Alright, truth be told, Shakespeare might not have said that. Or he might have… what do I know. But in a follow-up to my last posting about audiences, and how it is important to find out who your audience is going to be before starting any kind of production (it is a basic business-plan principle anyway), I thought what has been going on for the last couple of weeks in gaming-world might show some insight where audiences think they have too much influence.
And roll in the credits for Mass Effect 3, the final chapter in the epic sage saga from Canadian producer BioWare.
For the last couple of years, BioWare has done a major job in writing a real epic universe with depth, conflict and passion. The ratings for each of the games have been off the scale, and expectations were high for the conclusion of the final chapter in the story of Commander Shepard. When the game was released, again, the professional critics praised it into high heavens, finding it a fitting and perfect ending for this trilogy and hundreds of hours of play-time.
But, many of the gamers did not really agree. And you know what? Fine. Some gamers do not like the story, too bad. I loved the game Dragon Age 2 from the same studio, which had more or less the same effect on critics and the gamers. Sometimes you have people who simply do not like what you do. Just like I love the books of Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, it does not mean that every book is up to par in my opinion.
Which is absolutely fine. Everyone has their own opinion, and that is what we should value.
But, something weird is happening here. Because, a mass of the mass-effect gamers actually started a petition, receiving thousands and thousands of people supporting it, to force BioWare to rewrite the ending of the game.
BioWare’s response has been correct; This is the ending of the Mass Effect story. And the more time and effort you put in the playing of the game, the more impressive the ending will become. If you play it within the bare minimum requirements of racing to the finish, the ending will be less impressive, still, not bad at all.
But I was surprised about this petition. With Dragon Age 2 BioWare received a lot of critique on their story line and the way the game played. I thought it was unique, wonderfully told, a brand new perspective in gaming, and a magnificant production. Sure it had it’s flaws, but at that time, now a year ago, I could honestly say that Dragon Age 2 was the best game I have ever played. Not so much the best story, or the best playing experience, but everything combined… wonderful.
Mass Effect 3, in my own opinion, is again a step forward, and delivers an excellent adventure, incredible emotional moments, and impressive action that just plays nice. FemShep rules of course!
But, this petition… thousands of players demanding that the end of a creative story is being re-written. The argument: gamers did not like playing hundred+ hours to get to that kind of ending. And so, they demand a new ending. Worse, they actually try to force BioWare into rewriting a new ending.
Of course, people who are happy with the game will be the silent majority, give it a good score maybe, or some might write a blog-posting about it. But it is always the negative ones that demand all the attention. But I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that people demand the rewriting of a story because ‘they didn’t like it’, and they somehow had the idea they were entitled to a better story.
I am sorry, what world do we live on? This is not Tuchanka! It is – and there was the open door to the title – like asking Shakespeare to keep both Romeo and Juliet alive. Well, ‘It ain’t gonna happen!’
Writing a compelling story is no social engineering. It is not done through the minds of thousands of people. And we should be glad about it, otherwise every story would become a mediocre and average level of quality at best. A team of writers started writing a story that most people adored, and they kept on writing… and finished the story in a very compelling way. It might not be for everyone, but it is at least a good ending.
It reminds me of the movie Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts. A movie I was forced to see in the cinema by my then-girlfriend who had – ehm – lets say an outspoken opinion. A loud-outspoken opinion – especially produced during a movie in a movie-theatre. The facts that Richard Gere and Julia Roberts did not marry in the end, became a complete scene in front of the screen, instead of on the screen. She was furious! She also demanded that the movie was rewritten… and told that to the poor girl in the lobby of the theatre that sold the tickets.
People have to start dealing with the fact, that especially with entertainment products, everything by story line is as is. You don’t like it, you don’t go next time to a movie of the same makers, or you don’t buy a book of the same writers, or a game from the same studio.
From a business perspective, a company that builds large-scale games and requires a massive player audience, it might be something worth thinking about. If your audience exists out of 80% hardcore action gamers that go for the cheap thrills, you might want to write a story that could please them too. It is good business to satisfy your audience, if you want them to stay being a loyal audience.
But now this story has been written… it’s there. I think it is wonderful and that they did a wonderful job.
Just deal with it… and let poor Romeo and Juliet die. Tsss.