Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ME3 and its Impact

Mass Effect 3's ending sucked, a lot. It was poorly thought out and contained more plotholes than the moon has craters, and what made it worse was that it felt and looked rushed or incomplete. Like the team ran into a wall and stumbled around while making it.
I considered making a video (a very long one) concerning this whole thing. In fact I recorded an entire rant and edited about half of it. But I realized that if I really wanted to make any sort of statement about what has happened or what will happen in the coming year for Bioware. I shouldn't be talking about why the ending was bad, but what this bad ending has done. I may do that video anyway, but if I do it will be incredibly dated and probably won't mean anything.

The thing that has pissed me off the most in the last 2 months hasn't been the fact that the ending sucked. It was the realization of where gaming culture is actually standing right now. I had no illusions that websites like Kotaku and IGN were fancy advertisement machines. But I still believed that there were people out there who actually cared about what their articles were supposed to represent. And that was to offer insight or talk about games with people, not companies, but people. I was wrong.

And I can't punch you in the face, why?
The fact that some, if not all, of these major news sites have been defending what is arguably the most jarring drop in quality in the last decade says a lot. Which wouldn't be as bad if the arguments being presented didn't utterly fail for several reasons. One of the most prominent being that each attempt to try and understand why gamers dislike it has resulted in a strawman argument. So we get videos featuring IGN's Colin Moriarty, casually walking down the street telling me I'm an entitled baby while talking about the Resistance and Lost franchises as if they weren't the horribly written piles of crap they always were. The words "artistic integrity" get thrown in of course, pretty much guilting anyone who has advocated for games as art into admitting defeat.

What the ending of Mass Effect 3 has exposed is the divide that has developed between "normal gamers" and the gaming/internet journalism we have today. Any illusions that the people who work for sites like Gametrailers or 1UP haven't been closer to the corporations that publish these games, than the people who actually read and care about said game's quality, has been utterly destroyed. Its pretty much the only thing we can be slightly thankful for. 

Just on a personal level I would like to address this whole "but its art" thing. Games have always been "art", but honestly thats because that word can pretty much be plastered on anything. Beyond that, it doesn't really hold as much power as people think it does. Why else do you think we have critics at all? Because its quality that we want, not just the word "art" over and over again.
Which is why I find "artistic integrity" more of an argument as to why Bioware should change the ending than why they shouldn't. The game's ending is not consistent with the rest of the game, its like corporate interests took priority over creative ones. So if Bioware is going to stick with their "artistic integrity" it should be to make sure the game lives up to its own standards. Which they themselves set.

It took 5 years to come up with this

Back to the journalism thing. Its pretty obvious now that we as gamers need to rethink how this industry is run. Serious change needs to happen, and its not going to be enforced by the companies we purchase from nor from the journalists we get our news from. It comes down to us. Hopefully us interacting with these creative teams, so they actually know what is going on rather than a corporate suit acting as the middle man. One of the best ways of doing that is through Kickstarter. The new Tim Schafer game as well as a sequel to Wasteland and Shadowrun, have come from grassroots funding, and hopefully these are games that will have a quality we have not seen yet.
As for news sites, I have no idea. They don't seem to have many redeeming qualities anymore, aside from giving us more media to consume. Its a bit of a shame, because I actually wish this wasn't the case. Despite my cynical nature I still want things to get better than they are. I just don't know how.

In any case, Mass Effect 3's ending will come to a head this summer with the Extended Cut DLC. I'm kind of caught between not wanting bother and giddy with anticipation. Might do a Lets Play of the trilogy or something, hopefully by then I'll be done when they're done and have a reason to want to play Mass Effect 3 again.