Die-hard fanatics need to really dial back the rage

In Opinion

For the last few decades, there has been a war developing in pop culture. This war is between the creators of said pop culture and those who keep these properties alive — their fans.

Now it looks like the fans might actually be winning the war.

Things are worse than ever — take a look at Mass Effect 3. The Mass Effect trilogy is known for the ability to create your own Commander Shepard, the hero of the game, whose appearance and decisions made in the games are carried over from the first game to the last. Everyone was happy with the series up until the climax in Mass Effect 3 where (spoiler alert!) no matter what decisions you made, everything came down to three choices. And let’s just say fans were not happy with this ending.

Fans even started a “Retake Mass Effect 3” Facebook petition to demand for a better ending. As of 10 p.m. last night, the movement has 59,672 likes and even rose more than $80,000 for charity.

Nothing here is exactly new until Bioware, the studio behind Mass Effect, announced that downloadable content was in the works to give more closure. Though these downloadable content were probably already in development, the “Retake Mass Effect 3” saw this as a victory.

Admittedly, I was tremulously disappointed by the ending of Mass Effect 3 but this entire movement is incredibly silly. The point of the game is to entertain, which it successfully did for countless hours. That is what really should matter but fans are notoriously short-sighted.

Letting the fans change what they don’t like is a dangerous path to go down. Art is from the vision of its creators and no one else’s. You might not like it but you have to respect it, or else you can’t really call it art.

And Mass Effect isn’t the only thing to upset a fan community recently.

The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in the works has already sparked outrage after producer Michael Bay revealed that the turtles are aliens. This contradicts the story of their original origin, where they were mutated from a chemical spill.

The backlash has lead to the creators of the Turtles, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, having to release statements telling everyone to calm down. At this point, when the film comes out it can be advertised as the most controversial of the year.

The idea to make the turtles aliens is extremely odd but as long as they are four kick-butt turtles who love pizza and speak like teenagers from the 80s and 90s, none of this really matters.

That is the problem with fans, the tiniest change upsets them but they never seem to care if the product is good or not. And as long as the film is entertaining it accomplished its goals.

Drew McWeeny, editor at HitFix.com, has named this movement “fantrums” and they can be more powerful than you think.

“When one person throws a tantrum, it’s unseemly, but it’s hardly something to worry about,” said McWeeny on his site. “When one million people throw tantrums in unison, companies start getting worried calls from stockholders … They (fantrums) can change endings. They can derail entire productions.”

It’s this kind of attitude that give fans a bad name. Stephen King’s Misery came out of these kind of reactions fans have. Annie Wilkes was the personification of all King’s whiny, entitled fans. She goes so crazy over what her favorite writer does to his lead character that she breaks his legs when he refuses to change it.

The best explanation of where this fan entitlement comes from is probably from the rise of fan fiction since the explosion of the internet. Fans have been able to tell their own stories where the characters they love that can be read by wide audiences because of the Internet, giving them a sense of ownership that, in reality, they do not have.

And that is not even mentioning that most fan fiction is dreadful. There are some amazing writers who have done it. Comic book writers have been known to write terrible stories on their favorite characters when they were younger. I wouldn’t trust most of these people to write a one-word synopsis, let alone have control of my beloved franchises.

We at are at a point where if any property goes off what you expected to happen it is considered a betrayal and decried as the destruction of their beloved franchise.

Look, we have all been upset over something from the things we love. Be it the end of Lost, the DC Comics relaunch, or whatever Lucas has done or will do to the Star Wars franchise.

All these things have left countless people frustrated, including myself, but this is the way the creators wanted it to happen. They are not our slaves here to amuse us. They are artists and you don’t have to consume it.

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  • War Blogger

    Uh, while I agree that a certain degree of rage shouldn’t be surpassed you’re simplifying the issue. Much of the rage about Mass Effect 3 isn’t about the ending per se (as in, there are only three choices) but rather about the fact that it
    a) goes completely against the tone and themes of the games
    b) massively contradicts the universe’ own established lore
    c) provides zero closure
    d) is, in many ways, the complete opposite of what the producers promised even as late as February 2012
    e) was advertised as the choices the player made over the course of three games would lead directly to a multitude (16) of different outcomes.

