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Gamer Entitlement and the ending of Mass Effect 3

Gamer Entitlement and the ending of Mass Effect 3

When I read this piece by Marsh Davies I didn’t like it. I though that it was dismissive of the demands of honest gamers who just wanted their voices to be heard. Over the days after I read the piece though, I began to notice how accurate it was. I was wrong and Marsh was right. Everywhere I looked, on every site and in every comments section, in every forum and on every blog, there was an underlying attitude of entitlement. In the past few weeks since Marsh wrote this feature things have actually gotten much worse. I refer of course to a number of events including the ending of Mass Effect 3. As things have deteriorated the points made in the article have been proven prescient. I wasn’t clever enough to spot it, but Marsh was. Now I’m beginning to realise how brilliant the article is, and although I’m late to the party I am ready to chuck in my tuppence worth. So here it is: gamers today are a bunch of spoiled, whiny cry-babies who whinge and moan and throw tantrums like a teenage girl who got the wrong colour of Ferrari for their 16th birthday.

Of course I don’t believe that at all. “Gamers” is a meaningless term. Everyone plays games from your Granny on Wii Bowling to highpower CEO’s playing Bejewelled on their i-thingies. And even if “gamers” were an identifiable group, its not all of them that are too blame. Its a small minority of entitled, spoiled brats. The problem is that this small minority are loud, organised and growing. Worst of all, their arguments can seem rational and covincing if you are willing to turn off the part of your brain that asks “am I being a dick about this?”. If you are willing to give in to the all consuming id that is within all of us you might be tempted to join in with the cacophony of whining. Like squawking baby birds demanding sustenance be dropped in their constantly open mouths, we can easily give in to the part of the brain that “demands”. I demand that if its on the disc I should get it! I don’t like this ending so I demand it be different! I demand to know when Half Life 3 comes out! I demand dedicated servers! I demand you listen to my demands!

It seems likely that Marsh Davies is a fan of Doug Stanhope, who viciously and accurately lampoons modern attitudes to choice and opinion prevalent in entertainment today within the domain of television. To paraphrase badly, in a world of X Factor voting and viewer interaction and “press the red button to have your say”, everyone vastly overrates the importance of their own opinion. The truth is that no one cares whether you liked the ending of the Soprano’s, or if that guy who done good singing got voted off too early, or if your show got cancelled even though it was the best thing since Firefly. All they care about is if you watched, and if you sent them money. In televeision you vote with what you watch, and if you have a complaint about a show but you keep watching it anyway, you don’t deserve to have your complaint heard. By all means, tell people why you don’t like something, but know this: your demands are worthless. Program makers only care if you watch and you pay, no one cares what you think.

The same is doubly true of games. Tom Bramwell is brilliant on this point. As he says, (and again I paraphrase badly), when Publishers say they are listening to the gamers, it means they are looking at what they buy, not what they “say”. If 10 million people buy a game, they couldn’t care less if 7 billion complain on forums that they hate it. After all, surely our actions are much more important than our words. If a gamer says they hate a decision made by a developer, then they buy a game anyway, who cares what they said at first? They made their choice and put down their money. Actions speak louder than words, and words are worthless when they’re not backed up by actions.

The clearest example of this was the Modern Warfare dedicated servers debate. Reading the bile and vitriol of PC gamers before the game came out, it seemed that not a single one of them would buy the title. Activision had upset the notoriously touchy PC crowd, and the promises were present on every thread on the internet: I WON’T BE BUYING THIS! Wow, look how that turned out. I guess Modern Warfare is a dead franchise on PC then.

In all cases it is the PC gamers who feel the most aggrieved. PC gamers have a perpetual short-man complex, where they feel like they are treated poorly compared to their console cousins and constantly want to fight with publishers to get what they “deserve”. While its true that many developers don’t give the PC ports the love they deserve, this is down to market forces. Its nothing personal. The truth is that the constant upgrading of PC’s required to play modern games put the platform out of the price range of the casual gamer. As a result the PC became an enthusiasts platform, but the smaller size of the market meant that Publishers couldn’t justify taking more time to make PC ports as good as they could be. When PC ask for better quality titles on their system they are right to do so, but when their forum bravado isn’t backed up by their purchasing decisions then Publishers have no incentive to pander to them.

The worst displays of gamer entitlement came more recently though. The first is mentioned in Marsh Davies article, and relates to the petition from Half Life fans. They “demanded” more information on the release of Half Life 3, going so far as to organise an online protest. The online protest of course is only second in effectiveness to the dreaded online petition.

