Fates

Fire Emblem Fates: Facts Surrounding the Controversy

A couple days ago, a controversy sprung up surrounding content within the game called Fire Emblem Fates. It involves two characters in the game, the male protagonist and a female character named Soleil. She is presented as a lesbian character (at least strongly implied she is one) who is very easily flustered around other women, to the point of fainting. Continue reading

Gaming

The Changing Face of Gaming

The ESA released a study in April 2014 called : 2014 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry. This report went into details of the current demographics of the video game industry. They hired the company Ipsos MediaCT, a company dedicated to helping companies understand how to reach their target markets better in the digital age, to conduct the survey and collect the data. The results revealed a video game world that was very different than what many believed it was. Continue reading

Retake

The Mass Effect Franchise: Retake Mass Effect 3

Two years since the excitement
Two years since the Reapers invaded Earth
Two years since the death of Thane
Two years since the fall of Thessia
Two years since the indoctrination of the Illusive Man
Two years since the controversy with the ending

Two years. Continue reading

Mass Effect 3’s Ending and the Effect it Had

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It’s been a long, hard bitter battle between the company BioWare and the legions of fans who were disappointed over the ending to the epic sci-fi drama Mass Effect. Even a year after the game was released, a fan campaign launched to get the ending changed and the development of an extended cut, I believe it’s safe to assume that even after all this time, the anger and disappointment is still fresh for those who loved the series. The ending to the popular series created such a controversy in the gaming community and it ultimately brought to life the topic of whether or not fans have any ownership in the games they purchase.

For some people, the idea of upset fans protesting the ending to a video game so feverishly to the point they lobby together to a new one created while also boycotting company products borders on the line of ludicrous. Almost childish some would say, calling them ‘selfish entitled whiners’ who are mostly upset that they didn’t get what they wanted. To that I say, when considering the history and relationship fans had with BioWare prior to the games release, it’s not hard to understand how everything between the two ultimately soured and ended with a once solid community to split.

That’s why I’m here today to try explain the reasoning behind the fan rage against the ending to a video game, and why it meant so much to such a passionate community. The fans of Mass Effect, particularly who protested the ending have been getting a considerably bad rep since this whole mess began, so I’m hoping that this blog will help show things from their perspective and maybe change your understanding of them.

Before I begin, I just want to go on the record to say that I absolutely, irrevocably, positively hated the ending to Mass Effect 3. I am also someone who took part in the fan campaign known as the Demand a Better Ending for Mass Effect (later becoming Retake Mass Effect 3: Initiative Log). I was extremely angry at how the series ended, and even a year after its release, that anger is still fresh. However, while my opinions about BioWare may be bias at times, I will try to be as fair as I can for the sake of this blog.

Emphasis on the word “try”.

Now, allow me to share something with you. The picture below serves representation of me about two years ago when it came to subject of where I stood with BioWare and the games they put out:

Iffem_shut-up-and-take-my-money

An overused joke, but no less true. I was a fiercely loyal fan of the company back in the good old days. I loved everything they released. Games like Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 1 & 2. I even loved their not-so-popular games like Dragon Age 2. I purchased anything with the BioWare brand on it whether it was games, shirts, collectibles, comics and books. Even when it came to their mistakes, I excused them for. Mistakes such as the novel Mass Effect: Deception, a book based on the series but was riddled with grammatical errors and mistakes concerning the universe in which Mass Effect took place.

Chris Priestly posted a message on the Bioware forums addressing fan complaints. "We are working on a number of changes that will appear in future editions of novels."

Chris Priestly posted a message on the BioWare forums addressing fan complaints. “We are working on a number of changes that will appear in future editions of novels.”

So yeah, despite BioWare’s shortcomings, I overlooked a lot of them because I loved their stuff. But mostly because I had known the company to be good to their fans. According to them, they valued their opinions and concerns more than anything else. They seemed to be good to their word because with every game they released, it kept getting better and better. I always thought that BioWare was more in touched in what their fans wanted to see more than any other gaming company, and I highly respected them for it. It was the only company in which I invest my money in without question or doubt.

