Mass Effect RAGE


(This is another edition of </RANT>, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)

Hell hath no fury like a gamer scorned, even if the scorn is more a matter of perception than reality. The gamer community is a strange beast, typified by an almost bipolar shift between immovable apathy and psychotic rage. When the gaming public doesn’t care, it really doesn’t care. When it’s mad about something, you best get an umbrella or face the dampening wrath of a trillion angry tears. Recently, backlash from vocal gamers has been incredibly vitriolic, and a number of games have found themselves facing an overnight backlash, which mostly manifests itself as an orchestrated campaign to critically demolish a new release in any way necessary.

The “bombing” technique, in which users spam Amazon or Metacritic with tons of negative reviews, has become a popular form of online protest, and it’s one I don’t always have a problem with. I still, for instance, believe it was a beautiful way of demonstrating to certain television psychologists that there are consequences for going on FOX News and telling outright lies about videogames. In fact, the first truly prominent Amazon bombing revolved around the original Mass Effect. It’s somewhat ironic that, a number of years later, Mass Effect 3 has become a victim itself.

BioWare fans are quickly earning themselves a reputation for outrage and drama, a reputation that’s beginning to match even the storied depths of the Sonic fan community. From the fury over recycled environments in Dragon Age 2, to the recent assault on writer Jennifer Hepler, it’s become quite clear that BioWare’s fans will just as soon embrace their favored studio as burn it to the ground. Upon Mass Effect 3′s launch, that venomous streak in the fanbase was at its most deadly, as Metacritic became home to a slew of vicious, furious, utterly miserable user reviews. Although Metacritic removed those reviews that violated the terms of service, the PC version of the game still sits at a 2.7 average score.

The complaints people had about the game ranged from the valid to the pathetic. Some folks were upset by the presence of launch day DLC, others felt the graphics were terrible, and a fair few were disappointed by the lack of meaningful character choices. Meanwhile, others raged at the homosexual romance options, made incoherent statements about EA “ruining” BioWare, and accused the game of “dumbing down” to appeal to Call of Duty players — by far one of the most baseless and popular claims online user reviewers seem to make. However, whatever complaints were brought up, one has to ask — are any of these complaints big enough to justify an orchestrated attack on a game? Especially a game that many of the users couldn’t possibly have played too much of, and might actually be mostly enjoying?

Mass Effect 3 isn’t the only game to be bombed in this way. More recently, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 also fell foul of an orchestrated attack, predicated not on the quality of the actual game, but on people simply blaming the series for a number of perceived ills in the game industry. It was called a glorified mod, a lazy retread, and generally anybody caught enjoying the game was ostracized by the rest of the community. Before that, Portal 2, of all things, became a target, earning a mass of negative user reviews because of the fact that Valve had thrown in some expensive costume DLC for the co-op mode.

In each of these three cases, I simply cannot fathom what got people so angry that they felt the need to organize a massive attack. On the one hand, I absolutely love to see consumers making a stand and letting a company know that they’re not going to take their shit. On the other, I see the reasons for doing it, and can’t help but feel that the rage is utterly misguided. Optional costume DLC that never, ever, ever mattered. Arbitrarily deciding that a sequel was a glorified mod for re-using some assets, despite the fact that almost every single game sequel released on a single platform does that. Bombing a game you probably really enjoyed just because you didn’t like a few, non-dealbreaking DLC decisions. Now, some of these issues can be annoying, certainly, but bad enough for a massive attack? I’m not so sure.

In the past, we’ve had far bigger trespasses than that. There are perpetual issues in this industry right now, but because they’re perpetual, people don’t give a fuck. Nowadays, I can’t make gamers care about anti-consumer business models such as online passes or endless firmware updates that exist to continue a losing battle against piracy. Because gamers have gotten used to that kind of bullshit, they struggle to give a monkey’s fuck. Oh, but a man kissing another man in a videogame? Shit, let’s get the pitchforks. Valve wants to make a sequel to Left 4 Dead without waiting three years? Let’s boycott it! I can’t help but feel that gamers are getting infuriated over these little, inconsequential things, while growing increasingly bored by the shit that really does have a long-lasting, negative impact on the market.