The problem with this is simple, why do the Half Life fans deserve to be updated on the progress of the game? No really, think about it. Why? Because Valve said they would make one? Well boo hoo. Maybe Valve changed their mind. Maybe they forgot. Maybe they are doing what all humans in the whole world do in their jobs, putting it off for as long as they can before finishing it the night before its due and doing a half-assed job. The point is no matter what Valve choose to make is up to one dude, the decision maker at Valve. Lets be clear, gamers hand over money and they get a game. Until money has been handed over you don’t “deserve” anything. No matter how much you really really really really love Half Life, Valve don’t owe you shit. You paid for Half Lafe 2 and it was really fucking good. Valve did their part. Who cares if they “promised” another game and didn’t make one? Companies (and people) break their promises every day. If you’re really annoyed at them you could show it by….. you know what I’m going to say…. not buying Half Life 3.

Of course not every gamer is this bad. In fact when it comes to dedicated gamers who love the hobby, almost all of us are rational, reasonable people. The danger is in the minority who “demand” things, and how their arguments can seem appealing to even the most balanced amongst us. When we hear the crazies demand Half Life 3 news, we could easily fall into the trap of thinking, “Yeah, I want Half Life 3″. What we want and what we deserve are two very different things though.

Gamer entitlement hit astronomic levels of stupid with the recent uproar about the ending of Mass Effect 3. I’ll try to avoid spoilers completely, but essentially the gist of their argument is that in some way Bioware promised something they didn’t deliver. Untangling why Mass Effect 3’s ending was unsatisfying for many is very complex and I think a book could be written on the subject. Perhaps a Ph.D. thesis with a social or psychological focus would be even better, because I am sure that if we understood exactly why people are so mad about the ending of Mass Effect 3, we would also understand a great deal more about how people think generally. In my opinion its the fact that players were invested in a character across three games – and in a series where choice was important – that they didn’t like having their choices narrowed down to only a few options and the future of their character set with such finality. In Mass Effect 1 or 2 there was always another game to come so the quality of the ending mattered little, but the end of Mass Effect 3 is the end of the series and it concludes Sheperd’s story. Maybe if Mass Effect 3 had a giant T-800 like ME2 did it would have been ok….

I think in this respect the ending of Mass Effect 3 is both brave and praiseworthy, if not necessarily of the same quality as the rest of the game. Perhaps its compounded by the sheer quality of the rest of Mass Effect 3 – which I confess is one of the finest games ever made in my opinion – but I do agree that the ending could have been better. In particular the choices given to the player at the very end could have been more different. Despite any criticism I may have, I accept the ending of Mass Effect 3. The story has been written by someone who was absolutely trying to make it as good as they could. Mass Effect (like every game) is a work of art and despite the fact that it will make EA lots of money, it was made by some incredibly talented programmers, artists, writers, designers and musicians who poured their heart and soul into the game. The pressure on the writers to create a satisfying conclusion must have been immense, and it would have been easy for them to turn in a half-assed effort that was 100% fan service. Instead they stayed true to a vision, however good you judge that vision to be, and wrote a proper ending. A lazy ending that was more open would probably have made more business sense, but instead the art won over the finance.

The recent kickstarter to change the ending of Mass Effect would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so pathetic. Meanwhile, the gamer who is trying to take EA to the FTC has moved the whole situation into such a ridiculous realm its beyond parody. At this point gamers are being so unreasonable they’re on a par with Evolution denialists as the most deluded people on the internet. “My game didn’t have an ending as good as I hoped and now I haz a sad. I deserve something better. Wah wah wah!”. Boo-fucking-hoo.

The truth is that for every publisher that you hate, there are a hundred developers just trying to make the best game they possibly can. Games are made by people. These people are talented, hard working and often not very well paid compared to their equivalenst in software development that make…. oh lets say spreadsheets. Most of them are trying their absolute best top make an experience that you will enjoy and that will help you to escape to another world away from traffic jams, hoodie gangs and poisoned monkeys. When you demand they do what you tell them – when you haven’t yet thrown them even a couple of quid to pay for a sandwich – you align yourself with the aforementioned X Factor generation of couch dwelling, selfish, entitled, spoiled, sweet-16 brats. You can be better than that. We can be better than that.

Look what we did for Double Fine. Lets have more of that please. And for the love of God, if you aren’t happy about something in a game keep your money in your wallet. Why not buy something else that you should have bought first time round, like Beyond Good and Evil or Ico or Psychonauts or Abe’s Odyssey or Journey or…..

*Update: the debate rages on: Mass Effect 3 ending: BioWare admits fans needed “more closure”*

MOAR FROM CALMDOWNTOM!

12 Comments

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  1. Solumun says
    09/22/2014, 2:31 PM

    Josh,

    There has been plenty of games, movies, etc, with unsatisfying endings. The idea that Bioware must make an ending that satisfies everyone reeks of entitlement.

    You lay your $60 dollars down for a game. Play it, and if it doesn’t have a satisfying ending, oh well.

