The Average Gamer

Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut: Do Gamers Have Too Much Of A Voice?

Last week Mass Effect 3 released the extended cut download pack, which for all intents and purposes changed the ending of the game. Whilst it was only a few additional cut scenes depending on the options you chose, the fact of the matter is that due to pressure from the disgruntled community the game was changed. This has already been discussed at The Average Gamer here, but I feel that we now need to look further and ask – do gamers have too much of a voice these days?

Let’s get one thing straight from the start; Mass Effect 3 was not broken. It was not unplayable so this additional content was not necessary. Yet from the outcry that came out of the gaming world, you would think that the game was a broken abomination.

First of all you must look at those who complained – people who within eight to twelve hours of the game’s release were moaning about the end content. How can these people who have clearly done nothing except fly through the main game judge the games ending without fully exploring the game and all the side missions? I wonder if these people have spent any time reading their codex and learning the rich and vibrant back story to the Mass Effect Universe. Will they understand the significance of the rumoured ‘Leviathan DLC’ something which people who have absorbed the entire experience will be far more excited about? I would think not.

I feel at this juncture I should point out that I did not like the ending of Mass Effect 3, so I’m not trying to defend the ending on the basis that I felt it answered all my questions and met all my preferences. To me the ending was a little too Matrix-like and didn’t make total sense. I would have preferred a little more closure or a greater sense of achievement but ultimately that’s not my decision to make.

Who am I to say what a better ending would be? Should Shepherd have ridden a Nuke wearing a cowboy hat straight into a Reaper or maybe an even more advanced race could appear and destroy the Reapers and defend the galaxy from their presence until the end of time?

In the Mass Effect trilogy the entire story is about humanity.  No matter how you look at it or how you try to argue otherwise, humanity remains the key underlining tone and more importantly the futility of it all. Even a united galaxy under a human vision of hope could not prevent the inevitable and that’s the purpose of the ending. That essentially no matter your choice, it was always going to be a futile effort in which you cannot win. Maybe that’s why people were upset and angry that they didn’t get their happily ever after.

If you look at games as a whole, more often than not we get the happy ending. Yes, there may be problems and trials along the way but ultimately humanity will always prevail. Take for example the Gears Of War Trilogy; a battle of humanity against overbearing odds. Except when you peel back the layers and start to look closely it’s really not that simple.

The Gears Of War series is a true example of just how egocentric humanity is.  Not content with taking over a planet (that’s right, we’re the evil invaders) and descending into a war over natural resources, we also do what we do best and implement Weapons of Mass Destruction i.e. the Hammer Of Dawn and reduce not only the enemy but our own people to ash. Not content with that, humanity then decides to commit genocide and wipe out every single Locust left on their own planet and everyone is happy because humanity has won and battled valiantly, not paying any attention to the fact that we are warmongering, tyrannical murderers by nature. But hey, at least we won.

Get Off Your Planet

For some time now gamers, me included, have tried to argue the video games are an art form and in the last few years some mediums are actually accepting this as a truth. Classic FM entered two pieces of music from games into their hall of fame. Tunes from video games are standing side by side with some of the world’s greatest historical composers such as Chopin and Beethoven. Every year the graphical leaps and bounds that the industry is making continue to astonish outsiders with the pure levels of quality that designers and artists are able to produce. So if games are art, why should they be changed?

So much art is misinterpreted or simply not understood. Take Picasso’s surrealist paintings for example. While there is no question that they are masterpieces they are not always clear and simple to understand, often being left to our own interpretations. However, you would never dream of altering one of his artworks. For a more modern example you can look to the Star Wars films, which George Lucas decided to amend in a number of ways. New scenes that weren’t in the original, such as the adding of Jabba The Hutt into ‘A New Hope’ . The outcry was extreme. People were angry that Lucas had dared to change something that they loved.
These will be the same types of people that have complained about the Mass Effect ending. Those who are so passionate about a subject matter they love that they feel they know best. Despite the complaints, of which there were many, Lucas refused to change his stance as it was his vision of how he wanted the films to be. Regardless of whether they improved or degraded the quality of the films, he stuck to his guns and didn’t buckle to pressure.

So why should the gaming community be any different? Social media has to be one of the key contributing factors. While it’s a fantastic medium for the distribution of news and reviews in our genre, it also should be accounted for a number of the issues we have as well. How many times have you had a game’s ending ruined by it being openly discussed on Twitter or Facebook, as noted above, literally hours after release?

Social media has given an untold number of keyboard warriors the chance to make themselves heard and to voice their opinions which have to be respected what with free speech and all. The manner in which they go about it though is quite frankly ridiculous. In the Mass Effect 3 example, people were threatening to sue EA over their disappointment and to try and claim damages for some twisted idea that they were owed something more.

We all choose to play video games, no one is forcing us to do it so do we have a right to feel cheated? Some may argue that as they are spending their hard earned cash, during a financially torrid time that yes, they do have this right. Others would be firmly in the other corner that we choose to spend the money and for those that did spend their money on the Mass Effect Trilogy, you cannot argue that you didn’t get value for money. With multiple playthroughs and in the inclusion of an engaging multiplayer experience, it was far more exciting and thrilling than some games that I’ve played. After all, you’ve not experienced disappointment until you’ve played Duke Nukem Forever.

My worry going forwards is that EA may have set a precedent. Will other companies look to buckle in the future if enough gamers start to make a noise about something they don’t like? As a community, we need to make a firm choice and stick with it. If we want our genre to be respected as an art form, we need to treat it as such ourselves and be prepared to accept that sometimes we won’t understand games, we may not even like them but for every person that feels like they have been cheated or doesn’t quite understand what’s happening, there are many others who will appreciate it for an exquisite piece of art.

Mass Effect 3 is out now on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. It will be coming to Wii U later.