Many fans, especially those of the Retake Movement, have said the exact same thing. It’s a rare thing nowadays to have a company that is so open to ideas, criticism and recommendations and BioWare prided itself for this policy. In fact, Mass Effect 3 was originally planned for a holiday release in 2011 but was delayed to give the company more time to ‘perfect’ what they had. It was this statement that got me so excited for Mass Effect 3, thinking there was no way that BioWare was going to let me down.

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 drops on March 6, 2011. It doesn’t long before the world ignites in fire with rage-filled fans.

*sigh* Where to begin?

I seriously could write an entire blog about the sheer level of disappointment  when the ending of Mass Effect was known. I believe the term ‘epic’ doesn’t even come close.

Speaking from a fan’s point of view, it was literally devastating on how it all ended. Now that may sound hilarious, and maybe even a little over-dramatic  for someone to wrap their head around. Car accidents are devastating. The death of family member is devastating. This is a video game we’re talking about. A simple activity where you play for fun and the end result is either you win or lose. Simple! If at the end of the day you say that having lost a game is almost equal to the loss of parent, well then your prioritizes must be completely out of whack, correct? Yes I agree. But then again, try to see this from a fan’s point of view.

The central idea of games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age is that players create a character and can go  through this incredible world, experience impossible things and essentially be the hero that saves the day. The unique appeal however is that world and the people are affected based on the choices you make. Whether they good choices or bad, there are consequences. Worlds could be either saved or annihilated.  People got hurt because of you. Some would live and some would die. In almost every scenario that the game presents you, you as the player can’t help but approach them with the weighted decision of “What would I do in this situation?” That mind set makes the game all the more personal and emotional as your decisions could radically affect the characters you’re teamed with.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about those brilliant and lovable characters!

The cast of Mass Effect. At the end of the day, they were like a second family.

The cast of Mass Effect. At the end of the day, they were like a second family.

BioWare had created such a will-written cast characters with such unique back stories and personalities that players couldn’t help but relate with all of them. These characters would react to the players decisions, respond to events the player took part in, form long-lasting keen-ships, grudges or even romances. The story was a personal one, a story created  completely by the player and their decision spanning a total of three games. With all these factors, it’s no wonder why the level of commitment from players was so high, or why the ending left many fans disappointed and angry.

For you see, BioWare has always said from the beginning that player choose matters. That whatever the player chooses to do will either come back in some form or another or will ultimately lead up to something much more grand or important. This was Bioware’s credo. Your choices matter, as they would say. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

This graph shows the different and unique outcomes of each ending. I think we need to have a discussion on the definition of 'different' and 'unique'

This graph shows the different and unique outcomes of each ending. I think we need to have a discussion on the definition of ‘different’ and ‘unique’

Right when it mattered the most, player choice was taken away and limited to only three outcomes that didn’t spell victory no matter what. The choices that players thought would come into factor didn’t. None of it, absolutely none it, mattered to the overall narrative. To add insult to injury, the ending left more questions than answers, completely lacked closure for the characters and the story narrative was a complete departure from what it was before. So much so that majority of the game in the final moments…well, just didn’t make any sense at all.

BY THE POWER OF PLOT-HOLES!!

BY THE POWER OF PLOT-HOLES!!

Needless to say that reaction was swift and harsh. Fans took to social media and BioWare’s forums to their voice their disappointment over the ending in hopes that the company would do something about it. After all, these were the same people who had long advocated that they listened their fans concerns and took them very seriously. And judging from the overall opinion, the public wasn’t happy.

A poll posted on the Bioware's forums considering fan responses to Mass Effect 3's ending. Hmm...yes, I can see where they would consider it a tough call.

A poll posted on the BioWare’s forums considering fan responses to Mass Effect 3’s ending. Hmm…yes, I can see where they would consider it a tough call.

