Mass Effect 3 Ending: Analyzing The Indoctrination Theory
Mass Effect’s Greatest Achievement?
Indoctrination is a long-standing and very big feature of the Mass Effect universe and the Reaper war itself. The idea of loss of control, manipulation and subservience to the enemy comes up a lot, in the games and in the expanded universe of the novels. This is a huge theme; it would make lots of sense to find it in the ending.
Furthermore, if the endings as they stand are fake, then the resulting vitriol regarding them may well have been planned. Think about that one for a minute — BioWare might have manipulated us into hating the ending of the game. In essence, BioWare would have indoctrinated just about every Mass Effect player into thinking, like Shepard, that the events as they stand are what happened, when that assumption is actually untrue. It wasn’t just Shepard, a cartoon you control, who was indoctrinated — you were indoctrinated, forced to make the Reapers’ choices just as he was, whether you wanted to or not.
Your video game would have basically brainwashed you. Welcome to the only possible situation in which that would be simply awesome.
If that’s BioWare’s design, it’s a staggering feat of gaming. Mass Effect has always harped on player choices, interactive storytelling and immersion, and this would take those ideas to a level never even attempted before. But it only works if there’s more to the story. And that means a hidden ending somewhere, or further DLC releases. Because without additional material for the ending, an indoctrinated Shepard makes things even worse, not better. More on that in a second.