A FEW MORE WORDS ON THE COLUMN ABOUT THE ENDING OF MASS EFFECT 3

August 20, 2012

 

HULK WROTE HULK’S SMASHIEST COLUMN EVER THE OTHER WEEK. HULK BOTH WANTS TO ISSUE A MEA CULPA, BUT ALSO STAND BY SOME THINGS.

http://badassdigest.com/2012/08/17/film-crit-hulk-smash-a-few-more-words-on-the-column-about-the-ending-of-mas/

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26 Responses to “A FEW MORE WORDS ON THE COLUMN ABOUT THE ENDING OF MASS EFFECT 3”

  1. Rubi-kun said

    I think I might have an idea of why certain fandoms’ reactions can be so horribly extreme at times. I think it has to do with people’s feelings about childhood.

    If someone writes a bad review of The Master, at worst it might be taken as a challenge to someone’s taste at the moment or the hype of the past six months or so. You haven’t been waiting for this movie for 10, 15, 20 years. When people have been waiting a lifetime for a move, a bad review becomes an affront to their childhood.

    Think of how Armond White’s infamy rose. He’s been panning popular movies for years now, but what rose him up from a joke on Rotten Tomatoes to the center of national controversy was his review of Toy Story 3. A sequel to the childhood favorites of a certain generation of kids that was speaking to them directly about their childhood at a time they were entering the adult world. No wonder this was the movie that got people so defensive.

    Enough has been said Star Wars fans and their cries of George Lucas “raping their childhood.”

    Of course, Toy Story and Star Wars were mainstream hits from the start. Odds are that most of the kids who grew up loving those movies had parents who liked them too. Not so much with comic books. Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises aren’t only seen by their fans as reminders of their innocent childhood obsessions, but as validations of them and fuck yous to the adults who didn’t get it. So their not only defensive of their childhood, they’re being defensive of something they were already defensive of in childhood.

    At least comics in the ’80s and ’90s were starting to get some respect among hipper art and intellectual circles; if young comic fans didn’t have parents who respected their passion, there was at least some hope they’d have a cool older brother or cousin who did. Little such luck with video games. Before the Playstation era and even then not in full until the past decade, there basically were no adult gamers beyond the most nerdy of the nerds. For young gamers trying to defend themselves, it was basically them against the world. No wonder that mindset devolved into horrible black-and-white discourse among the less mature of those kids grown up.

  2. drayfish said

    I must say, I’m glad for the more inclusive response you offered in this follow up piece, Film Crit Hulk.

    Much as you yourself state, this would have been the far more productive way in which to first engage with this debate. It was a shame to see you sliding into the same bipolarity of argument that seems to have infected a majority of the voices in the media when it comes to this particular text – and this is certainly a far better place from which to engage in a genuine discussion of the game’s merits or failings.

    Personally, my interpretation of the narrative’s conclusion is still fundamentally divergent from yours, but at least now it does not sound like you are declaring those who disagree with you (such as myself) uncultured, entitled crybabies for thinking so. I appreciate it, but more so, I am heartened to hear you inviting discussion now (despite still suggesting that those who don’t embrace the specific ‘thematic’ poetry of rebirth you personally infer to be somehow deficient in their reading.)

    I’m sure many other respondents have said as much already, but I would encourage you not to automatically (misleadingly) align those-who-dislike-the-ending with those-who-just-don’t-want-Shepard-to-die. The majority of fans I have seen expressing dissatisfaction with the themes of the game are not hung up on having to bid farewell to Shepard – they’re not gnashing their teeth demanding a ‘happy-joy-blue-babies’ finale – they are reacting negatively to that conclusion for precisely the reason you responded so favorably. It is a symbol of life itself; and while you, happily, see poetry, they see perversion.

    See, I agree wholly with your assessment that Shepard’s action at the end of her life should be emblematic of the way in which she lived, that her decision here should embody what human beings hold most sacred – but for me, none of that seems to be encapsulated in those final three choices. In my reading, I resent Bioware for compelling Shepard to finally symbolise one of the three principle that have governed the Reapers, proving that they, the racist space bugs, were right all along: that mass slaughter, eugenics, or mind control are the only final choices in war to ‘preserve’ the best of humanity. Even choosing Synthesis – which superficially appears to evolve existence to a new state of enlightenment, only does so through a grotesque imposition upon all life, obliterating racial diversity and thereby stifling inclusivity. It celebrates intolerance of distinction rather than the strength of unity.

    But again, that’s just me (and some of the people I have engaged with in their readings). It’s by no means the definitive statement on the endings. I am truly glad that you were able to find grace and poetry in your reading; it is however just one reading amongst a biodiversity of interpretation. If you are interested in seeking out further discussion of the endings to explore more reasoned discussions of why some fans have reacted less favourably, I would encourage you to explore:

    http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/11435886/

    or:

    http://awtr.wikidot.com/

    Each of which is filled with intelligent, thoughtful, inclusive discussion by individuals who both passionately love the franchise, and are mindful of the thematic and artistic possibilities (and potential expressive issues) of videogames. I have been a part of each for months now, and I believe that the analysis – both for and against the endings – disproves your assertion that an intolerance is stifling artistic debate. The internet is not always the best breeding ground for considered, elegant analysis, but there are havens for such critique if you do not allow yourself to be derailed by the loudest voices.

