It seems that the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3 has been cranked to 11. An FTC complaint against Bioware is the latest individual action, and it’s served to fan the flames of what’s become a binary topic. People seem to either enjoy and/or accept the game’s ending for what it is (Let’s call these people Group A) or they are upset for a variety of reasons (or Group B). I have no horse in this race myself, as trying to play either of the first two Mass Effect games was met with rapid failure and disinterest that shortly followed, so it’s interesting to observe this controversy from a distance.
Both groups are angry, and verbal attacks back and forth can be seen almost anywhere, but there’s a whole lot of shouting and not a whole lot of listening. Group A is angry at Group B because of the various methods that they’ve employed to get their message heard. Group B is angry at Group A after being told by many in that group to basically “shut up and accept it”. I can understand the anger on both sides, but it’s all counterproductive. What’s worse is that the anger level is increasing– fanned by the gaming press– and voices of reason are few and far between.
I fail to see how responding to angry reaction with more angry reaction gets anyone closer to a resolution of this issue, and it bothers me greatly to see members of the gaming press that I respect piling on. Perhaps it’s an unfair expectation, but I expect gaming press to at least be able to acknowledge both sides of an issue. Seeing the “shut up” and “whiny entitled gamers” reactions continue to populate articles and Twitter feeds saddens me. I expect such behavior from the average message board poster who is upset over an issue, but not from people who are supposed to be looked upon as experts, professionals, or thought leaders.
That’s what bothers me the most here. The theme has been constant over the past week, and this FTC complaint has only served to anger gaming press even more. Why? What’s in it for them? Where does this hatred come from? One man’s complaint– or one (allegedly small) group of vocal individuals– doesn’t grant anyone the right to preside over an entire community, painting gross generalizations and haranguing anyone who reads his or her words. This approach just makes some people– especially in the opposing group– angry. It disappoints me, and I’m not even in either group. I’m saddened by the insults, the preaching, and the “holier than thou” stance that I’ve seen so much of. I won’t even touch on the overuse of the “entitlement” term.
I don’t think that outcry over Mass Effect 3‘s ending will change anything, and it probably shouldn’t. Bioware has painted itself into a tight little corner, where there are consequences for every subsequent action. To me, the best course of action is for Bioware to take its medicine, acknowledge (or continue to acknowledge) public concern about the situation, and try to learn from the controversy. It’s also a good sign that so many people are passionate and involved in this debate, even if some are taking it too far on both sides. It’s evident how powerful the Mass Effect IP has been, and how many people consider it to be special. I believe that I saw a Twitter post recently putting Mass Effect in the same company as Seinfeld and The Sopranos, in terms of dubious endings. Both of those television series were critically acclaimed and continue to sport strong bases of fans long after their runs ended. It’s telling to me that Mass Effect has drawn an even sharper division and reaction from its fans as to how the series ended.
It’s a shame that the issue has devolved into the shouting match that it has. Perhaps a lesson can be learned once the smoke clears, and cooler heads can prevail. We can all agree and disagree– or agree to disagree– but I believe that we owe it to each other to at least hear out the opposing side of an argument and at least acknowledge that other side. Many of you will disagree with what I’ve been saying over the past week or so, and that’s perfectly fine. If you’ve made it through reading this far and can at least acknowledge why I feel the way I do, that’s all I can hope for.
Increasing amounts of comments and content from gaming press over the past couple of days have been attacking gaming consumers for being “entitled” and accusing them of not knowing enough about game development to have grounds to complain. It’s as if gaming press has suddenly responded to some sort of call to arms here, defending the industry that it covers instead of even attempting to look at the issues at play in some sort of balanced format.
The war has begun, and the very gaming websites that we read for video game news and information think that they’re better than us. They’re even taking to the bully pulpit to do so. It’s disappointing. It’s offensive. It’s a scenario that I never really thought would happen.
Why is it that Forbes, a financial website, has to be the one to even try looking at the consumer’s side of the debate when it comes to issues revolving around Mass Effect 3? Why is it that I don’t see any gaming portals even acknowledging that consumers may have a point, even if it’s not pursued the right way? Is there some fear of backlash from industry insiders if this occurs? Have relationships forged between gaming press and industry staff obscured the ability to see both sides of the fence? Is this finally the breaking point for gaming press, where they’ve simply become sick and tired of dealing with consumers complaining?
I wish I knew the answers to these questions, but I fear that we’ll never find the truth. Gaming press will be defensive, claiming that they can’t be bought and that they’re as impartial to the issues at hand as possible. It’s likely true that the average consumer doesn’t know the basics of game development, but talking down to your readership as though they’re comprised of petulant youths isn’t really the best way to make a point. Instead, it comes off as being a massive superiority complex:
We write about games, so we know more than you. Stop your whining and deal with it.
It bothers me to bring things like this up, but I can’t help but to feel as though the message has been made very plain. Respected gaming portals like IGN and Vox Games believe that they’re better than you. Crave Games thinks it’s better than you. Various members of the gaming press on Twitter think that they’re better than you. It’s an “us vs. them” scenario, with seemingly nobody in our corner as consumers.
I don’t get it. I always thought that gaming press was the consumer’s link to the video game industry. I thought that we were allies, or that there was at least some kind of responsibility to the reader when it came to what was said and written. Then I got this tweet from Ian Miles Cheong from Gameranx, which made it very clear:
We owe you nothing.
There you have it. If this tweet is to be believed, gaming press owes readers– most of whom are gaming consumers– nothing. This means that people like you and I don’t have a voice, outside of the complaining that we’ve been unequivocally told to stop doing. That’s just the way it is. It’s deflating to realize this, because having a responsibility to my readers and to consumers is part of why I wanted to get into the gaming press in the first place. Instead, it’s all about alliances and politics… and if you’re not part of the agenda, you need to kindly go away.
It won’t matter to anyone but me, but I’ve lost some respect for this medium over the past few days. Nothing will change, and that’s fine, but it’s a damned shame that something that I’ve held in such high regard for so long can be like this. I expected better. I expected different. I guess that’s my fault.