March 28, 2012

Your Audience Is Not To Be Belittled

I'm still kind of flabbergasted how the Mass Effect 3 ending drama has blown out or proportion in some arenas.  Sure, fan anger can last a while, especially since the game came out less than a month ago and we still have waves of people finishing them every weekend and going full rage tilt on the forums.  I'm also not surprised that Bioware is slowly responding.  The developer has a couple opportune moments to announce what the next step is on their end (even if they're not going to fix anything).

I think what is really interesting for me to watch is the way that that the video game journalists are now up in arms about this fan disappointment.  You've already seen me respond to Colin Moriarty of IGN post a video claiming Mass Effect fans were being entitled and whiny.  I don't know what he thought he accomplished when posting this video, but really many of us interpreted his ill-planned video like this.

Moriarty is not the only video game journalist who has lashed out.  Before and during game release, many of the reviews loved Mass Effect 3 on the whole, and only a couple of reviews even mentioned that the ending may be lackluster.  The fans were not even mad at the reviewers until they started lashing out saying the fans were demanding something that compromised "artistic integrity" and would be "bad business".  Obviously, in many's view it was the fans that were wrong and they as professionals in the right.  Never mind the fact that in every other medium in the past two centuries has an instance where endings and universes have been changed because of fan response.

I don't want to focus on the fact that changes to endings have happened before, or that legitimate criticism needs to be not only from editors but from loyal readers/watchers/gamers.  No, I want to focus on how this shows when a lot of writers are insistent that they know more than their audience, and how this is always doomed to fail.

One of the authors I admired most when growing up was Tamora Pierce.  I read the first three quartets she wrote for the Tortall setting.  Right before the last of Kel's stories, Lady Knight, was published, she went around the country doing readings of the first chapter and answering a ton of questions from adolescents girls.  Many of them were eager to become writers in their own right.  Including me.

I was lucky enough that she answered my question about censorship in books.  It was something that I only became aware of because another story book, and I was afraid that would mean that my writing would always be shut out.  In the midst of answering my question, Tamora Pierce enlightened me to one thing: never assume your readers are dumber than you, or need to be talked down to.  Your readers will appreciate you more for it.

I've kept those words in my head because I remember thinking how I felt when writers thought I was too dumb to understand what they were giving me.  It is a key way to become a horrible writer.  You either over-explain, under-develop, or self edit everything to remove all the complex layers that make any character or plot.  Not every reader may be as smart as the writer, but you want to reward the smart readers regardless.  That shows a respect for your readers, and an appreciation for their patronage to your story and universe.

This is true for all writing.  You have to respect the people who read your story, and not presume that they don't understand anything as well as you do.  It doesn't matter who your audience is, after a while, they're smart enough to see if you think they're too dumb.  Once they're that insulted, they'll stop reading.

When the first defensive reactions came out, Mystic said he had a joke for me: video game journalism.  I don't agree it's a joke, but I do agree that some video game journalists are definitely showing why they are not meant to be writers.  I can understand defending your review in an intelligent article that sparks a conversation.  I myself still say everyone who loves a good action RPG should play the entirety of the Mass Effect series.  There are plenty of ways to justify the high rating after a 5 minute catastrophe to an ending.  Calling your audience ignorant by saying they don't understand art and that they have entitlement issues is not a respectful way of going there.  You've essentially told your audience you don't respect them.  Why should they even respect you back?  Why should they read what you write now, if you don't value their opinion?

This is a relationship that is vital between writer and reader.  The writer must respect that the reader has their own opinions, intelligence and experience to work with, and vice versa.  Just as people shouldn't disrespect the writers who wrote the ending because we don't know what their logic was at the time, writers shouldn't dismiss an audience who doesn't react favorably to their creations.  Sometimes it's good that an audience sees something you didn't realize you create.  Sometimes it's good your audience doesn't agree with you.  That is part of how art grows.  This is part of how a business enterprise grows. A video game like Mass Effect is a combination of the two.  Video game journalists, who write about a hobby and medium we all love, interact with the two all the time.

So I hope that anyone who is even only tangentially aware of this situation can take this lesson away from it all.  You have to respect your audience, and you have to respect your creator.  It is not the same as liking or praising them.  It's something more important than that.

March 22, 2012

The Boyfriend's on YouTube: Awesome Let's Plays.