    Secondly,
    “The point of the game is to entertain, which it successfully did for countless hours. That is what really should matter but fans are notoriously short-sighted.”

    Really? Mass Effect fans are “notoriously short-sighted” for realizing that this ending effectively kills the franchise? Who in their right minds will buy mid-game DLC content knowing that no matter what they do, it all goes to shit in the end? That makes about as much sense as betting your money on the Confederacy after Gettisburgh!

    Yes, the games did entertain for countless hours (even though ME3 takes about only half as much time as ME1 did), but just like I can savor a five course meal just fine until there’s a cockroach in the dessert the ending marrs the whole experience.

    Third, other franchises have retconned endings before to great commercial success and fan acclaim (Broken Steel anyone?).

    Fourth,
    “Nothing here is exactly new until Bioware, the studio behind Mass Effect, announced that downloadable content was in the works to give more closure. Though these downloadable content were probably already in development, the “Retake Mass Effect 3” saw this as a victory.”
    I have yet to see a fan or member of #Retake who considered the vague announcement by co-founder Ray Muzyka a victory, especially after people were done sifting through the PR-speak (with the help of Forbes.com, among others).

  • Tod

    This article is so biased from tip to toe it’s almost amazing!

    That’s so great, a reviewer on a website lecturing people about Art when in fact does not have the simplest idea what Art is and how it works. Let me enlighten you :

    Art is a creation as you say by a person or a group of people – they own the rights for it, however once they release it to be viewed and admired by the public/fans they should be able to accept anything that comes back their way. You’re an idiot if you think an artist can make it by doing what YOU do in this article (reacting AGAINST fans/supporters) 2 Choices a- support fans and accept views b-keep neutral stance. If you go against your patronage you’re screwed. Get screwed once and you’re screwed forever.

    Pathetic of you to even imply that you have any idea about artistic expression or imagination and the figments of how portrayal gives you any right to lash out defending a desecration of something beautiful.

    Seeing as you’re such a fantastic artist and you know so much about art, why dont you tell me your ARTISTIC opinion on the mona lisa? or the last supper by DaVinci? Or the paintings of Giotto? How about what perspective really is?

    Oh you can’t? Thought so. Go back to your cave little man and stop pretending you know anything about a medium that supersedes your own by thousands of years.

    Oh and next time, try not to be as biased as you are and please avoid publicly kissing ass and stating wrong facts. Just because this is the Internet doesn’t mean everyone will believe the crap your mouth spews.

  • Tod

    If I could rate this post I’d give it a -150 out of 10.

  • Gary Twine

    Hmmm, While I agree that every single thing in a game shouldn’t be changed due to fan pressure I don’t agree in regards to the ending of Mass Effect 3.

    There are numerous official statements from Bioware stating they would never go down the A,B, C (Three endings) approach. People saw this and took them at their word.

    And suddenly, the media, yourself and Bioware are surprised that the people who were paying attention to Bioware’s promises are annoyed and upset they were lied to?

    Just because it’s a game doesn’t stop a lie from being a lie. A broken promise is still a broken promise. But because its “Art” its okay to lie and lead people on?

    I’m not sure how you were raised but I was raised to be honest and that trust, once broken, takes very long to earn back.

  • Evan

    That’s a fantastic point, or would be if fans were just upset about the lack of closure. In reality, the most upsetting fact is that we were promised innumerable endings that reflect our choices throughout the games; Casey Hudson had a quote about this, saying there would be so many, and they would be so carried you couldn’t say that you got ending A,B, or C. But that is exactly what happened. Beyond that, the ending invalidates everything you have done so far. It’s really more of that they had lied to us about what was going to occur, not just that it didn’t end how we wanted it to.

  • Kyle

    1.) Bioware really hasn’t announced anything yet but “content initiatives.” Could be a comic or book or whatever. No victory has been declared.

    2.) “Fantrum?” how about disgruntled consumer. I bought a product that was advertised as X and was given Y.