  3. Flaskehals said

    I think the indoctrination theory makes sense. It’s explained in this Youtube-video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZOyeFvnhiI
    It says that if you picked the control or synthesis option which Hulk seemes to prefer, Shepard gets indoctrinated. :(

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      TO COUNTER: IT’S “LOGICAL” BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S RIGHT NECESSARILY. MOSTLY BECAUSE THE WRITERS SAID THEY HAD NO INTENTION OF THATAND THE DEATH IMAGERY MOSTLY USED AS THE JUSTIFICATION WAS MORE SYMBOLIC THAN LITERAL.

  4. tariray said

    Dear FilmCritHulk

    You are probably on the way to recovery from this whole er, ‘shamazzle'(?) regarding the ME3 ending and the aftermath and the aftermath of its aftermath.

    So I just wanted to send you a simple and polite thank you. .

    I personally got unabashedly, tear-blubberingly upset by the ending of Mass Effect 3. It was not the ending I wanted, but it was the ending I got, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything in the world. It was still beautiful, from the use of the quiet, mournful piano music superimposed onto the violence (I chose the red ending) of the final battle, to the somewhat quizzical scene of the battered Normandy that landed in that ‘eden’ planet.

    Thank you so much for your smashyness in reaction to what I considered to be a churlish and bratty attitude amongst a very small but very loud segment of the gaming community. It is easy to say that us gamers are not all like this, but you hardly see the better ones getting the attention, and thati s incredibly tragic.

    If someone was going to get angry and smashy, I am glad it was you. Because we need people in gaming culture and more broadly, in internet culture who can still wield words like green gamma-ray powered fists.
    Your words and articles fill me with joy. Sometimes I get teary eyed.
    Thank you for expressing what may not be my opinion, but what is still a beautiful, thoughful and justified one for your part.

    May your big fists continue to smash the everyday ‘noursdtupid’ness of the internet.

    A blown kiss to your adorably, big green forehead.
    T

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      SINCEREST OF THANKS AND KINDEST OF APPRECIATIONS AND RETURN. THANK YOU T, AND ALWAYS FEEL FREE TO DROP A LINE!

  5. Will said

    You know…I’m amazed this column hasn’t gotten more comments.

    Hulk, I’d like to share my story with this whole Mass Effect thing.

    First, I feel the need to be upfront about a few things. I haven’t played Mass Effect, any of the games, I have a ancient as all hell computer and I finally got an Xbox 360 after Mass Effect 3 came out and this whole controversy happened. But, I have heard from Shamus Young and the Opinionated Reviewer on their opinions on Mass Effect 1 and 2, and I actually was kind of interested in giving this ambitious trilogy a try. But curiousity got the better of me and I eventually watched Angry Joe’s video about the ending:

    So, here’s my stance on the ending. The ending is a rushed, empty mess and it really does wreck everything the . The “secret artistic meaning” in said ending didn’t “fly over everyone’s heads”, it just wasn’t there. It doesn’t say the things (any of the things from any of the interpretations I’ve seen) people have been claiming it does.

    Seriously, the “Indoctrination Theory” was a “beautiful, cerebral, arty” interpretation of what was going on screen by people who DIDN’T like the ending. People who thought that the ending made a whole bunch more sense IF YOU ASSUME IT WAS ALL IN SHEPARD’S HEAD.

    But I don’t hate anyone who disagrees with this viewpoint, you can like whatever you want. I’m just, like the people who made the indoctrination theory, trying to see a complete ending here, and I’m not getting it.

    And I’m personally of the opinion that this says more about the writers than this says about me.

    The ME fans have an ending written by people who simply didn’t care about the universe as much as they didn’t. That’s where they are coming from. They were immersed into a world that the writers stopped respecting. That hurts. It hurts to believe that. And it hurts me to have seen them feel betrayed like that.

    You can try to make me see the light, heck, I would LOVE a second opinion on this ending.

    Bioware could’ve stuck to its guns and not given the fans anything. But they WOULD have to come out and explain for themselves what the ending means. Not just call the ending “Bold” or “Stylistic” or “Bittersweet” and never actually explain what concepts they were exploring or

    This goes back to everyone imaging their own “artistic meaning” from the ending. The ME3 ending is a Rorschach test, just a big ball of chaos where people have to imagine order in a place where there is none.

    Or maybe some people get mad that the whole trilogy ends in toddler’s black finger paint picture and raise some money for children. That too.

    Of course, its worth noting that Bioware did hold their ground. They didn’t actually change their ending.