As it turned out, however, BioWare didn’t see any problem with the ending. In fact, co-founder Ray Muzyka would state that he and everyone at the company was generally surprised at the multitude of fan negativity towards the ending.  They were especially surprised with the formation of the Facebook group Demand a Better Ending for Mass Effect began gaining attention and a petition with over 1,500 signatures just to get a different ending than what was delivered in the game.

Fans tried a number of ways to express their dislike of the endings, including the now infamous cupcake campaign where over 400 cupcakes were sent to the company.  All attempts to get BioWare to listen the plight that their fan base was either ignored or met with the dumb-down rhetoric of ‘don’t worry, we understand’ that came straight from the company’s PR department.

A total of 402 cupcakes were sent to Bioware HQ as part of a fan protest against Mass Effect 3's ending. The cupcakes were three different frosting, but consisting of just one flavor. Bioware in turn gave all cupcakes to charity.

A total of 402 cupcakes were sent to BioWare HQ as part of a fan protest against Mass Effect 3’s ending. The cupcakes were three different frosting, but consisting of just one flavor. BioWare in turn gave all cupcakes to charity.

Finally, the day came when BioWare made their decision on how they were going to handle the outcry. Now, I’m not going to pretend to know what goes on behind closed doors of major companies or even venture to guess what goes on their minds. But what I do know is that sometimes, when faced with the level of negative press such as the one BioWare was facing at the time, your best bet might just to give the people what they want in the hopes of avoiding further bad press while keeping your good name in tacked. Fans can be fickle sometimes. Disappoint them once and they will feel betrayed. And in the market of video games, you’re only as good as the last game you make.

Sadly, BioWare chose a different route. They chose not to give into the pressure and instead, stood proudly by the product they had created siting that it would go against their team’s ‘artistic integrity’ to make any changes to the game to satisfy the displeasure of what they considered ‘a group minority’.

Did I mention that the number of members of the Demand a Better Ending for Mass Effect 3 Facebook page was up to over 68,000 members, and growing?

Casey Hudson put out a statement reading:

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This coming from the same man who said:

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“As Mass Effect 3 is the end of the planned trilogy, the developers are not constrained by the necessity of allowing the story to diverge, yet also continue into the next chapter. This will result in a story that diverges into wildly different conclusions based on the player’s actions in the first two chapters.”

dfdfh

“It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, C.”

Artistic Integrity aside, this was probably the worst move BioWare could make. I understand the argument the video games nowadays are considered an art form and to some extent I can say I agree with it. Still, the gaming industry is just that; an industry. An business in which it seeks to make a profit on the products they produce. And in terms of video games, players play games to win. If the player doesn’t win or walks away unsatisfied, then it’s up to company to somehow remedy it. Claiming artistic integrity is sort of a loaded statement I believe. It comes off as sound egotistical, believing your work is only for the minds you think the same way you do. Artistic Integrity is especially hard to claim for something like a video game when they are mostly designed to be heavily influenced by the player, not the person who created it.

For RPG games especially, when the player practically creates the life of main character and assumes that role, it’s extremely important that it is satisfying from beginning to end. I never liked the phrase “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.”I don’t buy that.  The journey has to be worth traveling, and if it is, the destination has to be even greater. Other wise, the experiences you had along the way are rendered worthless. You walking from it having learned nothing with no lessons to pass on.

The Facebook page Demand a Better Ending for Mass Effect 3 would later evolve into the Retake Mass Effect 3 movement with members dubbing themselves 'Retakers'.

The Facebook page Demand a Better Ending for Mass Effect 3 would later evolve into the Retake Mass Effect 3 movement with members dubbing themselves ‘Retakers’.

I think the common misconception about Retakers is that we hated the series. Nothing could be further from the truth. We loved it! It was as strong a passion for us as anyone else out there who happens to be a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek or Doctor Who and so on. And what people fail to understand about the whole Retake Movement as a whole is that it did start out with the best intentions. Yes, there were those who were angry enough that they unleashed their venom onto BioWare in very destructive ways and because of it, their motives became misconstrued. But as someone who worked closely with the group, I’ll be the first to tell you that majority of the group wanted to be heard on very neutral grounds. We believed the best way to achieve change was to through as much civility as possible.  We advocated open, positive, and most importantly, respectful conversation with the company, because we still believed them to be the company who would be open to them as they always had been.