    3.) Video games are not movies or books. Imagine going to see Episode I today. Ten years ago we could only tell your friends how much Jar JAr sucks… today you can reach a much wider audience ie A Jar Jar sucks Facebook page. If we had Facebook would we have demanded Lucas change it… I don’t think so because movies are not interactive experiences that regularly get additional content that change them. There would always be more content or DLC for Mass Effect anyway because that is how video games work.

    4.) There is a theory that the end is “just a dream” called the Indoctrination Theory. If this is true then Bioware cut the ending of the game off so that they could sell it to us later as DLC. Imagine a movie going black in the last 10 minutes walking out into the lobby and the management asking for 5 bucks for a copy of the real ending. (Far Fetched? a game called Azuras Wrath just did this.)

    These are just some of the reasons this consumer of a $70 product is letting his opinions known.

  • et2cetera

    First and foremost, a book or movie is a non-interactive medium. As a consumer, you can only read or watch what the writer/movie-maker has envisioned it. This is the tale that they want to tell and it is up to the consumers to accept or reject.

    A video-game is however an interactive medium with different genres offering varying degrees of control in the storytelling element. For a typical First-Person Shooter (FPS) like Battlefield 3, the story is already pre-determined with the gamer required to perform certain objectives to the finale. At the other end of the spectrum in the Role-Playing Game (RPG), the gamer is more deeply involved in crafting the tale from the player-controlled character to the outcome of the story.

    Where it has rankled most gamers is that Mass Effect since its inception was presented as a RPG, an electronic version of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. ME1 fulfilled that, so did ME2 where certain decisions impacted on the survivability of your crewmates. Prior to its launch, Bioware and its executive producer Casey Hudson was proclaiming that ME3 was more going to have more than an A-B-C ending, but that was precisely what we got. Just go to youtube to find the comparisons between the so-called different endings.

    The gamers are not expecting a happy ending, we want an ending that we had an impact on.

    Unfortunately, the article suggests that gamers have no right to protest what they see as a promise not fulfilled in a product. Strangely, it seems like just because it is a game, the gamers (aka customers) can be treated less properly.

    Moreover, where is the justification for calling fans entitled? Was the product given free of charge? Are the fans calling for an entire revision of the game? In fact, most of the gamers that I know are happy with the series as a whole but the ME3 ending has so many plotholes and jarring literary devices that it simply looks as if the time spent on the series was inconsequential.

    As for the definition of art, it is only defined by the so-called artists? If so, isn’t that simply art for art’s sake? I find it highly pretentious that something that is made for mass consumption is suddenly classified as art when there are dissenting voices? Aren’t artists supposed to be able to take criticism and improve their craft?

    In the real world, which gamers exist as employees and employers alike, you do not simply pass off something that does not meet the requirements of the customers and tell them to accept it. I wonder if the wunderkinds understand your best customers become your business advocates (aka fans) by promoting your product through word of mouth, which is far better than any advertisement, and they carry more weight because their listeners would refer to them.

    Not that a business model would apply since I suppose the writer must be impressed with anything that is labelled art, and that we the common ‘hoi polloi’ should listen to our betters.

    However, as the last line states, we as customers do not have to consume it. Extending that thought, money goes where it is treated best, and we will definitely choose where we are treated best.

  • Shannon

    A silly and poorly thought-out article.

    Your critique makes sense if you apply it to paintings: one sees a painting in a gallery (for free), one argues endlessly over whether or not it is “any good”, and eventually someone (or no-one) loves it enough to pay the (very high) cost of owning it, and takes it home and puts it on their wall.

    But your argument makes no sense when applied to video games. Computer RPGs in particular. This isn’t $10 and a 90 minute investment (a film). This isn’t $5 and an hour each day for a week (a novel).

    This is $50+, and tens of hours. And an expensive console or PC. And a room in a house and understanding life partners and all the other things you need to be a “gamer”.

    Hours and money and space that you have *already invested* when you find out that the “creators” rushed the ending of a beloved franchise, and pissed away hundreds and hundreds of person-years of effort invested in making the story believable and interesting *until the last 10 minutes*.

