Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mass Effect 3 and the Rise of Spoiled Consumers

Like much of the video gaming world, I spent the last two weeks rapidly consuming the final installment in the Mass Effect trilogy. When I reached the end, I was struck by the fact that this was the end of a series that I've invested considerable time in over the last five years or so. As I played through and encountered characters from the previous game, it felt a little like running into old friends. I sat back and contemplated the question of organic versus synthetic life and how the invention of true artificial intelligence and synthetic life forms would change the development of humanity. There will be a coming post on seeing an ending come to a story in video gaming as opposed to the stream of releases in the certain series. I hate seeing a story told well beyond its viability because people are still willing to blindly throw money at it, even buying games they have played before because it has been graphically updated.

This morning I woke to the news that a gamer had filed a complaint with the FTC against Bioware due to the ending of the game. And that the creators of Mass Effect had caved to fan pressure and were changing the endings. Processing this information made my head want to explode. There is sort of privilege among the consumers of television and video games that I have yet to see in other mediums. It is as though they feel they are entitled to a say in the formation of art forms that they have no role in other than their consumption. I have never seen people protest the ending of a book. I was a fan of Chuck Palahniuk's early novels, but as they started to deteriorate with things like Lullaby and Diary I just stopped reading. I chose not to consume something that disappointed me. There seems to be this sense of entitlement on the rise with consumers.

Last year the television show Game of Thrones faced fan backlash when they remained loyal to the story as written by George R.R. Martin. People protested as though the show's creators would go back and refilm, changing the entire course of the story by removing a key plot point. I laughed then at the audacity of an audience telling the creators of art how and what to create. And it has happened again with Mass Effect 3, but this time the result is that the creators are planning on changing the end, catering to the pressure of consumers. Where did this sense of entitlement come from and is it okay that we as consumers change the shape of works of art to fit our wants?

In a time when most media is pirated and available for consumption without paying for it, has money given consumers the power to change what they consume? With the rise of television shows that require audience voting to determine the outcome, do we feel we have the right to tell artists what and how to create? Is it okay to cry foul and file lawsuits every time we feel cheated by an ending or a storyline? I've always believed that we make choices with our money. We choose to spend money on things that we find worth it. And that is how we speak. If an installment in a series of games, a movie, a television series, or even an album, disappoints us, we stop spending time and money investing. I hate the idea that whining over our disagreements with an artist's decision could change the face of what is created.

With that said, I have read a little further into the complaints on Mass Effect 3's ending and it is less a problem with the ending of the game than it is a problem with the choice to disregard all the choices we have made through out the games. I understand being disgruntled because consumers were sold a world that changes based on the decisions you make and the ending ignores that game mechanic. Every choice you've made, whether or not to be an honorable person, does not matter because you are given three options at the end. I still don't agree with the idea that we can involve lawsuits to tell a company that creates art WHAT to create, but I understand expressing displeasure with what was created.

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