Can of Worms (Discussion Leader)

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September 13, 2012 by jesseal

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The Mass Effect 3 ending people actually wanted?

Ok guys, so I hope you’re all ready to open a big ol’ can o’ worms. For Discussion Leader tomorrow, I will be talking about the Mass Effect 3 ending! This is for several reasons: It’s definitely one of the biggest recent stories in video games, there are clear ties to discussions we’ve been having in class, I know several of us want to have a relatively informed discussion about the ending, and the Mass Effect games are my favorite games of all time.

For serious.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series, the best way to quickly inform yourself of the basic mythology is (as usual) the Mass Effect series Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Effect). And to give you an idea of the facts of the particular controversy surrounding the ending, the section from the Mass Effect 3 Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Effect_3#Controversy).

As far as discussing the actual ending…this isn’t necessarily going to be easy. Those of us who have spent over 100 hours playing through all three Mass Effect games (Or if you’re like me and you’ve replayed them all the way through several times, significantly more time than that…probably closer to 250-300 hours?…I’m ashamed…) are going to have a very different perspective than those of us who have chosen to do better things with our lives (like helping find a cure for cancer). In order to try and convey to those of you who haven’t played the game just how much these games mean to people, rather than choose some stuffy academic or journalistic piece, I’ve chosen to focus on a YouTube video from Jeremy Jahns, a hilariously articulate video game reviewer (and clear Mass Effect fanboy), entitled “Mass Effect 3 Ending and Why We Hate It.”

First, especially if you haven’t played the game, I suggest you watch his review of Mass Effect 3 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af3v4cfDeJ0), as this will do a much better job of prefacing the ranting and raving present in the video we will be focusing on (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4H_A7SeawU4). Just a humorous aside: his review of the game is 5 minutes 59 seconds long, his “review” of the ending is 8 minutes 10 seconds. And for the record, I actually don’t mind the ending personally; I find it problematic in many ways, but I’ve never chugged the haterade myself.

Hopefully this all isn’t too much preparation for our discussion tomorrow, I’m just trying to get everybody as close to being on the same page as is possible without committing 100+ hours of your lives to this. Questions relating our discussion to what we’ve been reading will be posted in a separate post later today. Enjoy!

– Jesse

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One thought on “Can of Worms (Discussion Leader)

  1. Here are the discussion questions!

    1. As not only a AAA game, but an extremely large playable universe, Mass Effect 3 represented a huge undertaking by Bioware, involving a lot of time, manpower, and resources. Though Bioware was always planning on making additional downloadable content (DLC’s) for Mass Effect 3, they certainly weren’t expecting to have to change the very ending of their game. As a work of art, the idea of having to change the ending due to popular opinion seems like a clear violation of the boundaries of authorship, but as an industry product in which people invest a lot of time and money, this could be seen as a logical extension of simple market testing. Nonetheless, how does Mass Effect 3 as a case study represent a blurring of the boundaries within the video game industry, where consumers have ignored the steps traditionally taken between them and the game developer (publisher, distributor, retail)?

    2. The Mass Effect series utilizes a wide range of tools to suck the gamer in: the realistic gameplay of a first person shooter; the levels and items of an RPG; the alliances and team selection of a strategy game; and, perhaps most importantly, relationships and character development previously unheard of in a video game setting (the closest corollary I can think of is perhaps that of a soap opera or other long-running television/film epic). Somewhere in this process (which, like an opera or epic, bridged several different episodes), a connection that clearly surpasses the magic circle was created: gamers take real world ownership of the decisions made and relationships built, not to mention the sheer amount of real world time and effort spent on the game. What is it about this bleeding over of the game world into the real world that then, as Jeremy Jahns articulates, led to a sense of gamer entitlement, that they had “earned” the right to a better ending, that Bioware somehow “owed” them one?

    3. Jeremy Jahns describes the greatest problem of the Mass Effect 3 ending as one of “choice, or lack thereof.” In a sense, he’s absolutely right; the Mass Effect games are clearly predicated on the notion that the smallest of choices can lead to the largest of consequences, and were also marketed as such (this even led to lawsuits accusing Bioware of false advertisement). Why does this have to apply to the ending of the series in addition to the body? The series is (to make up a number) 95% the same as a whole – otherwise a cohesive narrative would be impossible – so why can’t the endings be 95% the same? The very aspects of the narrative that draw people in (in particular the ability to build relationships with characters and have their backstories fleshed out through gameplay) are often convergent narrative forces rather than divergent. What is it about a narrative arc, which starts at a point, separates into many different yet parallel threads, and then comes back to a single point in the end, that is perceived as so wrong and unfair here? Very few narratives, video game or otherwise, have the kind of ending that people seem to be grasping for here, and the same is true for games (unless you count different ways of dying/losing the game as different endings).

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