWare that you didn't like the ending to their game.

What this article and many of the comments have been addressing are the people who are doing things like signing an online petition to demand that BioWare change the ending (note the difference between saying they would like the option and demanding that BioWare make the option available to them), or are accusing BioWare of somehow deceiving them because a developer said months ago that there would be more than three endings to the game or because the commercials said your choices would matter.

Like I said earlier, I don't think anyone is saying that you don't have a right to dislike the ending. There are some who don't understand why the ending is so reviled, and there are some who don't understand how anyone could like the ending at all. But what's absurd are the online petitions, the filings with the FTC, and the claims that consumers were lied to because they aren't happy with the product they bought.

Edit: Mini-modding.

Excellent writing JP, and you've expressed much of my thoughts as a casual observer than I could have ever done.

That said, I think this is an important discussion to be having as it's a question of the possibility for the medium, but my perception is that there doesn't seem much of a discussion going on and more of a temper tantrum. Or did all the discussion over altering endings with a patch happen when Valve extended the Portal ending as the kickoff for the Portal 2 announcement?

trichy wrote:

Perfectly said.

Agreed.

But I don't believe that anyone has the right to force them into changes that they don't agree with. We would be livid if EA announced that they were putting pressure financially on Bioware to change the ending to fit what they, as a publisher, want. But here we are, howling for Bioware to change the ending to fit what we, as fans, want.

This is a thought I was trying to hit in Colleen's article when I invoked the issue of Lucas' tinkering with Star Wars. Where does the line get drawn? What's different about fans wanting to change the ME3 ending and the infamous "Han shot first" scene?

Malor wrote:

Compare that with, say, Chrono Trigger, which gave you you thirteen different endings, eighteen years ago, in just four megabytes of ROM.

This is a little disingenuous since the majority of those alternate endings were gag endings. A better comparison would be Ogre Battle where the ending was determined by what characters you recruited (or didn't) and your character's final alignment. And that was 19 years ago (almost to the date).

HedgeWizard wrote:

I despise the tactic of attaching Child's Play to it to, because it smacks of disingenuous plotting. How can you be against helping sick kids? If we do something tangential but with much greater moral authority, how can you possibly ignore us?

Is it just me or does this reek of a warped form of hostage taking?

Last thought: I can't possibly be the only one who started hearing Final Countdown in their head during the magician analogy.

I have a few things I want to say.
First of all, I don't understand or like all the condescension going around. If you have a well formed argument you don't need insults. Similarly, Elysium: you're supposedly not reading this, but what you said amounts to "I'm so insulted by your opinion that I'm not even going to argue with you", like we're a bunch of foul mouthed racists or something. You don't need to participate in the discussion, but you also don't need to insult the people who choose to participate.

On to the actual topic.
I don't see why story has to be considered more sacred and untouchable than any other part of the game. Is story the only thing in a game that qualifies as art? Isn't the point of artistic expression in games to involve the gameplay in what you want to convey? Gameplay, which is constantly tweaked in a collaborative process between game maker and game player. People are scared of the idea of an ever changing game like TF2, so I can see why people would be even more scared of changes to a narrative, but that doesn't mean it's inherently wrong.

Of course no one has the right to demand any changes, but there's a difference between demanding and requesting. If BioWare came out and said "this is ending represents our vision and we stand by it" then I'm convinced that most of the people requesting a new ending would accept their statement.

There's also one scenario that I'd like to entertain. What if the ending doesn't represent BioWare's vision because they ran out of time and had to rush the game out. What if the complaints give them the resources they need to actually realize their creative vision? If that were to happen, was complaining really wrong?

Coldstream wrote:

Or people could, you know, calm down and remember that ME3 is just a freakin' video game, and get on with their lives. Anyone getting red-faced angry over a video game ending needs to take a long, hard look at their life priorities, in my opinion.

