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Let Art Be Art: Why BioWare Shouldn't Change The Ending Of Mass Effect 3

Posted on Monday, March 19 @ 10:30:00 PST by Alex_Osborn

Are video games art? When dealing with any creative work, the response to that question is bound to result in a wide array of responses, but considering the fact that you are reading this (and to avoid a long-winded discussion that hinges primarily on semantics), I'm going to assume that you would agree with me in saying that video games are indeed creative works that deserve to be classified as such. So where am I going with this? I'm glad you asked! Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you are undoubtedly aware of the fact that 1) Mass Effect 3 launched last week and 2) a lot of people abhor the ending.


For those of you who haven't gotten around to finishing the game yet, I'm going to reserve the second half of this article for spoiler-y content; so don't worry, I'll keep things general until the warning. That said, I absolutely loved the part when Shepard kills - HA! Got you there. In all seriousness, I must say, I really enjoyed Mass Effect 3 from beginning to end, as should be the case, considering the fact that I awarded the game a 10/10 in my review for PlayStation LifeStyle. Now before I go any further, let me clarify; while I stand by my score of the game, I do not believe that the experience is without some minor flaws, even in terms of the game's endingshocker, I know. But as a single unified experience, I found the game to stand toe-to-toe with some of the best in the business.


Now, to address the ending (don't worry, no spoilers yet). I have to admit, I was pretty shocked to see all of the negative feedback that was spewing from the keyboards of angry fans. I wasn't at all disappointed with how BioWare decided to wrap up the trilogy because I knew in the back of my mind that what they had attempted was incredibly hard to pull off. As such, the disappointment from fans can undoubtedly be attributed to the extreme level of hype that this game has fallen victim to.

I'll confess, I was super excited to play the game, but because I am a bit of a cynic, I was able to keep my expectations in check and enjoy BioWare's artistic vision for what it was. Notice I said artistic vision, harkening back to what I said earlier about video games being justly classified as creative works. Mass Effect 3 is a work of art and BioWare is the artist. Call me crazy, but shouldn't we let the work of the artist speak for itself? Do we really have any right as a consumer to demand that the artist provide us with a different ending because we are unsatisfied with how it panned out? If your answers to these questions aren't "yes" and "no" respectively, we've got a problem.


When it comes right down to it, we as gamers are in no position to demand anything from the developer. You're upset because you poured over 50 hours into shaping your character throughout the course of the series and don't like the way it turned out? Too bad! How do you think the development team feels, having dedicated the last five some-odd years of their lives into crafting this universe, only to have angry fans hurl insults at them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for voicing your opinion, but just remember to show a little class and common courtesy, and more importantly know your place. Gaming is a hobby and a luxury. We as gamers aren't owed anything by the developer or publisher. BioWare possess the creative control behind the Mass Effect universe, so who are we to tell them how they should wrap up the trilogy? And what about those of us who actually liked the way things wrapped up? Are your opinions somehow more valid than those who were satisfied with the conclusion? Yeah, I know I'm throwing a lot of questions at you and I pray that most of them come across as rhetorical, but I hope they are bringing to light the absurdity behind some of the extreme actions of displeased fans. A petition... really? Has the gaming community really sunken this low?

All right, in an effort to bring my slightly offensive - and incredibly opinionated - tirade to a screeching halt, let's delve into some story specifics, as I share with you why I believe BioWare's trilogy capper served up a fine ending that doesn't require alterations.


Warning, you are now entering SPOILER territory. If you haven't finished the gameor for some completely preposterous reason don't plan on playing the game at alland want to spoil it for yourself, by all means read away. Just don't come crying to me when you've ruined one of the most fantastic gaming experiences of this generation for yourself. Scared to proceed? Yeah, I thought so.



Now the game's ending itself has a handful of different interpretations, as a number of various theories have surfaced on the web. For the sake of time and my cramping fingers, we'll focus on the "Indoctrination Theory" as this is the one that I believe holds the most weight. Remember that helpless little boy from the beginning of the game? I sure do, and man did that annoying little child's played out death rub me the wrong way, as I feared that this was a futile attempt by BioWare to pull on my heart strings.

However, when it came time to actually finish the job against the Reapers at the conclusion of the game, everything fell into place. Before Shepard activates the Catalyst to bring down the Reapers, the Commander passes out and finds him/herself face-to-face with a ghostly form of that boy who died. The theory states that this entire sequence is actually going on inside of the Commander's head as he/she works to fight against Harbinger's attempts to gain control of his/her mind. As such, some go so far to say that the kid isn't actually real, but instead a tool of the Reapers from the outset to play on Shepard's emotions, which I found to be a cool way for BioWare to rectify including this stupid child in the first place.

This play on Shepard's emotions is then taken one step further, during the final decision where the Commander is faced with making a decision between controlling the Reapers or wiping out all synthetic life. Consequently, the blue (Paragon) option is the former, while the red (Renegade) option is the latter, as the decision is actually flipped in an effort to trick you into submitting to the Reapers because it is the "right choice". Once again this reinforces the fact that this is actually an internal struggle going on in the mind of Shepard as the Reapers attempt to trick him/her into falling under their spell.


Confused yet? 


I chose to destroy the Reapers, which according to this theory, only means that I managed to resist the Harbinger's indoctrination. If I had had gone down the other path, I would have succumb to the Reapers and they would have proceeded to wipe out all life in the galaxy. I love that BioWare didn't actually spell everything out at the end, leaving so much room for speculation and controversy. Sure, they could have included another cutscene or additional gameplay that depicts what happens after the mind battle, but I believe that by not having everything clear cut and completely explained, we are left with a much more satisfying ending that is open to interpretation.


Will we see future DLC down the road that possibly clarifies exactly what transpired? Possibly. But I'm totally content with the way they left things. Some gamers are upset that the various endings aren't all that different from one another, but I would argue that because it is left so wide open for interpretation, there are in a sense an infinite number of ways for the story to end. Face it, we all have our own unique relationship with our Shepard; how could you expect BioWare to wrap up a game that takes everyone's character into account without keeping things ambiguous?


If you are mature enough to realize that Mass Effect 3 wasn't made specifically to cater to your wishes, you should be able to enjoy the ending for what it is, an expertly crafted conclusion that has gone on to spur a massive discussion within the gaming community. The way I look at it, if BioWare didn't piss off some of the gaming public, then they probably failed in what they set out to do. In fact, I commend BioWare for ruffling a few feathers with the ending. They crafted a universe that is emotionally engaging and one that fosters discussion unlike any other in the industry. BioWare, mission accomplished.

Related Games:   Mass Effect 3

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