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Mass Effect 3's ending controversy: What do other game writers think?

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The discussion over Mass Effect 3's divisive ending has elicited responses from the game's vocal lead, the entertainment press, our own Dave H ("The Mass Effect 3 ending: Why it is vital to the future health of games that BioWare not change it") and, of course, more than a few players themselves. Now PC Gamer has brought together a panel of those with arguably the biggest stake in the matter: fellow games writers. Bringing between them credits on AAA fare, indie hits and even Hollywood movies, the panel were asked: What do game writers and designers think about BioWare changing the Mass Effect 3 ending?

“There’s great value in thinking about the story of a game as a collaboration between the player and the developers,” points out BioShock 2 writer Steve Gaynor. However, he continues, the mindset driving the ME3 protest is “not unique to games; it is unique to a certain type of entertainment media that attracts fans who feel entitled to dictate exactly how the product should bend to their desires, instead of standing as a unique experience to be enjoyed, or not, on its own merits.”

“It bothers the hell out of me,” agrees longtime games journalist and Book of Eli writer Gary Whitta: “I’ve always felt that games like Mass Effect are all about living with the consequences of your choices, no matter what they may be, and I think BioWare should do the same thing here and stick with their original choice, trust their original creative instinct.”

LucasArts veteran Chuck Jordan frames the debate in terms of one of gaming's most persistent discussions: “Considering how much time people have spent trying to advance the idea that video games are works of art, it’s disappointing to see so many people defending the idea that games are product... Art is supposed to be an expression of creativity. If you’re invalidating your team’s ‘vision’ to appeal to the demands of players, then you’ve crossed the line.”

However, not all panelists bristle at the idea of Bioware re-doing the game's script. “I think developers are well within their right to make positive changes to games post-release, and in the vast majority of cases this is seen by players as a good thing,” points out Supergiant's Greg Kasavin. “This type of thing does happen sometimes... Fallout 3 got patched so that you could continue playing post-release. Many movies, including classics like Blade Runner, got director’s cuts with major narrative changes said to reflect the true authorial intent. Whether it’s appropriate is a judgment call.”

“It’s their story, they can do what they want,” argues Carnegie Mellon Professor of Entertainment Technology Jesse Schell: “This could be an awesome publicity stunt, designed to get people to talk about and pay more attention to the game.” A worthwhile consideration, considering we're talking about a game that already went into space just to win a chunk of your coveted mindshare...

The full unedited discussion make great food-for-thought for anyone interested in the issues raised by this ongoing saga. Check it out, then come back and tell us if it's changed your own thinking any.

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91 comments

  • andrew-hirst - March 27, 2012 10:43 a.m.

    I tackle the "games are art so they shouldn't be changed if the audience hate it" argument in this post, should you fancy a read: http://cognitionetc.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/mass-effect-3s-ending-the-betrayal-of-fans-and-artistic-integrity/
  • august-hahn - March 26, 2012 9:55 p.m.

    Maybe this article should have been titled: "Mass Effect 3's ending controversy: What do people who are obviously just going to defend the sanctity of their own profession think?" This wasn't thought-provoking. It was a little sad.
  • Chappy87 - March 26, 2012 1:46 p.m.

    Predictably, there are so many people using the "children/tantrum" insults, but surely everyone should be in agreement that at the very least the ending should make SENSE? Even if you don't agree with Bioware changing or creating a new end, surely you can't grudge something that explains the frankly baffling plot holes?
  • closer2192 - March 26, 2012 11:34 a.m.

    And thus did the greatest shitstorm of our time begin.
  • Gorgonn - March 26, 2012 9:29 a.m.

    Its a real experience reading these boards...some argue for the sake of arguing, some I believe are puppets of the industry trying unsuccessfully to discredit the protest voiced by the gaming consumer and some like myself are stunned that a game like mass effect would shoot itself in the foot in the last fifteen minutes of the game. Im intrigued with the notion of preserving artistic integrity, but its the artistic integrity of the last 15 mins that has me and others so upset with the ending. Someone or something caused them to quote unquote drop the ball. And the only thing that makes sense is they where rushed to finish the ending leaving them (bioware) upset with the final product. So if it is EAs fault this MAJORITY of WHINERS has a duty to help bioware remain in control of their ARTIST INTEGRITY. Yup.., I rarely ever post but after finishing ME3 I logged in to see if anyone else felt the same way I did. Needless to say it feels good to know that my feeling are most definitely a part of the majority. Cheers.
  • brazmanoqk - May 1, 2012 9:18 a.m.

    Good argument but I couldn't help but note that when you're writing you really don't have to put "quote unquote".
  • FriendlyFire - March 25, 2012 7:58 p.m.

