If you will excuse the diversion, I thought I'd add my comments to the discussion about this game and particularly the furore about it’s ending. there may be light spoilers, but I will try to speak more generally than that,
Obviously, there haven't been any posts for a while. this is because of Mass effect 3. those of you who read these blog will know I teach game design, particularly as it pertains to game art 2D and 3D, and as a fan of the previous Mass Effect Games, I had to play this, the last instalment.
In my opinion it’s an absolute masterpiece of a game, and of a game series.
But yes, there has been a virtual internet riot over the ending, and I’d like to offer a few thoughts on that. My experience of playing this game is that the whole game is denouement, exceptionally plotted denouement. decisions are made, consequences deeply felt, and the narrative rolls on.
One of the main criticisms I hear is that your decisions were of little consequence.. well that’s a fault of the game’s success I am afraid. Each title in the mass effect series is a linear narrative. sure you make choices but the choices are always about HOEW something goes down, not what actually happens, but the ME series does this so9 well.. especially for a one-play through gamer that the illusion of massive, universe altering change is perfect. it’s not unless you are like me and play the games several times, making different choices that you see that all the choices are only for a given value of Shepard.
that is to say you are allowed to rail around and act within the parameters of a linear story and within the boundaries of a characters extreme possible reactions. many people playing this haven't realised that. and so for there to be an end. a single end to the narrative, without much variation, then that’s understandably disappointing.
There’s another thing at play here too, and that’s a wide user base not being used to some of the curve balls truly epic sci-fi can throw you. I consume a lot of this stuff, so I expect the odd “star Child” ending. for many this will be their first encounter with such, but me, hey I was there when the hand of god descended in that Stephen king book, I’ve watched angels appear in Galactica and winced when the advanced AI’s showed up in.. well in AI.
My point? That if Games are to grow up as a genre, we need to accept more that esoteric narrative has a place here. further, and the really really instrumentally odd thing – we have to accept the author’s narrative.
The feeling of audience entitlement, to demand that a product be changed because they don't like what happened, is phenomenal. we’re talking “Misery” level of fan obsession here, but on a unified scale not often seen.
Sure there are examples of society railing against such things, Arthur Conan-Doyle's famous resurrection of Holmes by popular demand chief among them, but should this be creation by consensus, or should authors be allowed to stretch the boundaries of creative game making without fear that the mob will turn on the, pitchforks and brands in hand?
My worry is that this pressure to deliver the expected, to play safe is already huge in the industry, not least of which because of the sums of money involved, and without studios feeling that they can be brave and push at boundaries, and sure, make mistakes sometimes, disappoint people sometimes, then we will never grow as a genre.
That makes me sad.
So for those reasons, and because it’s truly a stunningly crafted game and more a game series with a story arc spanning three titles and six years, I’m a fan of the author’s intentions.
I’ve finished the game a few times over now, so normal hobby content service should begin to be resumed :)