Mass Effect 3 Ending: Analyzing The Indoctrination Theory
Why It Could Be False
We understand why players want to grasp for anything that can make sense of the ending – or at least, try place its events in some kind of greater context. Our scalps have been rubbed raw from all the head-scratching. And the Indoctrination Theory of the ending works so well because it fits all of the available facts, while seeming also to fit with the terse, vague comments from various BioWare staffers about the amazing things they supposedly have in store (and their urgings for players to hold on to our save files).
The problem? There’s a lot of evidence that the ending is purposefully vague. Earlier this week, Casey Hudson made BioWare’s first tepid comment on the controversy. “I didn’t want the game to be forgettable,” he said, to which we say, mission accomplished. “[E]ven right down to the sort of polarizing reaction that the ends have had with people -– debating what the endings mean and what’s going to happen next, and what situation are the characters left in. That to me is part of what’s exciting about this story. There has always been a little bit of mystery there and a little bit of interpretation, and it’s a story that people can talk about after the fact.” (Emphasis mine.)
By suggesting that the lack of clarity and the sudden departure from the game’s core mechanic were deliberate, Hudson seems to be veering off into David Lynch territory here (though thankfully sans scary, backwards-talking little people). Which, we know, only encourages further speculation.
On the other hand, Spike TV’s Geoff Keighley release an App this week called “Mass Effect 3: The Final Hours.” (Full disclosure: As it’s available only on iPad, we have not been able to access the app just yet. For this post we relied on a decent recap on the BioWare forums. The app is available here.) The Final Hours apparently contains footage of interviews with several BioWare bigwigs, including Mac Walters and Hudson himself. Walters’ comments leave particularly little room for interpretation. He says:
Originally, with the Catalyst, the star child at the end of the game, I had written that much more in the guise of a investigative style conversation, where there is something he tells you, but then you get to ask a bunch of questions and you get your questions answered. But then me and Casey talked and decided, let’s keep the conversation ‘high level’. Give you the details that you need to know, but don’t get into the stuff that you don’t need to know. Like ‘How long have they been reaping?’ You don’t need to know the answers to the Mass Effect universe. So we intentionally left those out.
Meanwhile, Hudson’s comments from The Final Hours are more concrete than those he made this week. “The Illusive Man boss fight had been scrapped…,” he says. “[B]ut there was still much debate. One night Walters scribbled down some thoughts on various ways the game could end with the line ‘Lots of speculation for everyone!’ at the bottom of the page.” Hudson did say the indoctrination idea was once considered, but then it was scrapped. “And even in November the gameplay team was still experimenting with an endgame sequence where players would suddenly lose control of Shepard’s movement and fall under full reaper control. (This sequence was dropped because the gameplay mechanic proved too troublesome to implement alongside dialogue choices.)”
It looks a lot like whatever plans they had were scrapped along with a lot of important dialogue for reasons that may never be known. It’s probably wise to bet that the Indoctrination Theory isn’t true because there is no true version of events at all.