Archive - Mar 22, 2012
22 March, 2012 - 19:19 — Bryan Lambert
Memo to Mass Effect Nerds: MOVE THE FUCK ON.
I know I don't talk about shitty nerds much anymore, so if you weren't around back then, let's recap. There are no dorks or geeks. There are just good nerds and bad nerds. Bad nerds ruin things. Bad nerds love things so much, and in such an irritating way, that they make YOU want to stop liking that thing so that nobody will think you're with those guys.*
Anyway, now that I've finally finished Mass Effect 3, I can write this column about Mass Effect 3 nerds being all Bad Nerd about the ending. Because it was about the ending, I had to wait until I -saw- the ending, on the off chance the riots in the streets were actually justified. Here's a hint. They weren't. There will be no spoilers, by the way, so don't worry about reading further.
Now, the ending isn't very good. It's problematic on quite a few levels. It's anticlimactic, nonsensical, and oddly, lazy. It seems like it was made by completely different people from the rest of the game, which nobody can deny had a shit-ton of very hard work poured into it. A lot of work, by the way, that one player will never see in a single playthrough. But everyone sees the ending, and most people aren't going to like it much.
None of that matters, of course, because what we're going to be talking about is what kind of behavior is appropriate when you don't like the ending to a piece of art and/or entertainment. You can, for example say "I did not like the ending to this piece of art and/or entertainment." You can explain why you did not like it. Those reasons can make sense, or not. They can be sympathetic reasons, or not. You can hate the ending for Mass Effect 3 because it focused on things you thought were unimportant at the expense of things you thought were very important, or you can hate Mass Effect 3's ending because you never got to see Tali's emergency induction port. All of this is fine.
You can argue about the ending on the Internet, although most of you shouldn't expect me to read those arguments, because they're probably stupid. You can warn potential buyers about the ending. You can decide that the ending will keep you from buying any more Mass Effect games, tie-in products, T-shirts, downloadable content, or Asari RealDolls. You can take it even further, and swear off Bioware as a company entirely, vowing never to buy their products again, although if you didn't do that after the Bataan Snore March that was Dragon Age 1, I doubt you will push them over the edge.
What you cannot do, or, more accurately, what you can do but should not because it's completely devoid of dignity, is to start an Internet protest movement, embody it with faux-military bravado inspired by the faux-real-military bravado** in the game, and demand that BioWare change, alter, update, expand on, or generally fix the ending by making more of the game until you are satisfied.
Because that is some bullshit.
I don't care if BioWare's first response to your complaints was a statement from the game's lead, Casey Hudson, was that "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." Saying you've given people something to talk about is a bog-standard cop-out excuse when what they're talking about is the precise speed and trajectory at which you dropped the fucking ball. A shitty copout does not mean you get to storm the gates with pitchforks and torches until you get the entertainment you want in exactly the way you want it.
The nerds have co-opted the catch-phrase "HOLD THE LINE", which is just embarrassing, and "Take Back Mass Effect", which is both embarrassing and deeply telling. Take it back? You can't take it back. It's not yours. Never was. Like it or not, you are the consumer. You're not the author, you're not the artist. Liking something a lot doesn't mean you own it, you're entitled to more of it, or you're obligated to get it exactly the way you hoped it would be, and if you don't, well, you can send it back like a bad plate of food at a restaurant.
I don't know if this movement has an organizer or a leader, but I did find a Canadian fucknut who goes by the same name as his blog, Northern Thoughts, as the first protest-related Google entry when I searched on "mass effect hold the line". Northern Thoughts, which I guess is the Canadian right-wing version of Marauder Shields***, purports to guide the prospective Internet poster about how to "civilly" demand that a giant game designer cater to your whims or else.
I don't know what the long, and almost instantaneous, digression into oversensitive radical feminism ruining video games has to do with Mass Effect 3, but eventually he gets to a point that's both mockable AND on topic. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!
"If you are discussing Mass Effect 3′s endings or any topic related to the Mass Effect series, BioWare or Electronic Arts (EA) and see someone behaving inappropriately, do something about it. This is a lesson the ‘Tea Party’ had to learn early on as the media was determined to smear the entire movement for the actions of a few. The media, in the case of ‘Occupy’, refused to report on the movement’s horrendous behaviour."
Look, don't blame me. I'm not the one who injected delusional talking points into their nigh-delusional attempt to essentially force an author to rewrite their book so that their pre-existing expectations can be met. Blame the Canadian for not letting me leave politics out of it for a change.
You know what else you don't do when you don't like something? You don't file a frivolous complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that "after reading through the list of promises about the ending of the game they made in their advertising campaign and PR interviews, it was clear that the product we got did not live up to any of those claims." And you don't file that complaint under the name "El_Spiko".
Subjective interpretations of how much people are going to like your product are not actionable claims, no matter how much your butt hurts. Sorry. I'm sure the feds will get right on this once they figure out whether it's legal to shoot someone in Florida for being black and carrying Skittles.
Of course, it could be worse. You could do what BioWare did, and engage in Bad Nerd Appeasement, forcing me to modify the phrase "delusional attempt" with the prefix "nigh-", and promising to announce "game content initiatives' in April that will address fans' concerns. Because you know what? These content initiatives won't address the fans' concerns. Partly because the fans' expressed concerns are unaddressable, and their actual concerns require a therapist and possibly medication, not downloadable content or another iPad app.
*And yes, Browncoats, there's an even chance I'm talking about you, here.
**The bravado of fictional people actually fictionally in a fictional military is still more acceptable than the bravado of real people not actually in an actual military. Just so you know.
***A joke you can feel superior about if you get it, and more superior about if you don't get it.