    The “Extended Cut” is just that. Extended. They didn’t rewrite the ending. Hologram boy is still in there. Joker “riding the shockwave” in an “awsumcool” exciting action scene is still in there. The crew crashing on an earth-like jungle planet is still in there. Two silhouettes on a snowy planet surface talking about the “Shepard” is still in there. I’m pretty sure the indefensible “Breathing Scene” is still in there.

    The only thing of substance they changed was that the Mass Relays only fall apart a little bit instead of exploding completely.

    In fact, the whole Mass Relays issue is something I’d like to talk about with someone.

    …I tried to talk to some people on the other side to get their perspective on things, in the hopes that my confusion might be dispelled.

    But when I tried to get MovieBob’s attention on his blog (under the Screen Name of “Xaos”) to explain mine, all I got was silence from Bob, abuse from those fans who agreed with him, and questions about “why I was even trying” from those who WERE on my side.

    So, still trying to play Peacemaker, Hulk?

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      ALWAYS TRYING TO PLAY PEACEMAKER… BUT LET’S GET ONE THING STRAIGHT… YOU DIDN’T PLAY THE GAMES?

      • Will said

        Sigh…I also haven’t seen half the movies that Nostalgia critic reviewed, although I’ve seen pretty much all of his reviews.

        In fact, I latch onto a lot of blogs, and read/watch everything they have to say, I don’t really worry about spoilers because….well…..I don’t have a big budget to spend on games. I always end up getting the newest console generation near the end of their era. I got a Wii the Christmas before last, and that was the first console of this generation I got.

        Mass Effect came to my knowledge via a smattering of sources like Shamus Young’s blog and Extra Credits mentioning one or two things about the games. They mentioned some things of interest, but didn’t really sell me on the game. They didn’t talk about the whole “Player Agency” bit. I kind of inferred that the Paragon-Renegade stuff was just a generic morality system like Fable and all the rest.

        Then, I watched Sfdebris.com’s (aka “The Opinionated Reviewer”) Mass Effect 2 review, which he did as a string of videos similar to how he does his movie reviews. He talked a lot about the characters in the events leading up to the Suicide Mission, culminating in how your decisions could get everyone killed or not on said Suicide Mission.

        I was interested in starting the whole trilogy….but I wasn’t ready to pick up a massive investment like three games and the means to play them since all I had was my shitty, shitty circa 2004 Dell with barely enough RAM to play Minecraft.

        So, then the third game came out, and when heard there was a controversy over the ending….

        Well, from little I knew of the ME universe, I wondered how bad it could be. “You either stop the Reaper Apocalypse or you don’t. How could they possibly do to complicate *that*?”
        Of course, we live in a world where Evangeleon was created, so who even knows?

        Now, I mentioned that I watch Nostalgia Critic, but on his website is also Angry Joe’s videos. I don’t often watch Joe, but when I saw his new video “Top 10 reasons we hate the Mass Effect ending” I faced a dillema.

        Do I spoil myself now, or do I sit in tension and anxiety until I finally get the games and play through the ENTIRE SERIES to find out what’s up?

        I watched the video. Yes, it might be painting my perceptions, but here we are.

        There’s your answer. I did NOT play the games.

      • FILMCRITHULK said

        IT THAT NOT THAT YOU HAVE PRECONCEPTIONS, IT’S THAT YOU ARE TREATING/WRITING YOUR PRECONCEPTIONS LIKE ACTUAL APPRAISAL. YOU CAN’T DO THAT IF YOU DON’T “READ THE TEXT” SO TO SPEAK. AGAIN, PRECONCEPTIONS ARE FINE, BUT A “I HAVEN’T PLAYED THE GAME BUT…” DOESN’T WORK BECAUSE YOU ARE ACTUALLY CITING MATTERS OF EXECUTION. SPOILERS AND SUCH DON’T FACTOR IN AT ALL. AND HULK MORE THAN UNDERSTANDS WHY YOU CAN’T PLOP DOWN THE MONEY FOR IT. BUT IT REALLY IS UNFAIR TO TALK ABOUT EXECUTION AND WRITE A LONG COMMENT LIKE YOU DID WITHOUT HAVING PLAYED THEM. IT JUST A SIMPLE TRUTH OF CRITICISM.

      • Will said

        okay, first of all…are you aware that your blog doesn’t give the option to reply past the third comment in a row? That’s why I’m responding to your previous post instead of your newest one. Its kind of annoying.

        Now then, I feel compelled to bring to your attention that Moviebob has not played the games. He mostly lashed out over the perception of Bioware being beaten down by the unwashed masses and the danger he believed this

        But, that’s not the only argument he makes. If he JUST focused on saying “An artistic’s creation is allowed to suck on principle”, I wouldn’t be as frustrated with him as I am.

        No, He started making the argument that it was a GOOD ending. And he never played it. He linked to your “smashy” article. And before that, he linked to a bad ass digest article.