I have no qualms with people taking games seriously. In fact, I encourage it. I don't like preferences turning into value judgments, though. Worse still is when preferences become demands.

kyrieee wrote:

On to the actual topic.
I don't see why story has to be considered more sacred and untouchable than any other part of the game. Is story the only thing in a game that qualifies as art? Isn't the point of artistic expression in games to involve the gameplay in what you want to convey? Gameplay, which is constantly tweaked in a collaborative process between game maker and game player. People are scared of the idea of an ever changing game like TF2, so I can see why people would be even more scared of changes to a narrative, but that doesn't mean it's inherently wrong.

Of course no one has the right to demand any changes, but there's a difference between demanding and requesting. If BioWare came out and said "this is ending represents our vision and we stand by it" then I'm convinced that most of the people requesting a new ending would accept their statement.

+1

I don't read the disappointed fans asking for a new ending as a demand, seeing as they're not in a position of power. They realistically can't demand anything and giving money to charity isn't really harming anyone. This article uses quotes around "respectfully request" but it seems to me that the white first word in that phrase might be questioned, the second is simply the truth.

And really, that's what confuses me about all the people going on about entitlement and authorial power; no one's putting a gun to anyone's head here. Neither Bioware nor EA are in a situation where fans are withholding money or threatening the business if they don't get what they're asking for. If Bioware doesn't want to make a new ending they won't and that's the end of this story. If they do make a new ending, that's their decision as the creators of the game. So why are people getting worked up about fans asking for some DLC?

bnpederson wrote:

I don't read the disappointed fans asking for a new ending as a demand, seeing as they're not in a position of power. They realistically can't demand anything and giving money to charity isn't really harming anyone. This article uses quotes around "respectfully request" but it seems to me that the white first word in that phrase might be questioned, the second is simply the truth.

I think it's been discussed in the comments already, but there are certainly many folks who are merely expressing a preference. But then there are also some who don't put things in such urbane terms.

I don't really understand the discussion here, are we just judging people for behaving a certain way and slinging insults at them?

To me a "demand" on a forum or petition is just a poor form of a criticism but it's never actually a demand. In this specific case, Bioware can just ask "or else what?" to which each person can choose not to purchase further products. That's really it. It's the same response to a denied request.

No one can actually force a developer to change anything unless they took some kind of weird criminal action. There can be 20 million unique posts asking for a change but those 20 million people actually have no power. Game development is not a democracy.

It is Bioware's game and Bioware will decide what to do. If Bioware wants to change the ending, that's Bioware's call. If Bioware wants to leave it as is, that's Bioware's call. To me this is about Bioware and the direction they want to take as developers. I don't understand why the games media and so many people are concentrating on the people "demanding" as I view them as inconsequential.

I've witnessed these "demands" take place on Blizzard forums all the time. Never have the players and critics ever forcibly made Blizzard change anything, it's always been Blizzards call. Do people think developers are weak minded and incapable of deciding what to do with their creations?

I guess I don't understand why these "demands" are so offensive to some people but it seems offensive enough to generalize, sling insults and questioning peoples livelihood.

I will admit, the "demands" are annoying so I'll say, "Yeah I guess people demanding something is kind of annoying" but that's not really much of a discussion to me. Dumping on someone isn't interesting to me. Telling someone to behave the way I want them to behave isn't either.

kyrieee wrote:

I have a few things I want to say.
First of all, I don't understand or like all the condescension going around. If you have a well formed argument you don't need insults. Similarly, Elysium: you're supposedly not reading this, but what you said amounts to "I'm so insulted by your opinion that I'm not even going to argue with you", like we're a bunch of foul mouthed racists or something. You don't need to participate in the discussion, but you also don't need to insult the people who choose to participate.

Either his post has been severely edited, or we got very different sentiments from his reply to the topic.

kyrieee wrote:

There's also one scenario that I'd like to entertain. What if the ending doesn't represent BioWare's vision because they ran out of time and had to rush the game out. What if the complaints give them the resources they need to actually realize their creative vision? If that were to happen, was complaining really wrong?

That's the Lucas argument, right? He didn't have the resources of the time to make the movies how he wanted so now he's changing them to be how he wants them to be (Han shooting second, CG Jabba, etc.).