I'm all for supporting worthy projects and creative endeavors.  Mystic and I have always had the same problem of having too many in our heads.  But he has started a couple online Let's Plays that I want to see through, and I hope you do as well.

First, Mystic and our friend Jester are doing a charity Let's Play for Free the Children, which they've titled Super Minecraft Adventure.  I know, very creative on the titles, eh?  They're going through the super docile and super hostile maps that have been made for Minecraft in hopes to raise some funds over time, so take a look and spread the word.  First video of the journey is below:

Next, in response to a lot of the blow up due to Mass Effect 3, Mystic has decided to do a Let's Play.  I'll have him describe it himself.

So please take a look at what the Boyfriend has been up to.  And help him raise funds for Free the Children!

March 20, 2012

I've been done with Grimm

I posted about Mass Effect a lot but it hasn't been the only nerd thing I've participated in the last couple of weeks, even if the internet can't stop talking about it. I could talk about it for days, but if you want to, just send me an email and I'd love to. Writing wise, I should move on to complain about something else that disappointed me for now.

I remember when I first told you all about Grimm, which in the beginning of the season I definitely liked. I've always been a fan of crime dramas, growing up with parents who were heavily into the Law and Order franchise as well as The Wire. I think that's part of the reason I liked Grimm, because of that take that I hadn't experience in some other series before (even though I will admit it isnt' a fresh new take on a fantasy setting). As the series went on I wasn't as thrilled by it, but I kept watching it, more for the side character Monroe and the side plot for Captain Sean Renard than any of the stuff presented for Nick's storyline. Nick is a good character but his story isn't the most interesting. Sometimes that's the writers, sometimes producers, sometimes directors... with a tv series that is expected to appeal to a broad audience you don't know who's messing up the final product.

I think with this latest grievance though, I am going to blame the writers, because this is an old idea that went out of hand. In the episode Three Coins in a Fuchsbau, Nick is chasing down these coins of power that inflate the ego and bravado of who owns them. The feeling of power is so great that people have fought and died for these coins, even though they ultimately lead to the demise of whoever possesses them.

My complaint comes in when they tie these thousand year old coins to the Third Reich. I'm not against tying anything in to an alternate history in your alternate world. I'm just bored with the whole "Nazis did it" that happens so much in sci-fi and fantasy. Back when this first got started it was refreshing to think that our enemies could only succeed with supernatural help. But now the trope has been used so many times before that it shows the writers wanted to associate with evil and Nazis were the easiest thing to take down from the "evil" shelf of ideas. There's no work into making Nazis bad, which is why a lot of writers use them in instances like the coins. Really guys? There are definitely other things you could've associated them with that would've been more compelling and interesting. But you chose Nazis.

I decided I was done with watching the series when Nick plays an old movie reel he found that is of a speech Hitler gave at the end of the episode. You see the coins on the lapel of his jacket so I was like "okay, nice tie in there." I wasn't totally disenfranchised until they decided to show this:

Blubadt?  Are you serious?

Yes, everyone, Hitler was a Werewolf.

How needless was that? How unnecessary was it to have him be a werewolf? How does that even add to the universe in any useful way? Hitler is dead and no longer a threat, knowing that he had the coins was enough of a tie-in. A werewolf?

From now on, whenever something is needlessly added into a story, I'm going to label it the "Hitler was a Werewolf" moment, because dammit that is how frustrated I am with this concept. Feel free to use that phrase in your daily vernacular.

March 13, 2012

Video Blog Response To Colin Moriarty of IGN

I broke down and recorded myself this morning.  I woke up to Colin Moriarty of IGN saying that Mass Effect fans like myself are entitled.  I'm arguing against many of his issues, mostly that it's not entitlement to expect high quality product from something that has had that reputation.


Also, this little video theory gives me hope.  Even if the ending was an accident with these hints, it's a great point for BioWare to pick up and make a fantastic ending to the ending we all hated.


March 12, 2012

Mass Effect 3: My Opinon

Part One: No Spoilers.

So you ready to kill the Reapers?  Not so fast, here comes ME3, reminding you that  team effort is necessary.  I mean, dude, there are tons of Reapers!  Humanity can't do it alone, even if The Illusive Man thinks so.

The start is kind of abrupt, but then you get into it.  Story is solidly well written and characters new and old are fantastic to have on the ship and bump into while you assemble the best war militia the galaxy has ever seen.