        He started making the argument that the ending didn’t suck. Or at the very least heavily implied it. In the “Game Overthinker” episode: “Aftermass”, he (or one of his characters, rather) uses the exact words: “And even IF it was a bad ending…” which implies that he’s made up his mind about the ending.

        Now, Bob has not played the games, he doesn’t have to make his Auteur-theory-centered argument. But when he cheers on other interpretations of other people’s when they put down “the Enemy”, even without any forethought.

        Is this not also “Unfair?”

        If I’m not allowed to call the ending bad because I haven’t played or seen every second of this long epic (even though the ending LOOKS like the kind of thing that you could fit into any story. With any setup or lack of setup.), then shouldn’t MovieBob be exempt from defending the ending on its merits….which he doesn’t know yet?

        Some people on his blog have attack Bob for being “unworthy” of the conversation because he hasn’t played through the games yet, and I, being on the attacker’s side, point out that -I- don’t know every detail about the story, I just know the ending and a few snippets about the basic plot, and I’m able to contribute to the conversation (So far, the only real foul up was that I didn’t know about FTL drives, I thought Joker HAD to retreat to the Mass Relay without any warning that the Crucible was about to blow. This makes Shepard’s crew seem like cowardly traitors who abandoned him/her and the rest of good guys fighting the reapers). So, anyway, that was technically defending Bob’s right to argue despite his knowledge.

        I did it because I wanted this argument to evolve beyond “U SUX!” and “NO U!”

        Was that the wrong thing to do? Hulk?

      • FILMCRITHULK said

        YES, HULK IS AWARE.

        MOVIE BOB’S CRASS EFFECT AND HE WAS ALWAYS VERY CAREFUL WITH HIS LANGUAGE, NEVER EVALUATED THE GAME ITSELF, AND SIMPLY TALKED BOUT THE DYNAMIC OF THE RELATIONSHIP. YOU WENT STRAIGHT INTO EVALUATIVE LANGUAGE. IF YOU CAN’T SEE THE BASIC, STARK DIFFERENCE THEN HONESTLY HULK IS UNSURE WHAT TO SAY.

        AS FOR YOUR INPUT. NO, IT’S NOT A WHOLLY WRONG THING TO DO IT’S JUST A CURIOUS THING TO DO IN THE SENSE THAT HULK ISN’T EXACTLY SURE WHAT YOU ARE GETTING OUT OF ALL OF THIS.

        AND BY THE WAY, WHEN YOU SAY THAT THE BIOWARE WRITERS DIDN’T CARE ABOUT THE UNIVERSE IN THE FIRST COLUMN, THAT IS ONE OF THE MORE ASSUMPTIVE THINGS HULK HAS EVER READ.

      • Will said

        “AND BY THE WAY, WHEN YOU SAY THAT THE BIOWARE WRITERS DIDN’T CARE ABOUT THE UNIVERSE IN THE FIRST COLUMN, THAT IS ONE OF THE MORE ASSUMPTIVE THINGS HULK HAS EVER READ.”

        No. NO. NO. NO!

        That is not what I was saying.

        But thanks for telling me you were surprised by this point of view. That tells me that you weren’t considering it. It wasn’t on your radar.

        Which tells me that you needed to hear it.

        Hulk! I wasn’t expressing assumptions I made, I was reporting on what seemed to be the prevailing opinion of people who didn’t like the ending. Even if they aren’t outright expressing that they believe this is the case, a lot of them say that the ending feels like whatever effort that was expended in making the story understandable (and enjoyable) was simply abandoned. That the ending has the /trappings/ of surprising twist ending without any of the substance.

        I’ve also heard rumors that in fact, the ending was made without peer review or editors, and just done by Hudson and one other guy with no input from the rest of the massive (albeit interchangeable) team of writers that made 99% of the content of the Mass Effect series.

        Sure, they might nitpick about details like how the crew got back on the Normandy or something, but their prime concern was just that the story seems more interested in just plain ending rather than making that -for instance- the Catalyst’s actions and motivations make sense.

        He is after a character that nobody knew existed until he was introduced at the last minute of the story. And well, to my understanding, he basically changed the entire dynamic of Shepard’s understanding about the Reapers, and yet Shep doesn’t even ask questions like “Wait…YOU made the Reapers? Why should I trust anything you have to say, then? Aren’t you actually the enemy? Don’t you CONTROL the Reapers? In fact, why even should I HAVE to do the Control thing and bust up those supposedly irreplaceable Mass Relays to do it? If you are offering me the control option, then why not just shut the Reapers down yourself? Why give me a destruction option at all, especially if you are convinced it won’t advance your agenda because organics will just build NEW synthetics while you’ll be dead and unable to do anything about it?”

        Making the Catalyst the creator of the Reapers is a good example of the bad kind of explanation. The kind that nobody really asked for and ALSO raises more questions than it answers. Even worse, these are the sorts of questions of the sort that pokes holes in your story when the audience SHOULD be getting some kind of emotional release, dramatic or tragic.