    My only question, from seeing the vast response to "but games should be art!" is this: does this mean that an artist can never fuck up? That even the most terrible, most putrid hackjob, if coming from some entity we call "artist", is still art and thus inherently perfect? Because this is the discourse I'm seeing: people arguing that since we apparently all want games to be art, we should accept bad work as just the artist expressing him or herself and not express our displeasure. And you know very well that this is all going to end up about money. Bioware is currently attempting to judge whether the outcry has been sufficient to impact sales of future products; if it has not, then they will not do a darn thing about the ending. If it has, then you'll see a mea culpa soon enough. Saying games are art doesn't mean that games suddenly exist in a vacuum. Perhaps you should look at the other media we call "art" before abstracting the definition of the word.
  • Archfiend - March 25, 2012 4:21 p.m.

    3 endings? you mean 1 ending with 3 different color of explosions?
  • lilj805 - March 25, 2012 8:31 a.m.

    LOL HOLY SH1T! I can't believe kids are crying over the ending of a game first of all. Second, grow some balls and move on to the next game, better yet go socialize with the female gender instead of "protesting" A VIDEO GAME
  • reverandglass - March 25, 2012 11:12 a.m.

    Agreed. People are acting like it's the first time a game has ever had an ending they didn't like. I wanted Drake to get with Chloe not Elena but I didn't cry into my keyboard and it didn't stop me buying Uncharted 3 either!
  • MayorOfAmerica - March 25, 2012 7:58 p.m.

    You just scared a whole bunch of them buy using the phrase "socialize with the female gender" :-P
  • lilj805 - March 30, 2012 2:02 p.m.

    I know lol, look how offended they are, that one kid had to change his pic to him and his sister, i mean girlfriend
  • DecoyOctorok - March 25, 2012 8:53 p.m.

    XD
  • yonderTheGreat - March 25, 2012 10:27 p.m.

    And now I'm going to have to apologize to all of my female gamer friends because, sadly, you're typical of the tiny minds of many gamers. Way to keep it classy and relevant... idiot.
  • Darkhartx1 - March 26, 2012 10:02 a.m.

    A fire, die in one.
  • Chappy87 - March 26, 2012 1:58 p.m.

    Wow. You come across as an intelligent person...
  • amagasakiseb - March 25, 2012 6:21 a.m.

    Not criticising art is the reason that people can get away with more or less shitting on a piece of paper, labelling it as "art" and then selling it for £5000. But this is not a question of art is it. People defending Bioware/EA, at least in this string of comments, have just come up with obscure counter arguments that don't make any sense. If they promised 16 different endings but only delivered 3 then they don't have any excuse. If you allow them to get away with just "patching it" with DLC then it will set a dangerous precedent of companies releasing games with shit endings specifically designed to cause an uproar and demand for DLC. But you know what? It's everybody's fault for believing they would deliver on such a claptrap promise in the first place.
  • MayorOfAmerica - March 25, 2012 7:56 p.m.

    So let me get this straight. All this hate and the one star ratings are because instead of 16 endings you got 3? That's it? And I thought Shepard has a reaper baby by the amount of rage coming towards Bioware.
  • litaljohn - March 25, 2012 1:16 a.m.

    I honestly, don't see the entire argument about this. For one we act as though this ending was the "true ending" always envisioned. It's not, we all remember the story months back when MS failed and fell on its face releasing the closed for lack of a better term "beta" gamefile. From that we found out the actual plot and ending had to do with a fight against "dark energy" go on again and we see from reading the final hours app that near the end the plan was to have sheperd fully under reaper control, but complications and flow issues forced the team to go another way yet again. we are, at best, looking at a third vision of the end of mass effect. feel free to leave that artistic integrity argument at the door then if you are saying that is the reason to not change the current end of the series. it is trying to defend an altered ending as a reason to not alter an ending..... doesnt make much sense. I will be the first to say people take this way to seriously and the "demanding" a change is over the top and foolish. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with stating that people hated it. Just as one can say who are we to force a developer to conform to what we want rather than the artistic expression they want to share, who are we to not allow the developers to change if that is what they choose and want to do. I know so many fans of Star Wars hate Lucas and his many tweaks to the original trilogy but it is his movie, and he has every right to express his work as he sees fit. we don't have to like if they are making an altered ending, and we don't have to like it if they chose not to change anything, either way its not our decision. we can go back and forth and create a million reasons why we think the end should or should not be changed and in every instance we are wrong, because the only reason that matters is what the developers feel should or should not be done.
  • DecoyOctorok - March 25, 2012 8:55 p.m.

    The main problem that fans have is that Bioware took the lazy writers way out. A lot of Lost fans know what I mean.

Showing 1-20 of 91 comments

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