In following video game news for the better part of seven years, I’ve learned all-out rage is short-lived. Particularly with Mass Effect 3‘s ending, where hatred for BioWare and EA reached paramount levels only to dissipate two months later. And headlines from media sites feeding the furore certainly didn’t help EA’s public relations department.
Opinion came swift from every corner of the Internet, notably in that of the major sites’ reviews, which largely never took issue with how Mass Effect 3 ended. Reviewers, usually, judge the plot as a whole, not signifying aspects as good or trash, so pointing out an unfit ending wasn’t a thought.
A month into the shellacking, EA stirred the hate train more by announcing plans to alter the ending, what became known as the Extended Cut. That DLC turned disastrous because it set precedent: overriding the creative process in favour of business. An entire industry badmouthing a game would hurt sales, as EA presumed, so stirring the pot again wouldn’t have consequences!
Three pro bono multiplayer packs and the community shuts up. EA hasn’t proclaimed whether the “free” tag was planned beforehand or a peace-offering, but again, the anger disappeared quickly. Where did all that pent-up hatred go? To Crystal Dynamics, for a hyperbolic comment about how the dominant male playing base would want to “protect” Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider.
In the last year especially, this massive outpouring of emotion shows two things: first, that consumers are willing to uniformly speak on issues; and two, that publishers are now vulnerable to public opinion. Four massive controversies this year (Mass Effect 3, Tropes vs Women in Video Games, Crystal Dynamics’ rape scene and Borderlands 2 “girlfriend mode”) all sparked some form of outcry on issues that seriously affect the future of this medium.
Interestingly three of those discuss the role of women, how players view women in a perceivably male-dominated space, and the recent growth of women in development. We’re on the precipice of great change in this industry, and highlighting the role of women is something we need to discuss. Thus, why get distraught over a game’s ending and not argue for more gender balance?
If we use our collective voice to concern ourselves with more pressing issues, we could actually move into the modern digital age instead of being stuck in the past. Not just concerning women in this industry either. Season passes, online DRM, unreliable online services, and worst of all, new game codes. These are far more important for the future of gaming to thrive, not vehemently disagreeing with how one specific game ended.
(In retrospect, this post sounds way too protest-y. But, perhaps that adds to my argument. Eagerness about real change, and putting the developers in their place. I’m just one guy however.)
To the readers: Do you think other publishers would cave if we reacted with the same intensity in unison? Voice your comments below!
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