So I find it rather upsetting that the overall media assessment of the movement is that is was merely  a group of greedy fanboys who either wanted a “shiny, happier ending with lollipops and unicorns” or were just too stupid to understand the deeper meaning and really had no business playing video games in the first place.

I’m sorry, but when exactly was it okay to start insulting the intelligence of gamers? When was it excusable to out right say that if  a gamer is upset with how a game turns out, well then they must be stupid.  It only got worse when Retakers tried to point out the game’s shortcomings and were met with harsh criticism. For example when I got into a heated argument with someone who flat out called me retarded from not understanding the ending, that protesting only showed off my level of ignorance and that I needed to get a {bleeping} life and stop being a {bleeping} baby.

Charming…

A parody comic mocking the fan reaction by Ian Corrao

A parody comic mocking the fan reaction by Ian Corrao at Zombiehood

It’s  assumptions such as this is not only extremely hurtful, but it is also downright insulting to the intelligence of fans. It was this kind of mindset that really helped spearhead the idea that  the fans were nothing more than a group of “entitled whiners”.

A notion started up by Colin Moriarty of IGN, who took it upon himself in a video rant to target not just fans of Mass Effect, but video game fans in general, perpetuating the idea that gamers have become more selfish nowadays in asking more from the games we purchase as well as from the gaming companies who develop them. And while I don’t want to give Moriarty too much credit here (the mention of his name here is already more credit than he actually deserves ), I will have to say that it was his “entitled whiners” slogan that became the defense argument against the Retake Movement.

The gaming media was no help either. Playing the part of cooperate Yes Men, they glorified Mass Effect 3 with top score reviews, praise for the company, overlooked most of the major problems and did everything it could to discredit the Retake Movement. At this point, I think the term “entitled whiners” was pretty much being used by everyone in the media, and BioWare didn’t seem to have a problem with going along for the ride.

Case in point: The Indoctrination Theory

This was a well-thought out, extremely well detailed idea created in hopes of explains some of the nonsensical plot holes leading up the finale. The theory suggests that certain events in the ending was really an hallucination due to repeated contact and influence from the game antagonist. The Indoctrination Theory was well received from fans, even those who did not partake in the protested. Representatives of BioWare however, acknowledged the creativeness of the theory but would later debunk it and then mock it as if to say, “nice try, but no.”

Look, what people seem to have a problem understanding about the people of the Retake Movement as that these were hardcore, passionate followers of what was a great sci-fi series. As much as the critics would love to demonize them and called greedy entitled whiners, you have to try and put yourself in their shoes. I have always said that I’m not sure exactly BioWare knew what they had created. They had managed to create a game that not only was original, exciting, inventive and captured our imaginations, but it was also deeply thought provoking on morality issues that most games don’t even try to tackle. It was a series that made you care about your actions and it set the bar pretty high for future RPGs.

Die-hard fans of any source of media, be it comics, movies, television or video games, tend to take their passion pretty seriously. Mockery of that passion will almost always hit a sensitive nerve. It hurts even more when your trust in a company is not only shattered, but your displeasure is then openly mocked by the masses. Suddenly you’re not a fan anymore. You’re a joke, an pathetic example of what you represent.  You feel as though you’re being patronized to, belittled by those who claim to know more than you do. Even the company, someone you once respected, thinks you’re joke and ultimately joins in on the mockery.

