Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mass Effect 3 and some thoughts on endings

First of all I will admit here and now that I have no idea what terrible ending Mass Effect 3 has. I only played Mass Effect 2 and, due to problems my computer had with the star map, never even finished that one. So this post will be more about endings than about Mass Effect.

As a fan of books, movies, and games, I have seen my share of endings, good ones, mediocre ones, bad ones. I have been tempted to throw books against the nearest wall for a stupid ending, I have been tempted to play Frisbee with the DVDs of movies that had a very boring ending, I have been tempted to throw game packages out of the window for no real ending at all (the dreaded To Be Continued ending). But I don’t do all that. Why?

Because I am also a writer. I create stories of my own and sometimes I feel like ending a story not in a traditional or expected way. Because, as much as I relay of my main characters throughout the story, I always know more. I know details of their lives, their minds, their hearts which I never tell, because there’s no time or place for them in the story. And those details tell me that a traditional ‘happily ever after’ ending is not possible for my hero. For some reason he or she (or it) can’t have the ‘happily ever after’ of a fairy tale.
Sometimes, even after the villains are slain (or behind bars, or whatever), after the world has been saved, after the crisis has been averted, nothing at all is well.
Sacrifices have been made, on and off the pages (or the screen).
Alliances have been made (out of need, usually).
Prices have to be paid.
Things that have been seen can’t be unseen again. Only very few people are lucky enough to lose their memory (and for them, it usually isn’t luck). And if a hero, after a very traumatizing situation, should lose his or her (or its) memory, they will not know they are lucky and will try to regain it.

I have no idea what sets people so at edge about the ending of Mass Effect 3 (the only thing I could imagine would be the ship and all crew and the main hero dying a gruesome death while earth is destroyed before their very eyes … but didn’t they have an ending almost like that at the end of the first game already?). I have a very good idea, however, of what will happen because of it. Fan Fiction has become a huge factor of the Web 2.0. People who like writing (like me, as I have also written my share of Fan Fiction) have found a way to be published, to hand their stories to the world, without having to find a publisher first. In blogs, on sites like, as free e-books on sites like Feedbooks, they can hand their stories out to everyone interested.
I can already see the many, many Fan Fictions that will ‘repair’ the ending of Mass Effect 3. Many people will write down how they think the game should have ended. Just like people have changed parts of the Harry Potter canon, have worked out their own Star Wars reality, have given numerous alternate realities to series like Buffy or Smallville.

Will that be good? Will it be bad? Neither, I’d say. It will be different – different visions of what should have or could have been. Visions that might tell more about the writer than about the topic of the story. They usually do, even with original stories.
Nothing really ends. Even if a life ends, a world is no more, there’s always something going on. Even should the universe cease to exist some day, there will be no ending – there will either be another one or nothing at all (depending on whether or not there is a multiverse).

The only ending I, personally, really hate is the To Be Continued ending. If I am in the middle of a story with multiple parts, a To Be Continued is appropriate, even though it might be wiser to end a story with some closure than with a cliff-hanger. Some games, though, do the To Be Continued, but never keep the promise. A company makes a game, adds a To Be Continued at the end, but never gets the chance to make another, because the market isn’t there (or doesn’t seem to be there). That’s pretty annoying, because the story lacks closure. It’s like walking into a movie in the middle and having to leave 15 minutes before the end. You have no idea how it started and no idea how it might end (because you didn’t see where the people came from and don’t see where they go to). You can, however, avoid walking into a movie late – or just come back another day and watch the full story (or get the DVD later). With a game that doesn’t get the sequel with the end, that option doesn’t exist.

A toast to the many endings Mass Effect 3 will have, due to having a ‘bad’ ending right now!

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