Posted on March 15, 2012, Phil Hornshaw Mass Effect 3 Ending: Analyzing The Indoctrination Theory
WARNING SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY. We intend to talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3 in depth. Get the hell out of here if you don’t want to see that.
EDIT: A commenter pointed out that an insane amount of work on finding evidence for this theory has been done by users in the BioWare social forums. We wouldn’t want anyone to think we’re ignoring their work or ripping them off, so this post has been edited slightly to point readers in the direction of the players who have dedicated a heroic amount of time, effort and brainpower to thinking about this. They’re the reason this theory is a theory at all; our focus is on the mounting evidence for and against outside the game itself, and what it could all mean. Anyway, check out their posts in depth right here.
The fervor over Mass Effect 3‘s endings continues to roil throughout the game’s expansive community. Our analysis of why many fans hate the ending of the game — and why they’re right — has kicked up a big discussion. Many of you agreed with our analysis, while several have explained a lot of the problems by pointing to an idea known as the “Indoctrination Theory.” Ross Lincoln and I have devoted considerable brain space to this explanation of the game’s controversial ending, as well as the possibilities of the Indoctrination Theory, and we’ve come to a thrilling conclusion: Maybe.
It seems like a long shot, but there’s some evidence that suggests there’s more to the endings than what’s currently available on the disc. Rumor has it, a DLC pack called “The Truth” is coming in April (although just how legitimate that is is up for debate, with the scale sliding quickly toward “not legitimate”). And there’s quite a bit of evidence that suggests that Shepard’s experience on the Citadel at the end of the game isn’t all there is to the story — and that, in fact, some of his experiences may be the result of indoctrination.
There are some interesting circumstances under which the ending of Mass Effect 3 could be one of the greatest pieces of game design ever created; in other circumstances, it could be even worse or more confusing than what players have already experienced. But if it’s true (an incredibly big “if”), then BioWare has pulled off the greatest feat ever: they indoctrinated us all.
Could that be the case? We’ve taken a look at the evidence and documented everything we’ve come up with below.