        A big thing in your “Smashy” column that I recall you saying was that the people who didn’t like the ending “didn’t get it”. They get that particular accusation a lot, along with lots of use of the word “entitlement” as if its some sort of holy talisman used to ward of the vampires the person in question apparently feels they are being assailed by.

        As far as I can tell, the general consensus is “We get the joke, it isn’t funny.”

        Now, I may have not played the games, and just be a meddler with nothing but disappointment at being sold off the game getting me into this argument, and nothing but hurt feelings keeping me in, and I may not know everything.

        In fact, using the “Joke” analogy from before, you could say I basically was overhearing somebody tell a joke in a noisy, crowded location, and I only really made out the punchline of the joke.

        But seriously? I don’t know what I could’ve missed that would have made the joke funny:

        Comedian: “Hey, I got a good one. In fact, its the best joke in the world, it will totally change how we do comedy forever. A rabbi, an atheist, *speaker is drowned out by the sound of a waitress dropping a plate in the background*, a haberdasher, and the catholic pope all walk into a bar….”

        Listener: “…yes? and?”

        Comedian: “WALRUSES! BUWAHAHAHAHAHA! AHAH…HA HA….oh, I slay me….”

        Listener: “Oh hoo hoo! You are so witty!”

        Me: “….that wasn’t funny. In fact, I’m kind of let down since you built it up so much.”

        Comedian: “What? How can you not like it?”

        Listener: “Oh nevermind him. He’s clearly just upset because the joke didn’t end like HE wanted it to.”

        Me: “I didn’t want it to end ‘my way’, I didn’t have any conception of how it could’ve ended! I just was expecting it to make some kind of sense!”

        Listener: “Pfft. What an entitled crybaby.”

        Me: “…..dafuq? Look, there was a part of the build up that I missed, but I just don’t see what could’ve been said that would’ve made the punchline not su…”

        Listener: “Wait, wait, wait…you didn’t hear the ENTIRE build up? And you are still forming an opinion over the entire joke? That completely invalidates your right to discuss even a single thing about the joke!”

        Me: “Well….look. The whole joke leads up to the punchline, and there were just all these different people stepping into a bar and then….’Walruses.’ I mean, its not even that one of them SAID walruses or that there WERE walruses in the bar, the joke just ends on the word walruses. In what would be the descriptive text. The walruses just floating in empty space. I don’t understand. Hey, other guy, you made this joke, maybe you can at least explain to me what the logic wa-mmpph! MmMMMMMmmph! Mmmph! Mmph! *discovers with horror that his lips have been glued shut by some mysterious force*

        Comedian: “I am the moderator of this diner…place…in this metaphor…and I don’t feel like having a conversation about the particulars of my joke in this public area, you might spoil it for others. I’m afraid I am locking this conversation. No more questions about the joke, but fine, since you whined so much, I’ll come back next month to tell the same joke and add a few words to the punchline that should make it funnier for nimrods like you who didn’t get it.”

        (That happened, btw: http://www.gamersnexus.net/news/520-bioware-locks-critical-posts-alleges-spam)

        Listener: “No! Don’t give in to his demands! You can’t change anything or it will ruin the art and all comedians will be forbidden from taking chances with their art FOREVER!”

        Me: “Mur?”

        Comedian: *sigh* “What can I do? He clearly has me over a barrel. Alas, freedom of speech has lost the day!”

        Me: “Mmmph! Mmmph mmmph!”

        So, Bioware didn’t feel like explaining themselves while we waited for the DLC. Personally, I thought the DLC ending was…better. It still had plot holes, but now its clear that Shepard’s crew didn’t just abandon him. I still think the “breathing scene” is MADNESS WHICH COULD ONLY COME FROM AN OXYGEN-DEPRIVED BRAIN (seriously, if you can explain where Shepard is, or how he got there, or how he survived, I will give you a medal, Hulk. I mean it. I will pay to have it custom made and shipped to your house so that all may know the greatness of your…er…I’ll just send you a medal.)

        But about the only “change” that was actually a change instead of an extension was the extent of damage to the Mass Relays. Also, we get to seem them being repaired, usually with help from the Reapers themselves (and a few releases to the public said that the Relays could be repaired with salvaged Reaper tech. We didn’t know that. In fact, in the DLC, SHEPARD still doesn’t seem to know that.)

        Still, I like the extended Control ending enough to shrug my shoulders, write the catalyst off as being so old and ancient that he is basically senile (with a massive Peter Pan complex, what with his fascination with portraying himself as a little boy. YES, I know he represents the boy Shep saw die, but really…how does he know about that kid? How? Was THIS in the part of the build up I missed? Ugh…even when I find an explanation for something, there’s a plothole hiding right behind it.), but some people (like my good friend Nixou on the Overthinker’s blog: http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6031707140462457270&postID=8578461643319226954) think that it was a “betrayal” of the original intent. That somehow the ending was a subversion of the juvenile power fantasy mass effect and Shep uploading his brain and basically becoming a god “returned” the story to a power fantasy. Here’s Nixou’s exact words:

        ‘The Control expanded ending goes back to invincible hero.