Also, I think this is the most complex they've actually made Shepherd.  You delve into what breaks your Shep's heart and how to pick the hero up and start punching reporters again.

Gameplay is fantastic.  Everything is smoother than ME2, which already seemed like a godsend compared to ME1, and leveling up feels a lot more compelling.  Powers are great, and strategy is still at the forefront.  That is, if you're not doing the narrative version which weakens everything.  Then you can do whatever you want.

And still scan those planets, but with half the tediousness!  Seriously if you want to win you really should scan those planets.  Just sayin'.

Multiplayer helps you with the end game part for ME3, and even if it didn't it's worth playing.  Now if only I could finally get my friggin' quarian engineer I'd be completely satisfied with the multiplayer.  Aww darn.

Don't forget that this is the end.  Some of your favorite people will sacrifice themselves, so be ready.  I've talked to grown men who admitted tearing up at parts.

And some of you, like me, will find it hard to say goodbye, even though you know you have to.  I was weeping and sniffling and wailing when I was saying goodbye to my squad before we did the last battle.  I am one to get super attached to fictional universes of this proportion.  This was it.  I will never get a chance to shoot things with Garrus, smash things with Wrex, or pontificate with Tali possibly ever again.  I am going to miss these characters.

Everything is extremely satisfying, and the end game is super epic.  Until the last five minutes.  When you think it's over, just escape before the credits roll.  There is a reason the internet rage exists.  However, this is less than 1% of the game, and luckily alt+f4 fixes it for you if you want.

Do I recommend playing Mass Effect 3?  Yes.  Sure, you'll get burned by the largest chunk of horrible writing at the end of the game, but there are so many other moments worth playing for that you'll kick yourself if you don't enjoy the other 99.5%.

Part Two: Spoilers


I hope that works.  People are touchy about that on the internet.

For those fans out there who have finished the game, I want to encourage you to think about the game as a whole and ignore the last "choices" part.  I've been seeing a few arguments for this on the internet and I have to agree.  Mass Effect 3 is more than just the last five minutes.

There are so many epic parts that I do want to relive again and I will.  The little moments with Garrus, Tali, hell I even started to like Miranda and she got under my skin in ME2.  There are things you didn't realize you love.  Eve showing us female Krogan are the best!  Udina taking a bullet because now everyone sees he's a legitimate dick!  Lasering a Reaper face!  Telling Cerberus to suck it over and over again!  And of course, getting back with the man/woman/alien you love.  My first playthough was a femshep dating Garrus, and it was sweet without rotting your teeth out.  And there are parts I can't wait to play with my "Renegon" Obama shep and my full renegade Alexi shep with their different choices and outcomes.

A lot of us got burned on the ending.  It's horrible.  It's like a freshmen year philosophy major smoking weed on the quad defecated all over the end game and Bioware didn't bother to see where the foul smell was coming from.  I totally understand.  I've lost sleep over this ending, and I think I'm catching a cold because of that.

But there are too many great things about this game that I wouldn't want to miss as a die hard fan.  It's worth playing the majority of it, especially if you know the ending is going to suck because then you know to avoid it.  Focus on what made this a fantastic game, and it'll be a lot easier to forget that child VI that gave a whole finger to the universe by limiting our choices to nothing but suck.

Okay yeah I'm still bitter about it.

The only other legit critique I have is that I don't necessarily like how multiplayer is necessary to get a "decent" ending.  Which isn't that decent and I hardly found satisfying enough to consider playing.  So Shepherd possibly breathes for a second in the wreckage.  Big deal.  Doesn't mean Shep stays alive or is anywhere near the planet that the Normandy lands on to restart civilization as we know it.  Fuck that.  In other news, a whole bunch of people are now stranded on earth with no where to go and depleted resources.  Yeah, there is no way that's going to end well.

Alright I got into the bad zone again.  Look, loyal readers, please understand that I'm not trying to defend what happened to the end game.  But there is a lot of stuff worth loving about this game, and now that you've played it I suggest you think about all the choices, dialogue, cut scenes, and fights you genuinely enjoyed.  They have to outweigh what happened in the last five minutes enough that you cane play up to that point and then quit.  You'll feel a lot better for it.

March 10, 2012

Quick ME3 Post

I finished ME3 last night.  It's a great game... If you ignore the last 5 minutes or so.  Sorry I've neglected from writing, but believe me, I'll have a lot to say in the next week.  Keep your eyes open.