I just love it when outraged people jump to conclusions and find the easiest scapegoat to blame any time a tragedy occurs. When are people going to understand that video games don’t cause people to commit murder?
An elementary school was shot up just the other day on Dec 14th, 2012 in CT. At the time, their top suspect was Ryan Lanza, who they quickly found out was an avid fan of Mass Effect. Well that was all the information they needed. Clearly Mass Effect was to blame for the incident. Within hours, posts of outrage began flooding Bioware’s official Mass Effect fan page on Facebook, calling the game “evil” and demanding it’s banning from the market. One particular comment struck me as funny – “God help protect us from all the evil our society promotes.” I hate seeing God invoked anytime someones personal agenda is threatened. “God save us from these evil abortion doctors,” “God protect us from all this evil gay marriage.” Why does anyone assume He would pick sides like that? But that’s another matter altogether…
Seriously though, do these people even know what Mass Effect is, aside from being Satan’s blasphemy, wrought by an evil game developer, whose sole purpose is to bring suffering to the world around those who play it? Are they aware that the game is about saving people and protecting the innocent? And an excellent point in fact is that there is a mission where Commander Shephard goes to a biotic training academy – a school – and actually saves the students from a shooting incident very similar to the one we’re talking about. I’m reminded of when the first Mass Effect was slandered as “pornography” by author, Cooper Lawrence, who had never even played the game. How can you condemn something when you have barely even passing knowledge of it? Look, I understand that parents are upset and are grasping for something that will help make their world sane again, but try to think rationally. This is how The Holocaust started. Remember? Hitler blamed the Jews, a bunch of people agreed that Jews were bad and then it was all downhill from there. Instead of arbitrarily placing blame on others, why not trying finding out the true cause.
The point is, video games don’t cause people to kill others. Misguided upbringing and emotionally disturbed individuals kill people. I’ve been playing video games literally since I was 2 years old. Many of them quite violent. I have never fired a gun in my entire life, nor do I have any desire to. I haven’t even ever been in a fist fight before. In fact, I would consider myself a pacifist. So if video games make people killers, where’s all my bloodlust? I was brought up in a very nurturing and caring environment and was taught right and wrong from my parents. And that’s where the problem lies. When a tragedy like this occurs, we should be looking to the people surrounding the individual as the cause.
By now, if you play Mass Effect, you know about the extended cut and have seen at least one of the new endings. Nearly the entirety of the gaming community was disaffected by the ending to Mass Effect 3. Pretty much every blog, website, reviewer, or anyone with a keyboard or camera hopped on the “hate Mass Effect because the ending sucked” bandwagon. I can’t say that I’m displeased with the extra content, but I’m probably the only person that feels it wasn’t necessary. The general consensus is that everyone’s happy now because we have closure. But did we need closure? Granted most of us were in a six year relationship with Mass Effect, but we’re not sobbing high school girls who need it spelled out for us that it’s over, or unsatisfied, middle-aged, romance novel reading housewives, that just NEED to know what happens to the protagonist and their love interest. Or at least I’m not. These are the only two acceptable situations where I will allow a desire for closure. Closure is easy, closure is pretty, closure plays to our base emotions, but it’s not necessary for a good story. I think that’s the easy way to tell a story; wrapping it up in a nice and neat package topped with a little bow. Which is fine if we were reading a teenage middle-schooler’s book. But an adult story like this does not need a happy ending.
The Empire Strikes Back ends with tons of questions left unanswered. The rebellion is put to rout, Han is frozen in carbonite and taken off by Boba Fett,, and Luke has his hand cut off by the most evil man in the galaxy who then tells him that he’s his father! Then it just ends. Also, let’s take the first two Alien movies. Ripley has just barely gotten away with her life, but there’s no time for catharsis. They don’t show her landing safely back in civilization, reuniting with her family. Just back into stasis, best of luck to you, Ripley. Then it ends. That didn’t make these endings terrible. That being said, I would like to take this moment to note that I realize I’m comparing a video game to movies, but there are no other sci-fi video games out there that have attained the scope of storytelling that Mass Effect has, so I reached towards it’s closest relatives.
My only real complaint about the ending of ME3 was the complete lack of defiance Shepard had. After you’re done listening to all the crap Ghost Kid has to tell you, you’re just like, “Ok. Sure. Whatever you say.” That’s not the way I play. That’s not how my Shepard would react. My Shepard would never blithely accept someone else’s arbitration. Even if I was never able to change the choices given to me at the end, I still would have been satisfied with one more act of defiance. After going through all the dialogue the first time, I shouted at my TV, “F— you and your choices!” And now you can. Without giving too much away incase you haven’t done the new endings yet, they did add in a “middle finger” ending.
I haven’t started any new games since my last run through, so I had a restart mission checkpoint right before beaming up to the citadel, which meant I could quickly just run through each ending. Otherwise the closest area where you can save still has a pantload of fighting before reaching the citadel. Skipping the dialogue during these scenes isn’t allowed, which is kind of annoying if you just want to view all the endings. I suppose that does force you to invest yourself in what’s going on though, giving you a more emotional reaction. I’m sure this was intentional on Bioware’s behalf, since the whole point of the extended cut was to give people the cathartic release they requested for their Shepard. I’ll admit, I liked seeing what becomes of Wrex (if he’s alive). and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little interested in what Tali (my love interest) does after my death. It’s nice to see these things, but still not necessary. When we’re left with these emotional holes like this at the end of a story, it allows us to intellectually fill them ourselves, and thus take more active participation in crafting our own story, which is really what Bioware’s game have always been about. I suppose it’s a trade off. We’re happy and satisfied when we’re given this information, but we’re robbed of our ability to wonder.
Now I’m not saying that anyone who wanted more closure for their ending was wrong, I’m just defending my opinion for why I didn’t think the original ending sucked. The three original endings have all been extended and have a much stronger emotional punch, which I guess is what people wanted. There are slight variations between them, but ultimately each one wraps up all your accomplishments the same. Like I said before – pretty little bow. I do think one thing is for certain though, the new endings offer more of a finality for Shepard’s story. If there is going to be another Mass Effect game, it would more than likely have to be a prequel.