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Mass Effect of the People: Bioware makes new Mass Effect 3 ending

In August, writer Blake Snow made a contentious claim based on anecdotal evidence from video game industry veterans. Based on his interviews and limited data provided by gaming social network Raptr, Snow concluded that only about 10% of people play video games to completion.  That estimation needs to be re-examined if fan reaction to Mass Effect 3’s ending is anything to go by. So intense has the feedback been that Bioware is now promising to release new endings to the game in the near future.

In the two weeks since its release, the dialogue surrounding Mass Effect 3 has been dominated by dissatisfaction, both with EA and Bioware’s decision to release downloadable story content for $10 simultaneously with the game, and with its ending. This is hardly a matter of vocal players grumbling on message boards and social networks. The Retake Mass Effect campaign, a group of fans organized on Facebook, opened a ChipIn fundraiser to have Bioware change the ending of Mass Effect 3. The group raised $50,000 to donate to charity Child’s Play.

Nothing compels a business like Electronic Arts like the promise of more revenue. Bioware president and co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka issued a statement on the studio’s official website on Wednesday morning saying that while he defends the existing work that is Mass Effect 3, feedback can’t be ignored. “Our first instinct is to defend our work and point to the high ratings offered by critics – but out of respect to our fans, we need to accept the criticism and feedback with humility,” reads the statement.

After going on to discuss his faith in the video game medium and the nature of people’s stake in the finished product, Muzyka goes on to say that Bioware has researched fan feedback from “industry press, forums, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few.” As a result Bioware will plum forward by making new content “for those seeking further closure to their journey,” the details of which will be revealed in April.  “We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received.  This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.”

Fans should be careful what they wish for. The open dialogue between audience and creators created by the Web offers a fruitful transparency to the creative process, but it can also muddy artistic vision. Look no further than Final Fantasy XIII-2 for an example of what happens when game makers take fan demands to heart. That game was created as a direct response to people’s complaints about Final Fantasy XIII’s linearity and constrained storytelling. The result was a game that was more garbled than its predecessor and built around selling additional piecemeal content after its release to maximize the possible profits earned from a fickle audience.

If people are dissatisfied with art, better to make their own than force other artists to change their work.