[Beware: minor spoilers in the comment section below the blog post]
Over the past few days I have seen quite a few journalist comments damning the gamers who are complaining about the ME3 endings. These journalists have also come out with some pretty sweeping generalisations and statements so I've chosen a few of them to address below.
-The change is a blow to videogames as art
I feel an artist who chooses to take on board feedback and then makes changes to their art is not diminishing their artistic medium or creative vision in the slightest. This is because ultimately it is the artist's decision to evaluate their work and consider whether there is some truth to it and then they can consider whether they should change it.
This situation is not new, it has already happened in other mediums. We had past great writers such as Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle being persuaded to change their work and without this fan persuasion we would not have the revised and loved ending of Great Expectations and we wouldn't have The Hound of the Baskervilles.
If the developers out there truly have no doubts then they can take the feedback and criticism on the chin and not change anything. Nobody has a gun to their head. The worst that can happen is people do not buy another game, and if you are preserving your art then this is a non-issue.
The real threat here is not fan persuasion, it's the higher powers who can put a gun to the artists head and say change it.
-Fans need to respect artistic integrity
Am I the only one that raised an eyebrow at this? blockbuster videogames preserving artistic integrity? I'm sure a cameo by Jessica Chobot was part of the original creative vision, and also cutting the unfinished From Ashes content from the core, then finishing it and then charging for the DLC first day of release reinforces their artistic integrity as well.
The truth is It's all good business until someone complains and then it's about the art. Honestly and seriously I believe the artistic integrity card does not work here. If it was all about the art like I went into detail above then sure play that card all day, but what I am seeing from these major games is that primarily they are products and then secondly art. For games like Mass Effect artistic vision takes a backseat to the bottom line.
I think a fitting analogy for all this is that the game is a delicious and tasty burger. First the onions are taken out because the Head Chef thinks the customers don't like onions and of course the tomatoes are then taken out to sell on the side, and yet when a customer complains that they don't like the taste and would like it to be different the Chef throws up his hands and says you do not respect his creative vision. You mean the creative vision that was just compromised and changed so you could make it appeal to the customer and also make a stack of cash?
This is why I feel artistic integrity is an inadequate defence of products.
-Only a small vocal minority are complaining
The above statement about these fans being a minority group is one made with zero evidence backing it up.
While I can't disprove it entirely I think what little evidence available shows that at least online and looking at the numbers available online this is not the case. For instance the largest poll I have seen addressing the issue is currently on Gamefaqs at the moment. The total user votes are 51,014.
The question posed is "Do you think BioWare should change the ending of Mass Effect 3?" and from the top the results are: 38.1% say yes if that's what users want, 12.57% say probably as a lot of players seem angry, 14.87% say maybe if it is best for the story, 7.24% say no they shouldn't cave in to fan demands, and 27.22% say absolutely not. Even if you disregard the probably and maybe options the yes voters are in the majority here.
But what about the open and user based review sites like Amazon and Metacritic?
(stars out of 5/number of votes)
Amazon UK: ME3 360 (** * /123), ME3 PS3 (***/31), ME3 PC (**½/99)
Amazon US: ME3 360 (**/781), ME3 PS3 (***/80), ME3 PC (**/243)
(scores out of 10/ number of ratings)
Metacritic: ME3 360 (4.8/2044), ME3 PS3 (3.6/776), ME3 PC (3.7/2395)
Not that it would affect the results but I have not voted on any of these. This is hardly conclusive but from what evidence can be gathered it paints a picture that there is a substantial amount of players in the community who have a problem with the game, and I think this is further backed up by the fact Bioware are actually doing something about it. What developer would really move mountains for a minority?
In the end though, even these polls overall do not reflect everyone who bought the game, so while I cannot prove a majority were dissatisfied neither can the opposition prove that a majority were satisfied.
-This is unprecedented/This will set a dangerous precedent
This one was mostly from IGN, specifically a vid made by Colin Moriarty and Collin Campbell lamenting Biowares choice of expanding the current endings. Here's a quote from Mark Meer the voice of male Shep to set them straight: " Changing or expanding the end of the game wouldn't be unprecedented. The gaming community saw it a few years ago with Fallout 3 from Bethesda and the Broken Steel DLC."
Unbelievably Mark Meer isn't even a journalist and yet he knew more about what is going on than two senior staff members at one of the biggest videogame websites around.
Mark is absolutely correct, due to fan feedback the ending was changed. What is the situation now after the change? well the earth didn't explode due to the change, the games industry didn't riot, journalists rarely mention it anymore as well, and what happened to the fans? well I assume they are all still playing Fallout 3 and the open ended adventure that they fought for and won for the community.
It seems in the recent few days IGN have been coming out more and more with these deliberately controversial vids that take every opportunity to mock the fans. Despite this the fan base have been pretty reserved about the whole thing. Probably because it's hard to take these guys seriously when they talk about integrity.
Luckily Erik Kain, a contributor to Forbes, has already highlighted Colin Moriarty's hypocrisy so I don't need to look far for Mr. Moriarty's quote about how much he cares about artistic integrity:
" Obviously, the fact that Cole has been reverted back to his old self (somewhat) is great news. After all, Greg and I did our fair share of whining on Podcast Beyond after the new Cole was first shown on the cover of Game Informer some months back. Of course, I’d love for Sucker Punch to bring back Cole’s old voice, too, but hey – beggars can’t be choosers.
But beyond (BEYOND!) the excitement I feel to have old Cole back in Infamous 2, I think the sudden change in character model says a lot more. Indeed, it says a great deal about Sucker Punch itself. This is a studio that listens to its fans, cares what they want, and attempts to cater to as many of them as possible. There’s no doubt that fans of a franchise can’t be trusted with every little thing (after all, look at how many people were completely and utterly wrong when they predicted Wind Waker would suck based solely on its graphics – I still laugh at those people today), but it still delivers a rather important point.
But with the new Cole design, Sucker Punch heard loud and clear what fans of Infamous wanted, and they delivered. Infinite amounts of kudos to them for doing right by their community. Fans of Infamous won’t soon forget it. Sucker Punch is one of Sony’s most valuable developers. They are tuned-in with the PS3 faithful, and it’s things like this that prove it. "
-The people complaining are demanding a happy sunshine and rainbows ending
Not everyone does want a happy sunshine and rainbows ending, but I guess it is easier to label everyone within a group as having the same opinion than taking the time to find out what the feelings are within it. I will however admit there is part of the group of dissatisfied gamers who do want this, so I would be lying if I said none of the gamers or Retake ME3 members want a happy ending but it's certainly not everyone.
Just from my own viewpoint I personally expected Shep would die. What I was really disappointed by was the lack of choice, plotholes, meagre epilogue, and unbelievably bad writing. It felt as if the very last part of the games was rushed. That's my issue with it.
So that is the last of the statements. I am still surprised how many people have come out and said there should be absolutely no change, and even more irritating are the ones I have seen who have said "I don't like ME3 but here is why it shouldn't change". There is a lot of bias against fans going around so all I can say is just remember the people complaining are just doing it because they love the series so much.