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Mass Effect 3's ending: Why the backlash is idiotic - but inevitable

(Spoiler free) After 130 hours, there was never going to be an ending to satisfy fans, argues Tim Clark

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As has been widely reported, disgruntled gamers who didn't get their happily ever after have begun petitioning for a new ending. Let's ignore the preposterousness of how it would be actually implemented - "Do you wish to install Massive Baby Patch v1.01?" - and focus on why they're so cross. There's a depressing line of commentary doing the rounds at the moment that seeks to paint the gaming community as a bunch of self-entitled whingers. Of course that's true of some of us. But it's hardly unique. Try spending some time listening to football phone-ins. Or, if you value your sanity, don't.

A better comparison is with long-running TV serials. When The Sopranos ended after six incredible seasons, fans went into meltdown complaining about its (for the most part) critically-acclaimed ending. Speaking about the backlash, creator David Chase said: "We didn't expect them to be that pissed for that long. It's one thing to be deeply involved with a television show. It's another to be so involved that all you do is sit on a couch and watch it. It seemed that those people were just looking for an excuse to be pissed off."

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Similarly, when one popular character was written out of Dexter, fans were soon petitioning the TV studio demanding a resurrection. One producer patiently explained that no, the character would not be returning as a ghost. In that instance the death was necessary to bring the show back to the dark source it had drifted away from. The ending of The Sopranos was ambiguous because, well, what else could it be? Tony retiring to Florida to play minigolf would've felt ludicrous. Seeing him dead in a bowl of penne marinara would have harshed everyone's buzz.

Unless you're prepared to really rinse the multiplayer and scanning system (and if you are, help can be found in the web's only complete visual guide) then chances are your ending in Mass Effect 3 is going to be partial and ambiguous too. That's something to embrace, not go nuts about. Or to put it another way: the reason people are freaking out about Mass Effect 3 is because they love Mass Effect. And it's a fundamental by-product of the medium's interactivity that people feel like they own part of the outcome. In the same way football fans talk about owning the club, even though the shareholding invariably says otherwise. Like Tom Francis said, we feel like it's a collaboration, which is why some people get upset when their ideas are effectively overruled. (Although imagine how dull gaming would be if developers simply served up the most popular crowd-sourced climax.)

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Ultimately I understand the reaction of the fans, but I also hope Bioware takes no notice of it. The fact the response has been so, well, visceral, counts for more than any of the innumerable rewards Mass Effect 3 will hoover up this year. There's no higher accolade than creating something people care so much about that it makes them furious.

Need tips, cheats and guides? You need our Complete Mass Effect 3 Scanning Guide - and How To Get The Perfect Ending tips, our 10 Essential Tips For Saving The Galaxy in Mass Effect 3, our expert Mass Effect 3 Class Guide or our tour of Mass Effect 3's Normandy.

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