    Few actually read the EULAs of most software, which ME3’s states the following:

    Except for the limited warranty on recording media, and to the fullest extent permissible under applicable law, the software is provided to you “as is”, with all faults, without warranty of any kind, without performance assurances or guarantees of any kind, and your use it at your sole risk. The entire risk of satisfactory quality and performance resides with you.

    In other words, Bioware/EA doesn’t owe their fans a satisfying ending.

    What may have been a satisfying ending to some, may have been a crap ending to others. Fans seem to think that because they hated the ending and felt their choices didn’t mean anything, that everyone else does too.

    The phrase “the customer is always right” has gone out of style. A lot of companies these days take what their customers say with a grain of salt. Seeing as Bioware’s customers still think the ending is ABC or red, green, blue, even though many have proven otherwise, you can kind of see why the customer isn’t always right.

    Bioware doesn’t have to keep every single customer they have. Clearly, based on the fan response, Bioware could live without their fans.

    I’ve seen many companies tell customers to go elsewhere, because of certain things. They are perfectly within their rights to tell their fans to go packing. Especially if they’re not satisfied, despite the company releasing a free DLC to make up for their mistake.

    Yes, I know the fans wanted a completely new ending, but not everyone did. There were plenty of people who liked the ending, but to the fans these people don’t mean anything. It’s all about the fans and what they want.

    A fool is one who thinks their choices don’t matter much, but if a guy who shows him how the endings were different (ME3 strategy guide, several sites have made charts showing people the differences) and if he changes his mind, then he remains a fool and made an honest mistake.

    An idiot is one still thinks there’s no difference despite being shown how there is a difference and still thinks the endings were ABC/RGB, even 2+ years later. In addition to still believing Bioware false advertised, despite being shown how their game wasn’t misleading by two lawyers from Washington DC and Baltimore. These lawyers stated that the endings were in fact different, just not as different as the fans would like. Yet, the fans kept thinking the endings were the same and that the only difference was a different color.

  2. metalnick says
    04/09/2012, 8:58 AM

    I’m pretty late to the party but I just finished ME3 and this article hit everything I was thinking about the ending. The ending was fine – it wasn’t perfect and there were a few things that I don’t quite understand, but for the most part I was OK with it. I was reading the comment section of an article saying the ending was fine and people were actually saying that the ending ruined Mass Effect 3 for them. Most said that anyone defending the ending is a BioWare/EA/Mass Effect fanboy. Many of them complained about how the ending ruined the prospect of replaying the game for them. Why? I have never played a game in my life where the only reason for replaying the whole game was to see a different ending because they’re just so good. You should play the game to enjoy the game itself. These babies need to realize that the journey is way more important and engaging than the destination, and if they allow the ending to tarnish the fun they had with the rest of the story then they’re playing the game for the wrong reasons.

  3. JotaEme says
    03/20/2012, 7:28 PM

    “Nobody is FORCING you to read people’s complaints. Just as the people that are complaining aren’t being FORCED to play or buy the content they are complaining about, you yourself are ALSO are not being FORCED to read people’s complaints so you can GTFO or STFU anytime you like.”

    This has got to be one of the sillier arguments I’ve ever seen. When someone posts an opinion of any sort on the internet, they are inviting a response. When tons and tons of posts saying the same thing are posted on every gaming forum imaginable, it makes perfect sense to write a response like this one. He’s not saying “you all shouldn’t complain, period.” He’s examined the complaints, which I imagine the posters wanted to happen since they hit the “post comment” button, and decided that they were stupid.

  4. Profile photo of Gnarles
    Gnarles says
    03/20/2012, 4:11 PM

    About the comment Josh made about the DLC. This happens in the software world all the time and no one bats an eyelid. You pay for a version of a program and then have the option to pay for add-ons which may very well already be part of the code already installed on your machine. Why should it be different for games?

    The DLC is a seperate piece of content, if they had never developed it no one would have thought it was missing! The game stands on its own and the DLC is something extra that you may choose to buy or not.

    The only thing I can see happening out of this is that developers will continue to make DLC content but publishers will hold it back for a couple of weeks before releasing it.

  5. Profile photo of Tom
    Tom says
    03/19/2012, 8:30 PM

    Glad I started a discussion at least. Some good points. I think my article stands as it is. Maybe I could have said it better, I think Koffdrop is more eloquent.