    This is *explicitly not* “the way the creators wanted it to happen”. People don’t go to that much effort to be hated and reviled! That’s masochistic in the extreme.

    People make art to communicate. And unlike a painting where the effort required to “receive” the communication is to turn up where there is free wine and cheese for five minutes, the effort and time required to “receive” the “art” of a computer RPG is on the extreme end of all iterations of the narrative form.

    Fans are absolutely entitled to their opinions. They are absolutely entitled to be enraged. And they are absolutely entitled to demand that, after all their investment and after enriching the creators beyond the dreams of avarice, that the creators make at least *some attempt* to communicate their “vision” in a way that is understandable.

    Your last point is the most tone deaf, where you say “you don’t have to consume it”.

    The *entire point* of the “rage” that you identify is that people have *already* “consumed it”. And paid their money. And bought the previous two games. And invested time and effort in telling their friends how “great” this trilogy was.

    You’ve gotten it completely backwards!

  • xaurabh

    Well If Art is such a thing that we cannot have a say, they shouldn’t have allowed decision making options, or advertise that our decisions in the game will shape the outcome. So where was the Art at that time?
    Also you cannot interact with movie or comic characters, But the video game is completely “something else”. The whole mass effect series is made in such a way that it is art with considerable amount of tweaking from the part of player. Of course you wouldn’t know it.

  • Kevin

    They are not not our slaves, but they ARE here to amuse us. We’re their bread and butter. Also, you lose all right to artistic integrity claims when you become a publicly-traded corporation.

  • Terren

    “Everyone was happy with the series up until the climax in Mass Effect 3 where (spoiler alert!) no matter what decisions you made, everything came down to three choices”

    No. We did not get given three choices; we got given THREE COLORS. No matter which choice you make, all of your choices in previous games become irrelevant and you get a different colored explosion; the ending cinematic alone creates so many plot holes, it’s staggering. The last 10 minutes make a plot wormhole.

    You can say you beat the game. But you obviously didn’t, or paid absolutely no attention.

    “The point of the game is to entertain, which it successfully did for countless hours. That is what really should matter but fans are notoriously short-sighted.”

    The game does not entertain for countless hours. The game has a max of 40 hours of gameplay, which includes current DLC and doing everything there is to do in the game at an average slow pace. The ending completely destroys all replay value of the rest of the trilogy, rendering the 2 other games on top of it unable to be played. Even if you include Multiplayer, you will hit 50, maybe 60 hours of gameplay.

    We are not short-sighted. YOU are short-sighted. Do you think Star Trek did anything like this? That show is the exact same genre: When you make a game become all about talking to different people and create a huge, almost completely explained universe and technology, you’re now “talky and techy”. That has been the Mass Effect genre since day 1. The majority of the game breaks this genre. If we fans wanted a game to mindlessly waste our time, we would go play Gears of War or Skyrim. Mass Effect created itself a fanbase similar to Star Treks’ and they should have expected this kind of backlash from a complete 180.

    “That is the problem with fans, the tiniest change upsets them but they never seem to care if the product is good or not. And as long as the film is entertaining it accomplished its goals.”

    Something that has been here since the 80s and has been the same since the 80s, then some guy gets the logo name and decides to complete change something that has been unchanged and the same for 30+ years but you think it’s immature the TMNT fans are livid?

    So how about we just completely re-write your citizenship and kick you out of the country because it’s expired, then see what you think.

    “When one million people throw tantrums in unison, companies start getting worried calls from stockholders … They (fantrums) can change endings. They can derail entire productions.”

    You’re mistaking the movement for attempting to derail. We’re trying to FIX what was done to Mass Effect and rebel against game-killing companies like EA who don’t care a fig about their consumer base. Games are products, and we are the consumers; if I get a screwed-up blender, I bitch. If I get a screwed-up game that wasted 150+ hours of my life just to be given a plot wormhole, I bitch.