        In the original, we just see the Reaper leaving the devastated earth, then the last short Buzz Aldrin dialoue confirms that life went on. The amount of control Shep has -whether it’s simply giving them a single order -leave the organics alone or the capacity to completely micromanage the Reaper swarm- is left vague.

        The expanded ending -being nothing more than an attempt to placate the mob of spoiled brats who were throwing a tantrum because Bioware had broken their virtual GI Joe- included a Jesus Nimroy flavored lolipop: “here’s a candy, now go play somewhere else: Mommy’s busy working with her Star Wars mod for WoW”‘

        But…what DID the “pre-DLC” Control ending DO? Shep dies and the Reapers flee, but….what happens? How does Shep control them from beyond the grave UNLESS he uploaded himself into their system? “Vagueness” doesn’t help anybody. Shepard is supposed to be making a big galaxy-affecting decision, to hide information from the player is to make the story plot-driven over character-driven. This is not a great time to be concealing info from the audience at all. Heck, I’m pretty sure that people thought control meant taking over the ALL synthetic life, like how destroy didn’t just target the reapers.

        I just don’t understand Nixou’s stance at all…can anyone here help me wrap my head around this argument? (personally, I think he may just be a troll. …Or just can’t see a soldier as a video game protagonist in any genre or context without thinking about COD brats.)

        I think the game he is looking for, that ACTUALLY subverted that trope, is “Spec Ops: the Line.” Whose ending is superior to Mass Effect not just in the category for that kind of twist, but in having zero plot holes. (Well…there is that thing Walker says at the beginning of the second helocopter chase scene, but that’s more of a fourth wall breaking than a plot hole.)

        Rent it. I rented it for one day at my local Blockbuster for $2.99, and seven or so hours of playing latter, I saw why Extra Credits recommended it. Its a short game but I kind of…lamented not buying it. The makers really deserve it.

        One big thing that Mass effect doesn’t have that Spec Ops does is that it builds up its twist properly. It also deals with Walker’s psyche much better than Shep having dreams about some random kid s/he didn’t know who died amongst thousands of others. (before you ask, I *did* just know about the ending. Knowledge of certain earlier events in the game came up…and kept coming up. My patchwork knowledge of the 3rd games’ main storyline is probably dangerously close to completion as a result of all this…at least the sidequests are safe. Mostly.)

        But really, its worse than that. Its that the ending doesn’t fit in to the story in such a way that it suggests the writers didn’t prepare a proper plot skeleton of the entire conflict before they started releasing games. Magical space station that people discover the plans for but they don’t know what it does? I know the writers built the Reapers up as invincible bad asses and all, but really. THIS is what we’re spending our resources on?

        Also, the reapers are trying to protect organics from synthetics? Why? Since when? And how the hell is turning organics into Reapers and then sending those same Reapers into harm’s way to fight against other organics, killing many who will then NOT be turned into Reapers “protecting them?” Why put the organics you’ve already harvested in harm’s way at all? How is turning them into basically members of your borg collective hive-mind not on a functional level “destroying” them?

        I’m sorry, but I HAVE to make judgements about games before buying them, and I really do think that this ending just would make playing the trilogy needlessly frustrating. Some players say that can’t enjoy replaying the trilogy because they know its hanging over them.

        I do say that the “Extended cut” fixed a lot of things, but the problem was that they needed to be fixed just for the ending to resemble the end of an actual story….

        Finally, let me just say that it actually wasn’t “Crass Effect”, the Overthinker made another Mass Effect video called “Aftermass”. The segment I referred to was when he was speaking through the character “Ivan”. I am unsure what you mean by “evaluative language”, but in Aftermass, “Ivan” did address the quality of the ending.

        (Sorry for lateness, had internet difficulties…)

  6. Hello, Hulk.
    Sorry for commenting so late after the fact, but I just wanted to say thanks for writing this follow-up, and I think it’s really cool how involved you are with you readers.

    So anyway, on the topic of Mass Effect 3, I do agree that a lot of the people who comment on it aren’t looking at the right things narrative-wise. So here’s a video that I really thought explained what was thought as wrong very well. (It’s a pretty hefty video at about 40 minutes, but I’d defiantly watch it if you have the time.)

    Here’s the video:

    I think this guy really understands what art is in relation to video games, and he explains things in a well thought out way. If you’re looking into more things on video games as art, I think he’d be good to look into.

    Here’s his channel:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/MrBtongue/videos

    Again, thanks for writing about Mass Effect. I’m really glad that you think that video games might gain respect in the art medium in the future! Thank you so much for listening.

  7. thewizardninja said

    Hulk, you should really specify that you aren’t really looking for “video games to be art” but rather looking for “an artistic masterpiece in the form of a video game”. You want something to point to when people question its validity as an artistic medium, a concrete example as to why video games as a whole SHOULD be considered art, not that they aren’t art already.