This isn’t to tell you that, if you are angry over a certain videogame, that your opinion is invalid. However, I’d like to ask you to seriously think about your decision to Meta-bomb a videogame, or boycott a new release. Ask yourself if you really care so much about a subject that you’re willing to close your wallet and make a stand. If you’re just slightly irritated by a small business decision, but react by giving a game a 0/10 and insulting the developer’s family, you’re reducing the impact of any future protests that might actually mean something.

Stunts like Metacritic bombing could, potentially, be an excellent form of gamer protest, providing the gamers themselves follow through and refuse to buy the game afterward. However, the reasons for attacking games have been so inconsequential for the most part, that what could have been a neat way of making a stand instead looks like a childish temper tantrum. Now, people aren’t surprised to see a game boycotted or bombed. They just write it up to infantile fanboys whining about nothing. People have been so quick to shout “boycott” and organize attacks over the smallest slights that nobody takes it seriously when something truly worth taking a stand against presents itself. And those same gamers who got so mad when a game recycled a bit of a building roll their eyes and ask, “What’s the big deal?” when a publisher introduced a new way of making game purchases less convenient and punishing to the paying consumer.

By now, BioWare’s fanbase has thrown up complaints about absolutely everything, to the point where even their valid grievances have been shrugged off as petty and meaningless. Because there was that lack of restraint, the genuine complaints concerning Mass Effect 3 have been drowned out, and any chance at making a real point about some genuinely questionable business practices is completely gone. Gamers need to start thinking before they grab the pitchforks, and making better decisions over what deserves rage and what doesn’t. I’ve been accused of banging on about certain singular issues, and that’s because I chose which issues deserve the most rage and focused on them. Get some damn focus in your rage, because I love that gamers are making stands. What I don’t love is the fact that so many of those protesting don’t seem to be able to see the forest for the trees.

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13 Comments on Mass Effect RAGE

Bobby Hunter

On March 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

I know I don’t take user reviews on Metacritic seriously because of stuff like this. The problem is, I know I’m probably missing out on some legitimate reviews.

I’m a little confused about something in your article, Jim. It kind of comes across that these angry gamers are coordinating their attacks on Mass Effect 3. Is that the case? Or is it that there are just tons of gamers out there that feel slighted enough to take to the internet (even if their complaints are over trivial nonsense or just plain made up)?

I heartily agree with you when you rant about online passes and other potentially industry-destroying developments. Those are things to get worked up about. Do you have some tips on what kind of platform a person could use to get their voice heard?

michael dodds

On March 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

I completely agree..the petty things that some people cry over is ridiculous. I actually like seeing a bit of similarities in sequels because it brings back that feel of the first. And as far as graphics go..yeah some developers could have put a little more effort into a game that has so much hype but I still play older systems with far worse graphics and enjoy every second of it. Just sucks that a lot of people can be so close-minded and don’t put any thought into the consequences of their actions before they act.

Joe Blogs

On March 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm

> Especially a game that many of the users couldn’t possibly have played too much of, and might actually be mostly enjoying?

Or they pirated it. Which, considering pirate versions tend to release ahead of the retail versions, would provide them with time enough. Or they played through fairly quickly, reading the conversations and skipping the vocals. – That’d get them quite a way through quite quickly.

I generally find metacritic’s user reviews pretty accurate. Just go through and look for anything that’s longer than a couple of paragraphs, uses a diverse vocabulary and is rated +10 helpful or more.

Generally the gaming press, on the other hand, values things I don’t care about in a particular genre. The Mass Effect 3 reviews coming out are a perfect example of this. The things I care about in an RPG are writing, characterisation, divergent choices, plot – smooth complex combat mechanics/character levelling and so on are nice too if you can get them…. In most of those respects ME3 is dumber than a stack of hammers.

But on the other hand, if you’re just there for a cinematic experience….

I’d imagine a lot of the rage around ME3 is just that people came in looking for a game from a certain genre and found that many of the things they’ve come to expect from Bioware when they advertise for that genre were AWOL. It’s fine to judge a game on its own merits, but that’s not what people buy it on.

Luther

On March 8, 2012 at 4:36 am

I agree with Joe.

After reading some of the rage reviews i started finding consistency between a lot of people.

I think most of the people playing this game are upset with the story, shotty game play that has been broken and little to no character development.

