on Sep 5, 2012
Well, Chris brought it up, so we are now officially talking about the ending. This will be the first of many discussions, I’m sure. Once again, no need to spoiler tag Mass Effect stuff. Anyone reading the comments has already bought the ticket and is clearly here to take the ride.
Also, sorry for bringing up my book again. That’s an obnoxious thing to do and I need to stop doing it. “Oh, I’m writing a book with these very themes!” Barf. It’s my innate desire to talk about what I’m working on, but it’s pretentious and it’s actually terrible for my productivity.
Chris brings up Film Crit Hulk. I like Film Crit Hulk, which is why reading the FCH take of Mass Effect 3 was so painful. Film Crit Hulk wrote this bit about the ending of Mass Effect 3. I was really frustrated with it. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind people saying they liked the end of the game. If it gave you closure or satisfaction, then great. But if you’re going to wade in and say things like…
YOU REQUESTED A COLUMN IN THE FIRST PLACE BECAUSE HULK CARES ABOUT / LOVES STORIES AND WHAT YOU DIDN’T REALIZE IS THAT WITH YOUR RAGE WITH THE ENDING, YOU ACTUALLY WANT THE DEATH OF STORYTELLING. SERIOUSLY.
…then you really need to at least have some basic grasp of what the critics are saying. FCH linked this video, which lists a lot of complaints. Right off the bat, this video is one of the weakest critiques of the game. FCH is attacking the weakest critic, and he still can’t tackle the guy’s main points about coherence and continuity. In my thinking, Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage is pretty much the definitive deconstruction of the ending, and the conversation ought to begin there. I don’t think my take on it is nearly as strong, although the bit on the crucible is kind of important and often gets overlooked because there’s so much broken stuff at the end that we overlook the earlier broken stuff.
Part of the problem is that the ending critics were so scattered. Some people really did want a happy ending. Some just wanted their choices to matter. Some wanted closure with regards to their characters. (Yes, the game offered closure, but then in the last five minutes it yanks the rug out from under its own story-caps, throwing everything into question again. It’s like if Frodo heads off to the Grey Havens but the boat springs a leak. Did he make it or not?!?) Some people wanted to know the mystery of the Reapers. Some of us just wanted the damn thing to make sense. Each group kind of sees themselves as the bearers of the One True Worthy Complaint, and as a member of the last group I’ll admit to being part of that particular problem.
The fact that there are so many complaints only underscores how broken the thing is.
But to insist that people demanding logic and continuity are advocating the death of storytelling because you liked the theme is to duck the argument entirely. You can say they missed the message. You can say there’s more to the game that they didn’t see. But let’s at least admit that there’s a shortage of sense-making going on here. If the critics are advocating the death of storytelling, then Film Crit Hulk is advocating the death of logic itself.
Talk about meaning and cycles all you like, but people asking perfectly reasonable questions are not trying to kill storytelling. They’re just trying to wring some meaning out of a patchwork mess of incongruous events. I’m not going to list them all here. Maybe in a future post I’ll sit down and attempt to catalog all the moments where the game made some nonsensical leap. There are many, and they led to story collapse for a lot of people.
Has Film Crit Hulk ever made their identity public? I ask because when I talk about FCH I have this strange tendency to refer to FCH as “her”. I think I managed to avoid doing so on the show, but only because I was making an effort to self-correct before I opened my mouth. Same thing in the paragraphs above. I mean, the icon is of a male character who TYPES IN ALL CAPS, so it’s not like I can forget who I’m reading. Am I confusing FCH with someone else who has a similar author voice? Is FCH written by a woman, or is there a female critic with a similar shtick? I just… why do I keep walking away from his articles thinking “She said so-and-so”? I’ve never had this problem before. Really odd. Also, sorry for calling you a girl, FCH, please don’t smash.
Here is another analysis: This is not a pipe.
And here is another good one, from an author’s perspective: Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process
Ah! In the comments Soylent Dave reminds me that there is a “Feminist Hulk” Twitter personality. That’s probably where I got the notion that HULK SMASH SCHTICK = Woman.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.