Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mass Effect 3: Learning from the ending

A few of my best days in life have been my worst days. This has been true in the Army, and as a civilian, and in writing. These are days when I fubar something nine ways from Sunday and find myself on my ass in the dust and looking up and asking "what the hell just happened?"

As you may have just guessed, it's that whole "what the hell just happened" question that sometimes ends up turning these into good days in the long run. Not that I'm disciplined enough to ask The Question each time I get knocked down, but it happens more often than not, and once in a while I actually come up with some good answers and put them into practice.

I've also tried to make a habit of taking long, hard looks at other people who are sitting on the ground with a dazed look on their faces. Not being stupid is learning from your own mistakes, being smart is learning from the mistakes of others, and so on. With that in mind, I'd like to share the best and most entertaining "what happened" analysis I've come across on this year's biggest debacle in science fiction: Mass Effect 3's fan-alienating ending.

But first: Why is the ME3 ending the biggest sci-fi screw up of the year? Because the Mass Effect series of games has sold millions of copies and has had a dedicated fan base that should make any genre writer green with Soylent envy. Why that envious? Those millions of copies of $50+ dollar games have sold in an age when 11,000 sales of a $12.99 book is often considered a good run for a print novel in science fiction.

And yet somehow even with a legion of fans who've been emotionally invested in it for five years, in its final ten minutes of 100+ hours of character-driven gaming, Mass Effect managed to crush many if not most of its players' positive feelings towards the series. The game's final scene is a frighteningly fascinating train-wreck that destroys what had been until then an emotional and profoundly thought-provoking science fiction experience.

Naturally, a lot of ink and pixels have been committed to paper and screen analyzing what went wrong. Here's one of the best, and it's very much worth your while if you've got any professional or fan interest in what makes a story work within science fiction.

At 39 minutes the video is a behemoth, but its a funny and well-paced monster that I've watched through twice and that I plan on watching again.

Also, a shorter, twelve minute look at the ensuing PR fallout to date by the same commentator. One that should be titled: How not to provoke your fanbase even further. 

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