This isn't Misery yet. In fact, how many examples can people think of for people 'forcing' someone to change their creation? I can't remember anyone ever walking into a developer with a weapon yelling "Fix that ending or you'll be sorry!".

Just for the sake of reference, I'm going to paste in the "about" section and the actual petition from the Retake Mass Effect website.

I should note that there is also a Facebook group called Demand A Better Ending To Mass Effect 3 but, since Facebook is blocked at work, I can't actually confirm if this Facebook group is associated with Retake Mass Effect or not. But, given how much of this discussion pivots on whether anybody's truly "demanding" anything here, I think it's worth a mention.

Anyway, here's the content from retakemasseffect.com:

retakemasseffect.com wrote:

The Retake Mass Effect - Child's Play donation drive is a community driven effort to bring positive attention to our petition for an alternate ending to the fantastic Mass Effect series. The Child's Play charity was chosen as a charity started by gamers to provide video games for the patients at Children's Hospitals all over the world.

We would like to dispel the perception that we are angry or entitled. We simply wish to express our hope that there could be a different direction for a series we have all grown to love.

retakemasseffect.com wrote:

THE PETITION

We, the undersigned, respectfully request the consideration of the following petition.

Whereas:

* Mass Effect is an interactive video game providing a detailed framework within which the player may create a unique story

* A major concept of the Mass Effect games is that your choices significantly affect the outcome of the story

* Another major concept of the Mass Effect games is success in the face of seemingly impossible odds

We believe:

* That it is the right of the writers and developers of the Mass Effect series to end that series however they see fit

However, we also believe that the currently available endings to the series:

* Do not provide the wide range of possible outcomes that we have come to expect from a Mass Effect game

* Do not provide a sense of succeeding against impossible odds

* Do not provide a sense of closure with regard to the universe and characters we have become attached to

* Do not provide an explanation of events up to the ending which maintains consistency with the overall story

We therefore respectfully request additional endings be added to the game which provide:

* A more complete explanation of the story events

* An explaination of the outcome of the decisions made, especially with regard to the planets, races, and companions detailed throughout the series

* A heroic ending which provides a better sense of accomplishment

To this end, we donate to the "Retake Mass Effect 3" Child's Play Charity drive in lieu of our signature to this petition, in order to establish our sincerity, our love for these games, and for the Mass Effect universe.

We thank you for your consideration.

OzymandiasAV wrote:

I should note that there is also a Facebook group called Demand A Better Ending To Mass Effect 3 but, since Facebook is blocked at work, I can't actually confirm if this Facebook group is associated with Retake Mass Effect or not.

51,512 likes thus far.

The English language is a funny thing. Much like there's differences between free as in freedom and free as in beer, so demand can have different meanings.

Here's a link to what demand means since we're getting into this.

I would put the Facebook group "Demand A Better Ending" and others in the second definition of demand, "to ask for peremptorily or urgently". They're certainly asking urgently for a new ending, but they're still asking for a new ending. They have no authority and there's no consequence if their demand isn't met.

Yet much of the rhetoric against these "demands" seem, to me, akin to the calls not to pay ransoms or appease terrorism. Which, given how I'm viewing the various petitions and groups, seem absurd. They're certainly a bit too strident in their request, but it's no worse than similar groups against World of Warcraft bringing down the power of Rogues or Warlocks.

TheHipGamer wrote:

Hedge, I make no bones about seeing most people as being selfish jerks, and thus acting that way online. My point is simply that while they are communicating it terribly, the alternative is not to shut up and not engage in dialog.

I'd argue that it probably is the right alternative. The notion that this achieved an emotional level beyond disappointment is kind of sad.

I sincerely think that Retake ME is going to get exactly what they want - multiple endings. I'm less certain about whether they're going to like it, or how much EA will ask for it.

story wrote:

I haven’t played Mass Effect 3, much less finished it.