  6. Anonymous says
    03/19/2012, 8:16 PM

    So I haven’t played me3 yet so I can’t comment on the ending but I completely agree that as art it is what it is and should be accepted as such. Seems to me that with a series such as ME it’s about the journy more than it is the destination. But the idea of opinion not mattering is WAY off. If money is the only way to show your opinion on something then opinion is simply boiled down to “yes or no” and not the why of the opinion. Let’s say half life 3 comes out and people were to do what you say and not buy. The only thing that would show the company is that people aren’t buying the game, but not why it’s not being bought. For that information you need people’s OPINIONS on the company, it’s practices or the game and what people perceive to be wrong with it. Sure people can give their opinion with money as to whether they want something or not but without the feedback of what they expect out of it a company may just waste their time and money throwing out product that no one wants and take losses because of it. But the most beautiful part of this article is that it’s just your opinion, and since I didn’t pay anything for that must mean it’s worthless :)

  7. Koffdrop says
    03/19/2012, 7:30 PM

    I like and agree with this article and the references within it. As an adult in his late 30s and a ‘gamer’ since the 80s it saddens me just how this culture represents itself.

    Few who voice their opinion do so with consideration to any view other than the one that serves them. “It’s on the disc, I own it!”. Actually, no you don’t. Just like when you bought Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band you didn’t get ownership of The Beatles music. People have got used to their assumptions and have built an entire fallacy of entitlement upon these unsound foundations. The instant something challenges their perception of the norm, it triggers a knee-jerk reaction of astonishment and disbelief that must be on par with the time when some chap suggested the Earth might not be flat after all.

    I suggest all these entitled vocal gamers try their hand at creating something. Preferably in a team. Perhaps, even to a deadline. I strongly believe this will provide a broader understanding on the topics that they argue on. Sadly most demonstrate that creating a coherent argument constructed of complete sentences is beyond their ability. I suppose that’s harder than dashing off to Metacritic or Amazon en masse to mark down a product’s rating. That’ll learn ‘em!.

    Gamers, it seems, never consider the option of ‘doing without’. As this article points out – it’s all well and good to rant and whine but handing over your money is the strongest message of all. And that’s something that these gamers need to accept full responsibility for. Nobody is holding them at gunpoint. These are luxury goods after all – not bread and water. But, heavens, no. A gamer will have their game, goddamnit. That alternative option has no chance of making it through that red mist of entitled rage.

    Ho hum. Time for my meds. Cheerio.

  8. hyl says
    03/19/2012, 7:07 PM

    this article is so… stupid and useless that i can’t even think of an argument your petite mind wouldn’t turn around and insult me with.

  9. DarthDiggler says
    03/19/2012, 6:28 PM

    Attention all gamers, for some reason you missed out on this important life lesson. If you don’t like something then you don’t buy it.

    Nuff said. Don’t be a spoiled little prick complaining about a shitty ending for a video game. Many games have shitty endings, big fucking deal. Grow the fuck up, change your diapers. Maybe you need something more in your life than video games if this upsets you that much.

  10. Josh says
    03/19/2012, 6:19 PM

    What I find interesting is that you’re blaming the consumer for being distressed in some way for not getting essentially “what they payed for”.

    Does that mean consumers are perfect? Not at all, however there is an expectation and if you’re creating that expectation with a product and don’t deliver, you’re going to hear about it no matter what.

    You should remember that people have in some cases been playing these characters for years and when faced with a fairly limited range of options as how they finish the story; any hiccups are going to be magnified in their mind. It’s as if you played all the Metal Gear games and then Solid Snake ends up getting killed by a child randomly shooting a handgun into the air. Endings don’t have to be “happy” but they do have to be satisfying. The fact you admit it could have been better shows that you yourself weren’t happy with it entirely either; you’re just counter balancing it with the enjoyment you got from the other parts of the series.

    As far as DLC on the disc. It only makes sense you pay for a product and the product inside the package itself. You wouldn’t buy a box of cereal for 5 bucks and then spend 2 more to open it would you? I mean the bag and the box are made in separate areas at separate times right? You can’t expect developers or producers to actually sync themselves up and charge a fair price for a complete package right?

    Just develop the game and DLC at the same time then shove them together but charge twice. Despite the fact that if you’re doing DLC and the Game at the same time….it’s essentially just a part of the whole that has been sectioned off for “special” DLC status nothing more. Maybe we can get some Mario games where Luigi is a DLC pack on day 2 of release for 15 bucks.

  11. herewegoagain says
    03/19/2012, 6:08 PM

    Nobody is FORCING you to read people’s complaints. Just as the people that are complaining aren’t being FORCED to play or buy the content they are complaining about, you yourself are ALSO are not being FORCED to read people’s complaints so you can GTFO or STFU anytime you like.

  12. smh says
    03/19/2012, 6:06 PM

    Ah, generalizations.

    Yes, some people, not just gamers, are whiny cry-babies. Many of us are people who have learned that the Internet is a place to express our opinions and do so without the thought that somehow it will change with our desire. The lack of change doesn’t mean we stop expressing our desires or complaints, though. For many of us, it’s a way to formulate better opinions by sharing and debating them with others.

    If you don’t like to hear our opinions, how about telling all the game journalists to stop reporting on them? I think that’s the bigger problem, that game journalists turn people’s opinions into big news.

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