Mass Effect 3 Ending: Change Could Have Empowered Game Writing
Now imagine what the result of Mass Effect 3 could have been if BioWare hadn’t been chosen to hide in a bunker for weeks: the developer could have engaged fans in an open and honest discourse, whether to defend the game or admit its issues. Fans would have felt respected and heard, exchanging viewpoints with BioWare. There possibly could have been an admittance of the low quality of the ending of the game, and steps taken to fix it. More likely, BioWare could have mounted a strong and reasoned defense of the ending and its artistic merit, and its honesty and engagement would have resonated with the most hardcore of fans.
The second scenario eliminates the entire hurricane that resulted from the ME3 ending debacle even without changing it. Furthermore, a change to the ending by BioWare could have gone even further in its favor by showing that the developer is committed not only to the voice of its community, but to the quality of its products. BioWare has an incredibly dedicated base of fans and all of them, even the ones who are fine with the ending and adamant about it staying the way it is, would have respected BioWare for giving two s–ts about what the people playing its game think. Because at the end of the day, this isn’t isolated pockets of fans complaining, it’s primarily BioWare’s most hardcore and dedicated supporters who are upset.
An Industry Where Stories Matter
Arguably, gaming continues to fail as a storytelling medium because of a variety of factors. Mass Effect may be a shining pillar of the medium’s ability to tell meaningful stories in many regards, but because of the ending and its resultant backlash, it has become just as much an example of the failures of the industry to deliver competently all the way through. As a Twitter friend of mine put it, Mass Effect has gone from being a classic to being a case study.
A reworked ending changes that. I feel confident in saying the number of people who would be disgusted in their disapproval of a changed ending because of issues like “artistic integrity” is easily dwarfed by the community that would be empowered by BioWare’s actions. And that’s just the immediate benefit — the long-term benefits of a studio and publisher so committed to the quality of their work that they would change that work to meet the quality players expect would be a shining example to the rest of the industry.
Game stories matter; this is no longer a debatable fact. Whether they matter because developers and publishers are willing to give them the standing they deserve, or they matter because they actively hold back the medium of video games, is a decision this industry must make. Mass Effect 3′s ending was a chance to make it; hopefully there will be another one.