    “The best explanation of where this fan entitlement comes from is probably from the rise of fan fiction since the explosion of the internet. Fans have been able to tell their own stories where the characters they love that can be read by wide audiences because of the Internet, giving them a sense of ownership that, in reality, they do not have.”

    You are so ignorant, I’m suffocating now. We are not ENTITLED. Fanfiction has NOTHING to do with it. You HAVE TO PLAY THE GAMES. Not just Mass Effect 3, but all freaking 3. All the way. To the full extent. With multiple playthroughs, because you liked your characters that much.

    You’re confusing the illusion of wanting a happy ending and butterflies with rainbows, with the actual reason, being that we WANT THE PLOT WORMHOLE FIXED.

    Shepard dies? Alright. Squad dies? Alright. At least let me see them die, at least tell me they die, at least let me be able to manage to defeat the reapers THEN die with a save that has 3 perfect games on it, with max EMS in the 3rd. Is that too much to ask?

    Apparently it is, to people like you, who have no idea as to how to appreciate sci-fi.

    Plus, you said entitled.
    Your POV now means nothing.
    I hope you consider this some before you write another article full of bullshit and paid-for bias.

  • The Walkin Dude

    They can be artsy all they want, but they should do it on their own dime. Bioware made very specific promises regarding the ME3 ending, and these promises were not met. In many cases, we received the opposite of what was promised. You can claim “its art!”, but there has to be a better way to create art than lying and expecting us to roll over like sheep and pay for it. I doubt Michelangelo or Whitman had to lie to sell their work.

    We were sold a product based on false pretenses. They don’t have to give us what they promised, and we don’t have to buy more games that treat us like mindless wallets with legs. But if they were to give us the promised product, it would likely stop us from totally writing Bioware/EA off as a failed cause.

  • SubSlr614

    Great, another journalist that just doesn’t get it. It’s not about the artistic direction Bioware took. It’s about what they promised the fans: “wildly diferent endings”,players choices would affect the ending etc. It’s about getting a product that’s narratively broken, that doesn’t make sense within its own established “universe”. It’s about making the entire series lose its replay value.

    Glad you could come up with some new arguments besides “whiny” fans and artistic integrity, though.

  • CuseGirl

    Just want to respond to your segment on Mass Effect 3:

    The issue with the Mass Effect 3 ending is not just “We all hate it, kill it with fire”. The ending is just flat out wrong. It completely disconnects from the narrative you were experiencing beforehand. This is not just a slap in the face to the gamer, but simply bad writing that shows up after roughly 25 hours of a good writing. It makes no sense that this ending could have been reviewed by more than 2 people and sent to a recording studio.

    You are presented with a brand new god like character at the end of a trilogy. On top of that, this character tells you that your fight isn’t about killing the Reapers, your struggling in the fight of organics vs synthetics. So what was the last 100 hours of gameplay for before that?

    Yes, the initial anger is always the loudest. But time has given the more calmer fans a chance to compile totally reasonable explanations for why the ending of Mass Effect 3 isn’t just “difficult to understand” but “flat out wrong/broken”.

    Also, the notion that ME-3 or any of the other games is art is nonsense. Mass Effect asks the player to interact with it and once you give your input, you’re supposed to get an outcome that logically fits that input. That’s not art or at the very least, it’s not Bioware’s personal art.

    For Bioware executives to come out and say that changing the ending would sacrifice their artistic integrity, they’re basically saying “Despite us crafting a game where you made crucial decisions and saw the consequences of those decisions, at this point in the game, the ending of a 100 hour trilogy, we are the sole determinants of what happens at this juncture AND the incoherence of what we are presenting you isn’t a reason to change the ending either”.

    As a gamer who shelled out 115 dollars for both ME-2 and ME-3 and other DLC packs, I cannot accept that response. It’s arrogant and upsetting.

  • Trent

    If you are going to do something, finish it right. A half-assed ending is no way to close an amazing series.

    Fans and customers alike have every right to voice their opinion, protest, and boycott the company responsible for their displeasure. Suggesting that they do not is what is silly, Jameson.

    Just try to imagine how bad games would become without it.

  • Lance

    I like turtles.

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