Mass Effect 3's Ending Controversy is Actually Good for the Industry

17 Apr 2012

In an editorial on GamesIndustry, Matt Ploetcher argues that the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3's ending is a "watershed moment" for the videogame industry and gaming as a medium. The fact that the ending is criticized for not being impacted by choices is the sign reflects higher standard from the gaming public, according to the author:
To be fair, the Mass Effect series has always been something of an exception to the standard approach to video games. Unlike popular series such as Halo or Gears of War, Mass Effect has always made the story, and your choices within it, one of the core elements to the experience. The benefit is that players have developed a much more emotional connection to the story world. The downside is that when a story element - such as the grand ending - falls flat, its reverberations can shake the very foundation of the fanbase.

Often the main lament I have heard about how society views video games is that mainstream audiences cannot, or will not, take them seriously as a form of artistic expression. The question I have heard asked which embodies this dilemma is, "Where is the video game version of Citizen Kane?" Where is an example of this medium that is going to alter the general public's perception? Never mind the fact that games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have, in my opinion, already set a standard for player engagement within a game. They were not as commercially successful, and as a result they have not been able to do much to erode the public stereotypes of video games just being mindless button-mashing and/or interactive demos for physics engines.

The current discussion about the Mass Effect 3 ending, however, and its lack of acknowledgement to the choices the player made throughout the trilogy, reflects a higher standard for video games from the players. Unlike most books, movies and other forms of media, video games are inherently built to allow for different choices that the player can take, and the Mass Effect series has run with this idea more than any other video game series to date. Its strong success with critics and fans (and profit margins) has shown that video games are already at the point where you can have thought-provoking fun, and robust games where the interactivity is part and parcel of the emotional investment. Once the majority of players start thinking about video games in this manner, the general public is likely not far behind.
 
 

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