Sounds like they took a decent story and taken a crap on it then served it to everyone on a silver platter for $59.99.

As for the angry gamers I’m truely thankful for them since they helped keep me away from me3, mw3, and dragon age 2 so keep up the good work guys.

Approved for the Buy this game on sale Badge.

creative

On March 8, 2012 at 5:55 am

I read a lot from ME3 fans that all these bad scores are just trolls, but after reading some of the negative reviews i find a lot of consistency in the negative critics.

dumbed down gameplay, linearity, lack of personality for shepard, plotholes, bad ending. all that ed up with day1 dlc.

on the other hand i read some positive reviews and those seem to be written by easily impressed 10 year olds.

With dragonage2 and swtor being an indication of the quality of bioware titles i will stay away from this as long as it’s over 20 bucks.

creative

On March 8, 2012 at 5:57 am

why can’t i write ed up.

spi-ced up

toodinho

On March 8, 2012 at 11:06 am

I’ve been really outraged by some things in Mass effect 3,the fact that the multiplayer affects the single player ending,the goddam day one DLC with a character that seems very important to the lore and marketing fest that the whole thing has been,but after reading a couple of the metacritic review’s I feel like an idiot thiking that other folks must think im just a troll like these “reviewers”,i hoped bioware was willing to fix some of these issues but now im afraid that they are going to ignore all as a result of this imature backlash on metacritic.

Bruce

On March 8, 2012 at 11:20 am

Does anyone remember that these are video games? Hobbies? Not things that provide us sustenance, make important decisions, pay our bills or help us reproduce? At least I hope not. Maybe they do, I don’t know what you’re into..

I agree the whole “Meta-bombing” process is ridiculous, but I also feel people are entitled to their opinions.

The bad part of people having opinions on the internet, though, is that everyone on the internet is 4, and ignorant of any common sense.

And we all know when baby doesn’t get what he/she wants, then baby throws a fit. Throwing food, and themselves on the floor, wallowing in their own filth. Which is basically what this all equates to.

Games don’t help you, and your a baby. I’m a genius.

Bruce

On March 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm

And by your, I mean, You’re.

Ian

On March 8, 2012 at 9:13 pm

I decided a while ago not to buy Mass Effect 3. I suppose the decision came when they announced the Day One DLC, but that was merely the tipping point. I just dont want to deal with Bioware or EA’s . I certainly dont want to pay $120 dollars for the privelage. I want to play my game, quickly and in full.

Im not saying ill boycott EA from now on. I do have a few of their games, though never purchased them on the day of release. I like these games. But when I pick up a copy of Mass Effect or Dragon Age, or Mirrors Edge, it instantly becomes worth less because I have to deal with EA.

Marty

On March 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I couldn’t care less about reviews most of the time. I make up my own mind. And to be honest there isn’t a single complaint you mentioned here that means squat to me.

However, I am outraged by this game. Not for DLC usage, or romance, or anything of the sort, but because there was no closure to this story AT ALL. From day one this has been called a trilogy, not a quadrilogy, or a never ending story. This was supposed to be it, and right up until the last 15-20 minutes of the game (minus rolling credits) this game was pretty much perfect. But the ending ruined the series. Forget it, I had all these characters I spent countless hours working on so that I could get the big payoff and see how the endings would differ from choice to choice. The game was marketed as having multiple outcomes where your choices mattered and carried over from game to game. And in the end, only technically did that happen.

There was no happy ending, there was no closure, there was a galaxy ending event and a restart at ground zero. No matter how you play, what choices you make, or how well you do, you get the same ending. Shepard is on Earth, and the Normandy and all it’s crew are crash landed on some unknown garden planet with no working technology (save for AI’s in the best of cases) light years apart. That’s not, by most players assessments, a good ending.

They can’t rebuild the mass relays, and even if they have the knowledge to rebuild back to the point they were at before the war, which they don’t, not even with the reapers saved, they STILL can’t complete the work in a single lifetime. Shepard is trapped (if he/she even survives) with no hope of ever seeing his crew again.

That bad ending ruins the replay value. I just don’t care to play this game ever again, none of them, all because of Mass Effect 3′s ending.

araca

On March 13, 2012 at 12:54 am

I played through the game and found the bulk of it to be enjoyable, emotionally engaging, and in general well done.