    Games have definitely been “art” for a long time, they’ve been making you interpret their messages and making you feel things since the beginning, which puts it under the very broad definition of “art”. Is it good art? Oh heavens no. As of right now its still very primitive as an artistic medium and developers are only just now getting to grips with how to take advantage of the unique aspects that come from the fact that they’re making video games to make narrative experiences that would only be possible to get from a video game.

    This probably means we’ll be seeing the “Citizen Kane” you’re waiting for before the end of the decade, but just because it isn’t here yet doesn’t mean the medium isn’t art, it just means it’s not very good art, and I think it’s important that the difference between the two is pointed out.

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      HULK ALREADY TALKS ABOUT THIS IN THE CALL OF DUTY COLUMN, BUT FOR HULK, THE ARTISTIC INTENTION PLAYS A BIG PART OF IT. HULK’S WHOLE POINT AGREES WITH YOU IN PART THAT THE MESSAGES ARE ABSOLUTELY THERE, BUT TO HULK MOST OF THE GAME MAKERS DON’T HAVE THE ARTISTIC INTENTION OR INTEREST IN WEILDING THOSE MESSAGES AND THAT’S THE PROBLEM. IT SORT OF COMPLICATED, BUT YES HULK THINKS INTENTION IS A HUGE PART OF THE QUALIFIER. WE CAN ALWAYS INTERPRET ON AN ARTISTIC LEVEL (HULK IS THE ONE WHO LIKES TAKING APART KATY PERRY VIDEOS AFTER ALL), BUT PART OF THE EQUATION IS WHAT WANTS TO BE SAID. FOR INSTANCE THE MAX PAYNE 3 AUTHORS WERE LOOKING TO MAKE SOME SORT OF CLASS COMMENTARY AS THE MAIN POINT OF THE GAME. IT FALLS FLAT ON IT’S FACE, BUT IT REALLY DID TRY AND THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE, IF THAT MAKES SENSE?

      • thewizardninja said

        I do understand what you’re talking about and I actually agree with you in regards to intention, but I’d think a lot of video game writers, artists and developers would be insulted by that line of thinking; by the thought that they aren’t intending to say anything and are just putting whatever on the screen. You don’t have to want to make “art” to make art (that usually results in pretentious attempts at making good art), you just have to want to convey something to the person experiencing it, whether that be a feeling or an idea. Video games have always done this relatively crudely but they’ve still been attempting it for a long time.

  8. It’s not that I don’t think people misunderstood the original ending of Mass Effect at all, it’s just not the ending they wanted. I can’t speak for other cultures, but here in the U.S. the governing attitude can best be explained by Kirk in ‘Wrath of Khan’, being “. . . We don’t believe in no win scenarios”. Even if much in life points to the contrary. We want to beat the bad guy, save all the cool people, get the hot chick, and ride off into the sunset. Everytime.

    There’s other stuff we don’t tend to like, but this has come from years of lazy storytelling that doesn’t challenge viewers by having everything wrapped up neatly at the end of the last reel. Films like Chinatown are definitely the art of a bygone generation, with exceptions like Nolan’s Inception cropping up only intermittantly.

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      VERY WELL PUT. BUT HULK GUESS YOU CAN TAKE THAT “MISUNDERSTANDING” AND APPLY IT IN A LARGER SENSE. THE GREAT THING ABOUT WRATH OF KAHN IS THAT IT TEACHES THAT EVEN THOUGH WE DON’T BELIEVE IN NO WIN SCENARIOS THEY HAPPEN. AND WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE FALLOUT. IN MANY WAYS KIRKS “FEELING YOUNG” AT THE END IS PRECISELY THE DEATH/REBIRTH CYCLE HULK TALKING ABOUT. BUT AGAIN, VERY WELL PUT.

    • Degraine said

      Kirk actually said that in ST2? Sunnuva…

      Well, I see what they did there in the latest one now.

      As to other cultures, if Australia’s film output is any indication, we like winning just as much, but prefer the underdog and their more personal victories – or perhaps we just don’t have the budgets for anything like a Yank wank. Off the top of my head, The Castle, The Bank, The Dish (noticing a pattern…) and The Man Who Sued God are all perfect examples of this.

  9. Degraine said

    I honestly felt the original column was richly deserved by that very vocal ‘bawwwww’ minority. And god damn are they vocal. It’s hard to believe in the existence of a silent, normal majority when the fringe is generating so much noise to genuine signal.

    FYI, I haven’t played any of the Mass Effect games besides 1 (and only about half an hour, at that), but the bitching and moaning on this one was enough to draw a considerable amount of my ire, especially after I got myself some context.

    Well done that man, for being the bigger…man, and taking responsibility for your rage. Your followup made a lot of sense, but I still feel the pointed statement (about allowing games to be art and then accepting the consequences of how that changes the experience) of the original column needed to be said.

