Thursday, 19 April 2012

Mass Effect 3


250px-ME3coverIf 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.

Mass-Effect-N7-Wallpaper-1200x800If you read this far, and you aren’t one of my students, then I applaud you, and thank you for your patience during this interlude.

I’ve finished the game a few times over now, so normal hobby content service should begin to be resumed :)


  1. THANK YOU. I'm glad I'm not the only one who wasn't driven to nerdrage by the ending and actually liked the entire story arc.

  2. I'm also one who after almost my 2nd time through (taking a long time mainly due to damned multi-player being so fun!) can still think of this game as one of the best and most polished games I've played in a decade.

    Appreciate your articulate piece, it pretty much echoes my own mind on this.

  3. Great post! While I didn't play any of the ME games and also don't know anything about the ending of ME 3 (apart from the outrage it obviously caused among the fanbase), I have one very firm opinion on this whole mess: No author or artist should ever be bullied into changing the outcome of a story just because the audience doesn't like it or would prefer something different. In my opinion, that would be the end of artistic integrity right there.

    It's kind of sad that this point really has to be debated in the first place. I can understand people are emotionally invested into the setting and everything, but come on! ;-)

  4. Wow, thanks for the comments guys, seriously. I was expecting a whole slew of "take back Mass Effect" proponents to be jumping all up and down me :)

    Dai, I hear you on the multiplayer front, my N7 might only be 180, but that's becuase I don't promote unless theres a commendation pack in it :)

    I agree Kraut, totally. some of our greatest works of fiction are ones without a "happy ending" Steinbeck's "of mice and men" anyone? or how about "on the Beach" by Nevile Shute. not to mention all the times Stephen King doesnt let us off the hook. granted thats mostly early works or short fiction but still :)

    Some of the works I most treasure are ones where I was challenged and didnt get what I wanted from the author.

  5. Agreed. Although I suppose it's always a matter of how the artist pulls it off. If someone is just ending everything with Armageddon to screw with the audience's expectations and abuse their emotional connection with the setting, that's admittedly a pretty lame thing to do. But even then, it's, for better or worse, what the artist wanted.

    I like a happy ending as much as the next guy, but I sometimes feel that *really* happy endings tend to get all syrupy and overly sweet, and then I feel belittled as a person, as if the authors were just pandering to my needs instead of taking me seriously. Does that make any sense?

    Anyway, the artist should be in charge, regardless if there's a happy ending or not. And often enough, the not-happy or bittersweet endings seem less satisfying at first but really grow on you over time because it feels like they are more of an intellectual challenge. And if you don't like that, well, you can always get into writing yourself ;-) Oh, and there's always fanfiction, of course ;-)

  6. Always prefer narrative games to FPS. And the narrative takes one where the author intends, shit bust.

    I know who wins Devos IV; you have to play the games. That's how it is.


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