The game play was improved and other than a few bugs that relate to clipping detection and one quest bug it was well done in the game play department.

Once I hit the ending, [Spoilers incoming]
===========LOTS OF SPOILERS INCOMING==================
=======================================================

It broke my suspension of disbelief and immediately disconnected me from the story and any feeling for the Mass Effect series. Not because people died (main character can die) those were in the earlier missions very well thought out sequences and had choices and alternative outcomes.

It was because it started to become so illogical it generated too many plot holes to ignore.

1) Kid AI makes Reapers to kill organics to make synthetics to stop synthetics from killing organics. (?!? does not follow logically)

2) Choices boil down to Red, Green, Blue pick your favorite color. Top that off with teleporting team members who should be dead to another plot hole, your ship that was fighting in earth orbit is now midgate jump and gets caught up in the plothole wave magic.

3) Kid AI is capital city and said city is also the large mass relay the antagonist from ME1 wanted to open (Said Kid AI controls reapers and sets their agenda), Said kid could have opened large mass relay invalidating either ME1 for doing that or ME3 for existing.

4) Green ending involves sci-fi that broke suspension of disbelief. To stop the cycle of reaping organics to stop synthetics from being made, the solution is apparently to merge all organics with synthetics making galactic peace. (How this achieves peace is not explained but apparently trees, bacteria, viruses, flys are all cybernetic now. And will somehow magically stay cybernetic for no particular reason)

5) All endings involve the destruction of the Mass Effect FTL network (Slow FTL still exists) this is apparently a necessary sacrifice to allow the galaxy to rebuild without(R)/with(BG) reapers still around… Only problem is that all their tech is still based off the mass effect tech found in the relays and the only thing they know is also the easiest to rebuild. Basically turning the “freedom” thing into a massive setback for the galaxy.

6) Also FTL network loss is an inferred holocaust for the earth and the stranded fleets (20+ years to return, if they had the fuel) by now the gates afforded long range logistics and colonies supplied the fuel, raw material, and food needed to sustain extreme high density capital worlds. Now without the network all those worlds and even some colonies will just undergo massive die offs. Probably a little more dark than they were predicting.

7) Said capital space station is in earth orbit and weighs 7.11 billion tons in Red even if earth isn’t razed by misfire red then you get a metal rain of fire to top that off.

Oh and we haven’t even started with the plot holes,

a) Before beamup team members with you vanish and disappear to ship jumping away

b) Teleport up see three characters without suddenly with only one path to the room. Also minor note your arm should get chopped off as its hanging over the ledge that goes flush after the whole elevator beam of light thing. (Maybe all those moving walls dropped them on top but its quite unclear)

c) If you do survive and you can, you end up back on earth somehow even though you technically should be spaced.

Now all these little details can be explained away with a it was all a dream or indoctrination attempt or just plain bad writing.

Its amazing how contrasting the end is to the bulk of the game and its so contrasting it just drowns out the rest. The despair level is extreme (Most likely dead protagonist, magic teleporting team member stranded on unknown world, galaxy sent back to local systems era, massive population die offs, leadership stuck on earth, and possible genocide of peaceful synthetics that you just made peace with possibly)

Also two races stuck in earth system can’t eat earth grown food.

Then if your do a new game plus or imported ME2 savefile you get the “it was all a story” exposition at the very end. Then it says to wait for DLC…

John Bowman

On March 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Good article and interesting. ME3 is an amazing game so far (not finished yet).

It’s a shame about these zero-bombing campaigns since no longer can I get an objective opinion from “users”, it’s basically corrupted by disengenuous, intolerant and largely immature kids (I assume they are mainly <21 years old).

My theory is that these so called "protests" are most likely some form of herd mentality that has emerged from social networking. Nitpickers and haters seem to come out in force for the big profile games and its unsurprising there can at times be orchestration of zero-bombing such as the case with DA2, ME3 and potentially increasingly more games. This may explain why some games are targets while others are less susceptible. Bioware is an unlucky position to have a divisive, somewhat aggressive, and excessively opinionated fan base

Solution. Do not allow user scores until the game is well into release. Users have to write a review of at least 300 words – that is screened for plagiarization. Badly written reviews are disallowed. Users who plagiarize others review are immediately banned.