on Mar 12, 2017
About once or twice a week someone messages me on Twitter, or in the comments, or sends an email to the Diecast, asking for my thoughts on the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda. While it’s probably clear from my lack of interest in the subject that I’m not really looking forward to the game, I guess I should tackle this topic head-on.
The “Angry Videogame Nerd” is a really common trope. Lots of people have made successful careers – far more successful than mine – out of being humorously outraged at each new attempt by the videogame industry to entertain them. I try to avoid negativity for the same reason I try to avoid a lot of swearing: Not because it’s wrong, but because that’s usually the easy path and I don’t want to end up using it like a crutch. I want to be good at this job more than I want to be successfulAlthough to be clear, I really DO want to be successful. and so I don’t want to take shortcuts that will pull me out of the “analysis” niche I’m working in and into the already-crowded “exaggerated outrage” market.
I know a lot of my content focuses on analysis and story diagnostics. Since there’s usually more analysis to be done on things that are broken rather than things that work, this ends up giving the site a negative feel. I really want to avoid being pigeonholed along with the angry guys. I’m not knocking their content. Even though we’re reviewing entertainment, we’re also making entertainment, and strong emotions and bombast are pretty entertaining. I’m just saying that’s not the sort of niche I’m trying to fill. I mean, if I’m trying to be an “angry videogame nerd” then this site is a failure, because my anger isn’t nearly intense or bombastic enough to set me apart from the crowd.
If you pick the Blue Thing, then you`ll mindlessly buy each new Mass Effect Game, only to be disappointed. If you pick the Red Thing, you`ll scream outrage into the BioWare forums, complaining about games you haven`t even played yet. If you pick the Green Thing you`ll buy every Mass Effect game and then lose interest and stop playing about 25% of the way through. No matter which one you pick, people will argue with you.
I also don’t want to be known as a one-trick pony. I don’t want to be the Captain Ahab to the Moby Dick of Mass Effect. I don’t want to be “that one guy who’s always ragging on Mass Effect like a crazy person”. I wrote an entire novel worth of analysis on the Mass Effect trilogy. That got me a lot of new readers. But if I cater too hard to that group then this site will become a lightning rod for Mass Effect ire. Again, that’s not what I want to be known for. I try hard to make it clear that my analysis comes from a place of genuine affection. I really do love videogames and I really do enjoy playing them.
And finally, some people really are excited about the game. I disagree with just about every bit of marketing and game design I’ve seen so far, but other people are hyped. Bitching about Andromeda before release will annoy those folks and start a bunch of arguments for no good reason. I’d do it if I had something incisive to say, but EA’s marketing is such a cyclone of bullshit and manufactured controversy that we have no way of knowing what the final game will feel like. If anything, giving them a bunch of press would just feed the hype machine and reward them for their shenanigansAnd yes I realize this post does exactly that..
I honestly don’t know if I’ll be getting the game. I want to get it if it’s going to be a return to the tone and sensibilities of the original. (Because then I would enjoy playing it.) I want to get it if it’s going to be flawed and compromised in interesting ways, because then we’ll have problems to analyze. But if it’s just going to be a big idiotic mess of plot holes, railroad-y cutscenes, softcore alien-shagging, contrived choices, thin characters, lazy contrivances, and ill-fitting fanservice shout-outs, then I’d rather give the thing a pass.
Analyzing flawed games is fun, but above some threshold the flaws collapse under their own weight and it becomes a waste of time to attempt to enumerate all the problems. I call this point the “Hitman Absolution Limit”. Once a game fails spectacularly enough, criticizing it feels like trying to demolish a heap of rubble.
At any rate, this is why I’m not slamming each new trailer and interview tidbit from the Andromeda hype train. Maybe I’ll get it, maybe I won’t, but raining on the parade Mass Effect fans are having won’t do any of us any good. Let EA’s marketing put on their silly show. We’ll see the truth for ourselves in a couple of weeks.
 Although to be clear, I really DO want to be successful.
 And yes I realize this post does exactly that.