Brain Droppings on the Mass Effect 3 EC Endings

By RollaChiefRollaChief, on 07 Jul 2012 21:37
Last updated at 08 Jul 2012 10:41
Tags: me3 rant

Just watched all three endings, after I had originally chosen "Refuse," and turned off the Xbox when the credits began to roll; I never saw the "humanoid" telling the child about their cycle's victory. I'm sticking with my original thought, that the "Refuse" ending sequence was a groin kick, and a kidney punch from the developers to the players. It took my reading of delta_vee's article to help me also disconnect from the trilogy.

Then I watched the other three endings, and was repulsed equally by all three of them. Clearly-oh, who was it, in the AWTR ME 3 thread who wrote this idea-all three endings champion authoritarianism, precisely what the entire trilogy had argued AGAINST. Now, I know what follows will be in large part a re-hash of others' ideas. Apologies. I do not guarantee a point, either, in what follows. Caveat Lector.

Of all three repulsive endings, "Control" was the worst. "Synthesis" was just simple-minded. A child's intellectually underdeveloped Kumbaya. It's laughable in its totally reflective void. And my heavens—I cannot imagine what the developer who created the "green, glowing underskin circuitry" must have been thinking. "Yeah! This is COOL! That makes everybody look…like synthesis!!!" Nope. I cannot imagine.

"Destroy" is just genocide. That understanding of the "Destroy" option's thematic flaw is so simple, we've all read it ad naseum; even the most vocabularly-challenged posters on BSN hooked onto that word, "genocide." So it doesn't take a lot of synapses firing to get that problem with the "red" ending. Funny: I actually turned the Xbox back on, and chose "Destroy," after calming down somewhat post-"Refuse" initial choice for my EC ending decision. That "Destroy" choice, however, was (I realized later) actually in defeat to the developers. After reading your article, delta_vee, I forced myself, bile rising in my throat, to re-load the "Citadel Return" save, stumble one. more. time. to the god child, and then shoot him. Another groin kick. "So be it." I watched the credits, the "next cycle" conversation, then removed the disc from the Xbox, and uninstalled the game from my hard drive. Disconnect complete. So be it.

Back to "Control." When I watched it on Youtube, my face must have been drawn into a horrified grimace, like I had just watched an atrocity in some third-world civil war, and I had watched a news camera-operator's video. My wife, seeing me, asked if I was, in fact, watching a violent news clip.

No—I was instead watching "GodShep" violate every theme-now, to repeat for emphasis-every theme-in the trilogy. Sweep them all away. And caboose onto the ending some brand new, horrifying validations of authoritarianism and theologic absolutism. I refused to read the Left Behind series, because LaHaye and Jenkins' POVs are so repugnant for precisely the same reason that Hudson/Walters/et.al's worldviews are repugnant in the entire Mass Effect 3 ending. If only I had known back in 2007 that it was all leading to this. Golly- instead of investing 100+ hours in Mass Effect, I could have instead just picked a local church where the preacher was particularly sanctimonious, and listen to him tell me I have to give myself over to his rancid view of the Almighty-and my need in that rancid view to give myself over to the Big Bad Ubergod. Who loves me so much that S/He has to enslave me. That experience would have been over in, say, 90 minutes, tops. And I would have gotten the same message on which the ME 3 EC ending insisted.

All I can think of, as my mess of un-transitioned sentences closes in on my final rants, is that I have to steer clear, now, of games written/developed by Hudson and Walters. Maybe DA III will be worth a shyte, and Bioware won't be irredeemable as a game developer. I actually enjoyed DA II, flawed though it was (no need to rehash those problems). I appreciated the narratological experiment of the framing device. Not bad, all things considered. But this. This ME 3, um…thing. It's…irreparable.

So what it all comes down to, (can you hear-audibly-my screed coming to a close?) is that the series really ended after ME 2. The idea of the Crucible was so fatally flawed, so incoherent, that it could not possibly have worked. Yet that was the McGuffin—the interviewer combing the Kane universe for the answer to what Rosebud was. Unquestionably, Welles' McGuffin worked. This one…well, it's as though the devs really didn't understand the narrative concept of the McGuffin, but used it anyway. A clumsy, neophyte, Creative Writing 101 for STEM majors and their bad poety kind-of idea. The Crucible plot doomed the entire game. Doomed ME 3. Unfixable when they devs went down that road.

Maybe, given the exigencies, ME 3 was never going to be made the way it needed to be made. Not after Karpyshyn was re-assigned, not with EA as the corporate overlord, not with Walters fully taking over in ME 3. Maybe it was a symptomatic trifecta of creative apocalyps-itis. The real irony is that this Reaper cycle isn't a science fiction story-it's the real-world death of creativity as it's blugeoned by capitalism. Tale old as time…but no less tragic for its repetition. Perhaps the real tragedy—the most heartbreaking one-is how ubiquitously economics obliterates creativity. Kafka's Hunger Artist starves while everyone watches. Most comment that it was about time the Hunger Artist finally died-that's what they paid to see, after all.

Mass Effect had the chance to be something…more. And then it didn't. So for me, it's tossed into the pile of "almost-was-es," "might have beens," and "fell just shorts." No, of course that doesn't mean that the ME endings, EC or original, de-merited what was so right about the rest of it. But that's not the point. Mass Effect will never be what it could have been: transcendent. And when that tragedy occurs in the creative world, what's lost is so much more heartbreaking.

And that's my rant. Finis.


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