I haven't seen the last two Matrix movies or the Star Wars prequels but I'm going to complain about people who have and who say they are bad.

story wrote:

But regardless of the ending’s narrative consistency or emotional impact, there’s a key misunderstanding happening here: This ain’t our story. By demanding the creators change it to suit our preferences, we’re breaking an unstated contract. Not between designer and player, but between magician and audience.

See, I think this is a problem. Particularly with games.

With any media where you have a long running story the fans will become involved in the story if they enjoy it. If this happens with your story you should be happy because it means you can spend your days doing what you like and having people give you money for it. It's a good thing.

In the case of games, particularly where the creator gives over part of the story to the players then they DO become part of the story driving mechanic. I think this is a fundamental part in telling a great story in a games which is different from other media. Disregarding it means you will limit your potential as a story teller

kuddles wrote:
ElCapitanBSC wrote:

I think the problem is thinking that the ending is the only valid part of the game....

This is the part I don't understand. If you take the "ending" to be that last 5 hours and not the final decision within the last 3 minutes of the game, then the choices you have made in all 3 games makes a difference to what you experience in numerous ways.

I can understand part of this argument. But what it really means is that the 3rd game is the 3rd act of the entire story. And towards the final part of ME3 the climax of the game and the series are pretty much happening at the same time. You can't say that the entirety of ME3 is the resolution of the grand story because the player hasn't had a climax yet. And that is not how stories work. (This is discussed in the Musings of a screen-writer article.) Mass effect may be a good story (besides the ending) but it's not a beautiful and unique snowflake that can break against hundreds or thousands of year of story telling technique without causing dissonance in how the story is experienced.

Someone at Ars Technica linked to an interesting Ted Talk about experience and memory which pertains to this as well. Basically it's about how a bad ending can ruin the entire experience for someone. And this is not just something that is imagined by those people, it's just how the brain seems to work.

But I'm happy for you if the ending of ME3 didn't sour you on the game because I sure wish the same was true for me.

Hast wrote:

I can understand part of this argument. But what it really means is that the 3rd game is the 3rd act of the entire story. And towards the final part of ME3 the climax of the game and the series are pretty much happening at the same time. You can't say that the entirety of ME3 is the resolution of the grand story because the player hasn't had a climax yet. And that is not how stories work. (This is discussed in the Musings of a screen-writer article.) Mass effect may be a good story (besides the ending) but it's not a beautiful and unique snowflake that can break against hundreds or thousands of year of story telling technique without causing dissonance in how the story is experienced.

Someone at Ars Technica linked to an interesting Ted Talk about experience and memory which pertains to this as well. Basically it's about how a bad ending can ruin the entire experience for someone. And this is not just something that is imagined by those people, it's just how the brain seems to work.

But I'm happy for you if the ending of ME3 didn't sour you on the game because I sure wish the same was true for me. :-(

Maybe I'm being too zen or hippie or something, but I think that the collective obsession with the end and endings of things is to our detriment. Instead of seeing a TED talk about bad endings ruining things for most people, my first instinct is to try and not be like most people and experience a work as a whole instead of allowing it to be marred by the last 10 minutes of a 40 hour game (10/2400 * 100% = 0.42% of the experience to put it in perspective).

That's a big part of why I'm so cavalier about ME3's ending. It's a tiny part of the rest of my experience with the game. That's a flawed argument, I know, since it's the last thing that most of us experience about the game's narrative and it has pretty definitive things to say about "what happens next" in a fictional world, but I ultimately had loads of fun throughout the experience and that's more important to me.

BNice wrote:

I don't understand why the games media and so many people are concentrating on the people "demanding" as I view them as inconsequential.

I think it's because they have been indoctrinated. I know I would look for a ghostly red space-squid apparition in my closet before I went to bed were I to attend a Bioware event in the future.

Edit: And for the record some media channels have been critical of the ending. At least on the Giant bomb and Weekend confirmed podcasts. Personally I think this is a good discussion to have and I hope good things will come out of it. I look forward to see what the people over at Extra credits have to say about it because they are often very insightful about both the game making process but also about how games really work (at a structural level).