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The truth of the matter is that fans were not just upset of how Mass Effect 3 ended, but more on how BioWare choose to address the problem. We felt betrayed and lied to.  We felt as though all the years of sticking by the company, of pre-ordering and purchases their games and DLC had been leading up to something great. Because that was what we had come to expect from BioWare.  But that wasn’t the case. Rather than try to smooth things over, they made decisions that made they appear supreme and only helped in further alienating the fan base from them, leaving those who didn’t agree with them feeling as if our loyalty was nothing. Even worse, our absence wouldn’t be all that missed anyway. Coming from someone who once held them to a higher standard in terms of  service, this is a bitter pill to swallow. I’ve gotten past the notion in thinking that I was actually a valued consumer based on what I’ve learned from all this. Am I still a fan of BioWare? *sigh* I want to be. I truly did enjoyed the games that they put out and the worlds that they created. But after so much drama, am I willing to go through it again with their next release?

I can’t say.

The bitterness is still there, so is the anger. I still want satisfaction, I guess you could say, for what should have been final end to one of the greatest game trilogies I have ever played. I want to be able to go back and play the series all over again without thinking along the way, “Why am I doing this if I know I’m going to be disappointed later?” That goes the same for future releases as well

*cough cough* Mass Effect 4 *cough cough*

scumbag-video-game-companies

Used Games: Greed

I’m a believer in free market capitalism. Seriously. I am. It empowers both the customer and the producer. The customer will pay for the products and services they want. The producer will then produce the produce or create the service the customer wants to make money. It’s a symbiotic relationship in that way. Sure, it gets far more complex than that. But when you look at the nuts and bolts of it, this is free market capitalism.

One of the nice complexities of free market capitalism comes into play when the customer no longer wants the product they purchased. They have the option of selling the product. They could do this at a garage sale, advertise it in a newspaper, or go to a resale shop to get rid of it. This option has been around for about as long as products have been sold at shops.

Gamestop came about, filling the need for a video game specific resale business. Sure, they sold new games as well… but it was nice to have a place where gamers could buy and sell used games.

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This is where the problem begins. Video game developers didn’t get a cut of the profits when gamers sold their used games off. In a free market system, the video game developer would not see the used video game market as lost profits, but rather would focus on creating quality products within the resources they had. Work with what you have, not with what you want.

The moment video game consoles were equipped with internet connections, developers had a tool to make money off of used games. Sure, they claimed DLCs were there to help expand on the video game… give the gamer more experiences… more levels to go through.. etc. But is that really what DLCs are used for? Really? I’ve lost count of the video games that lets me purchase ammo, guns, lives, etc. I’m left with the impression DLCs are there to help nickle and dime the gamer.

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More than that… online passes. They added it to as many games as they could, letting gamers purchase the used games. But they wouldn’t get the entire game unless they would pay the developers a small tribute… err… I mean fee. A small fee. That way, they are increasing their profit margin and tapping into a market where THEY DO NOT BELONG.

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What do I mean by that? Why don’t video game developers belong in the used video game market ? They made the game, after all. Heck, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot realized that when gamers purchase used games, they remain invested in the video game industry and are likely to purchase new games. So clearly, they have a stake in used games! So, why don’t they belong there?

Free market capitalism.

Video game developers are not letting the market naturally develop and grow. Rather, they are trying to take control of the market by taking away rights that customers take for granted. It seems straight forward that we can resell anything we purchase. This was because we believed we owned the damned product that we purchased originally. But as it turns out, we do not. When there are things like online passes and DLCs, the game can’t be truly owned by the customer. The proof is when they try to resell it.

If they owned it, then there shouldn’t be a problem with selling it to another person. That person buying the used product should get exactly the same product as the one who originally purchased it.

Does that happen?

Nope. That’s because the company retains a sense of ownership over the product. They can force customers who dare purchased games used to pay them extra to have the same experience as buying it new. And they justify it by calling it “online passes.”

The video game industry is over-reaching here. If they aren’t making enough money to develop their AAA titles, then they should re-think their business model… as it is not working. Their traditional business model is dying, as it is not compatible with the realities of the modern day marketplace. They need to look at the customers and figure out what they want rather than punish customers for what is perfectly reasonable: buy used games.

Related Article: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-05-31-pre-owned-crackdown-is-a-sad-excuse-for-business-innovation