  10. Abel said

    I do not I think I am what is called a creative person. Neither am I eloquent, I often mumble and stumble my way through speeches and my essays lack an articulate persuasive quality that I am at a loss to identify. I admit this because the only I see to express my feelings on the Ending of Mass Effect 3 is to tell a story of my own experience and to if I was to start going into anymore nuanced or theoretical mater I would slip into demagoguery or incoherence. I found that I could only adequately explain myself I showed you how arrived at what I believe.

    I recently finished playing my copy of mass effect 3 after a prolonged vacation from gaming. When I finished it I had no real reaction to it. I remember the surge of emotion finishing the final battle with Sovereign/Saren hybrid in ME 1 and taking on the Larval reaper in ME 2. But I felt nothing here. I wasn’t apathetic see I had racked my brains prior to deciding on the Synthesis option for my main play through. I felt what was probably best described as a subtle sense of disquiet. I wasn’t angry or overly sad or happy or satisfied at my sense of accomplishment I simply saw the ending. I saw the ambiguous nature of the ending and kind of liked it. It seemed a smart way to end the series so that the player could imagine whatever happens next. I was okay with that. But I felt like something was missing so I searched for it initially replaying some parts of the ending and then eventually combing the paths of the internet for answers. I wasn’t looking for anything specific I wanted an answer to the ending an explanation for it. I found your site Film hulk specifically your first article on it and then your second article. It extolled the virtues of this ending and yet while I was pleased to find that you rated this exceptional game as possibly the first true Masterpiece of gaming I found I could not stop my search. No matter how much I agreed with you initially I still felt the creeping sense of incompleteness, a disquiet with the ending.

    I was drawn onward to find different opinions. There were certainly many. I encountered forum posts for the Indoctrination theory and intricate examinations of plot holes and logical leaps and fallacies by individuals less enamoured of the Ending. The plot holes existed up until the Extended cut filled many of them up but I still found that my disquiet remained. The logic errors, inconsistencies and the tonal shifts examined by the more lucid and controlled authors gave me a more complete understanding of my own feelings toward it. There were many filled with ignorance and vitriol and a seething implacable anger yet I must say the issues put forward by some like MrBtongue on youtube were insurmountable.

    link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MlatxLP-xs

    I examined my original opinion and found it wrong. Based upon what I had seen and heard and felt in the final few moments of the trilogy of Mass Effect I had to conclude that the ending it provided for some reason was inadequate. A short time ago I played and finished Sped Ops: The Line. One of the loading screens carried this peculiar quote “Cognitive Dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously”. I would say that the quite nagging drive that I experienced was this cognitive dissonance as I held two ideas 1.) That I wanted the ME3 ending to be good and 2.) That the Ending for ME3 in my opinion was bad.

    I do not discredit the ending based upon the introduction of deus ex machina character or the similarity of the endings present as Mass Effect as a series has had a habit of using the same techniques before (think Vigil in ME1 and EDI in ME2). Also the endings in both of the previous games were highly similar in how they played out (ME1 Saren and Sovereign both die, reaper invasion delayed, ME2 the Collectors die in a flash of red or green light depending if you chose to destroy or save the base) with only the following game(s) compounding on the choices. The themes presented within the end are not absent from the rest of the series. I lack the experience or the skill to definitively say if the endings themselves as presented by the catalyst to be truly incongruous with the overall nature or tone of the Mass Effect Trilogy. What I can say with some certainty that from where I stand the original and the extend series suffered from a poorly told story.

    The ending they proposed was not how I would have ended it. I cannot and will not fault a game for trying something unexpected or new be it game-play or story but the ending of Mass Effect was poorly presented. I think it could have been great possibly The Greatest but for some reason the ending lacked the quality of the rest of the game. Thinking back to my Mass effect 3 play-through the death of Mordin and Legion 2 of my favorite characters was unexpected but also compelling and moving. They were done properly with quality, focus and emotion. Their death were what I was expecting the final moments of mass effect to be about and that final moment to be handled as delicately and expertly. This was how the ending of Mass Effect 3 could have been it could have been this way but wasn’t. I am curious as to why but you know what is done is done if I decide to replay the games I shall enjoy the ride and simply ghost through the Ending.

  11. Will said

    Sounds like your “Smashy” column got some more attention:

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=17127#more-17127

    Shamus Young has deconstructed the ending himself, as well as some others (Fable 2’s whole main plot seems to have been throughly brain-numbing for him to sit through) and you came up in the middle of his playthrough. I mostly was in his neck of the internet because of his guild wars 2 posts and just noticed he mentioned you.

  12. yo Hulk. Hopefully we’ll see your THE NEW GIRL column here in the blog. I have a comment about it.

    Of course this affords HULK the opportunity to 86 from the wordpress forum as well. Pro-actively. :-)

    That’s cool, my comment isn’t THAT important.

  13. NTRAFF said

    The article seems to be down.

    “Error Number: 2006

    MySQL server has gone away”

    Anyway, I’m on the disagreeing side of the fence, but I’ll keep my words to myself until I’ve read this.

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