The Mass Effect 3 Ending controversy will likely end up being one of the biggest video game news stories of 2012. And unlike the game, we don’t know how this story will play out.
We’ve already talked about this issue from a PR angle on Tuesday and from an artistic perspective yesterday.
Today is a little different, because we are going to talk about the elephant in everyone’s living room:
The ending to Mass Effect 3 should not really have been a surprise to anyone.
Fair warning to those who have not played the game: it is impossible to have any meaningful discussion of the ending without giving SOME of the information away. I avoid direct spoilers, but I am forced talk about some of the themes in broad strokes.
If you strip down the window dressing, the Mass Effect series is built around a series of ethical thought experiments. Every choice has had a consequence. Every decision was relevant. If we were answering trolley problems for three games worth of play time should it really be a surprise to us that the series as a whole might be used as a vehicle to explore other philosophical ideas? I don’t think so.
Science Fiction as a whole is often uses as a medium to discuss and explore extreme ideas. Mass Effect is one of the most prominent examples of original science fiction in years. Why would it be exempt from that?
When you break down complains about the game and its ending to the most basic level you are left with frustration over the idea that players spent most of three games making choices and being told that the choices they make matter only to find out in the end that those choices are irrelevant. That is a textbook Lovecraftian theme.
H.P. Lovecraft believed very strongly in cosmicism, which is the idea that humanity is insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe. He doesn’t believe that there is no meaning to the life, but that the meaning is so far beyond us that we could never hope to understand it. Humanity can flail about all it wants, but in the end we will all die off and be replaced by something else. Sound familiar?
I’m not the first person to draw some of these conclusions. Not by a long shot. If you Google “Mass Effect Lovecraft” you will find numerous forums posts (some on the BioWare forums no less and blog entries that go into great detail regarding the similarities between Lovecraft’s work and the Mass Effect universe. If people saw these parallels then how could they be surprised when Cthulhu wins? That is a central theme in Lovecraftian fiction. Mankind cannot hope to win.
What do you think CT? Should I take off my tinfoil hat here? Or am I (and all the other people who have written the previous articles) onto something? Sound off in the comments!
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