October 22, 2020
A Box Of Vanilla Cupcakes

I’ll say this first and foremost — I haven’t played very much of Mass Effect. The third person shooter combat in ME wasn’t my cup of tea. So I played and learned about Mass Effect vicariously through my hardcore gamer brother and memetic video clips on YouTube.

Despite this, I do feel as though I have enough of a grasp on the series to be able to comment on the fiasco revolving around the trilogy’s finale. I titled this article “Vanilla Cupcakes” after a stunt pulled by a group of ME fans who sent Bioware 400 vanilla-flavored cupcakes in response to the game’s conclusion. The cupcakes were divided by red, blue, and green frosting on top but ultimately were the same sugary treat underneath — a metaphor, these fans claimed, for how they felt the ending of Mass Effect turned out. (The company donated these cupcakes to a charity in response). It wasn’t done exactly out of spite, but as a creative way of communicating their distaste in a polite and sugary manner.

Eventually, Bioware released a “new” ending that gave more closure on the series and most people were satisfied, as far as I know. Still, I have mixed feelings on the entire ordeal. On one hand, it’s great to know that Bioware cares enough about its customers to listen and respond to their complaints.

But on the other hand, would Shakespeare have rewritten the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet if a vocal group of Englishmen demanded it?

Actually, wait, depending on the power of said group of Englishmen and the level of Shakespeare’s cowardice, he might have if it meant saving his life…

Erm, anyway. I’m not saying that Mass Effect = Romeo and Juliet in any way — I’m just saying that it’s kind of scary to see an entire company bend to the will of a very vocal minority. So what if the game ending was ‘meh’? How many video games have you played that had terrible or unsatisfying endings? Did anyone write letters or send pastries of rage to the makers of those games? No! As far as I know, there’s never been a case like this before. And that’s because most companies would have shrugged if off and said “lol too bad”. I mean, that must have been Bioware’s initial reaction. So what frightened them into changing the ending? Was it the fear of dismal sales for future games or publishers threatening to penalize them if they didn’t make the customers happy?

We probably won’t ever know the entire truth, unless of course, somebody decides to blab.

Although I know a lot of people enjoyed the new ending and I’m totally on the gamers’ side of “it should’ve been this way originally so we didn’t have to get upset at you in the first place!”, I don’t think Bioware made the right decision. There are a lot of gamers who can grow into a self-entitled attitude because they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes or don’t understand how difficult it is to make a video game, and changing Mass Effect 3’s ending was kind of handing them a superpower on a stick. Plus on the Internet, where anonymity is an easy path leading down the road of mob mentality, the general  response may eventually evolve into: “If we bitch and moan enough, if we start enough drama, we can make Bioware do whatever we want!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for player feedback and clear communication between the fans and the game developers…but the whole ordeal still made me unbelievably uncomfortable. I really hope that this is the last time any game company folds to the fans like this.

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