And We’re Back!

The last several weeks have seen me shuck off the last of my Seasonal Affective Disorder.  With the coming of spring I make my transformation back to a being capable of maintaining focus and actually caring about things, and I look forward to the long period of productivity ahead of me.  Especially on my beloved Renaissance Dork.

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Right up front I’m going to say I haven’t played any of the Mass Effect games.  Despite not only living in the city Bioware calls home, but having several friends that work at the company, I have somehow managed to hide in the eye of the ME storm, avoiding its time-draining effects.  I am neither happy nor sad about this fact; I will play it at some point but that time has not yet been ordained.

So I have listened to the Mass Effect 3 news/uproar/whining of the masses with some detachment.  I don’t really have a zurg in this fight, so people loving/hating the game does not touch me in any way.  Actually, the game’s effect on me came long before its release; it kept two of my friends from making it to our weekly Pathfinder game for a while, which I felt was an unconscionable lack of etiquette on the part of Bioware.  But I am a forgiving man, and we are all good now.

But when I cast my gaze upon the internets today, I came across this little gem of an article.  It seems some gamer by the nom de web El_Spiko has decided that the failure of Bioware to live up to certain “promises” (especially concerning the end of the game) is enough justification to log a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.  Um, yeah.

I’m not entirely certain what that is supposed to accomplish; several responses to the post seem to back me up on that question.  Video games, after a fair bit of struggle, now fall in the “art” camp, not commodity.  And the FTC, just looking at their website momentarily, does not seem in the business of adjudicating art.  So I don’t think for a second the FTC is going to do more than respond with a form email to El_Spiko et al, of the PFO variety.  And if I’m wrong about this, well…that will be an interesting day.

But what caught my eye in all this, is the overweening sense of entitlement that video gamers seem to have.  Guys and dolls of the video gaming world, Bioware owes you nothing.  Let me say that again: Bioware owes you nothing. Despite owing you the square root of eff all, they have still maintained a very good record of acknowledging consumer feedback.  This has resulted in both huge headaches for the company and amazingly good games.  But because they choose to listen to you, does not mean they are required to satisfy your whims.

You didn’t like the end of ME3?  Get over it!  I have lost count of the movies, books television shows and games that have disappointed me over the last three decades.  You know how you deal with that?  You don’t watch, read or play the offending item again.  If you were truly offended/disappointed, you might send a letter to the authors or producers explaining your disappointment.  But you don’t go crying to a third-party organization (and the wrong one at that) because you didn’t get the artistic result you wanted.

I mean, what is El_Spiko’s best-case scenario result here?  Say the FTC does step in and bitch-slap EA/Bioware over ME3.  Now we have the precedent set that any creator can be held responsible for the lack of satisfaction of their engagers.  And around about that point you will see many creative types stop putting their creations out in the public eye.  Why should they; if too many people don’t “get it”, they could face sanction.  And the stuff that does come out is going to have the emotional consistency of warm porridge, so that no one is offended or disappointed.

Disappointment is the risk you take when you engage with any artistic medium.  Sometimes you don’t get the ending you want, and you have to accept that.  The trade-off is, sometimes you get to experience something amazing, that transforms the way you think or feel.  And I think that is a fair trade.

But what do you think? Comments section is just below…

Update: My pal James Leask wrote a much more in depth piece along similar lines over at Comics! The Blog, and you should read it.