What it means to be a “Chuck” fan.

Tonight, I got an important reminder of what it means to be a Chuck fan…And it’s about more than just watching our favorite show.

Earlier this evening, a fellow Chuck fan commented on Twitter that she was considering deactivating her Twitter account, because she felt as though no one was really interested in talking to her anymore. Fortunately, a number of loyal fellow Chucksters stepped up to the plate and encouraged her to stay.

This reminded me that being a Chuck fan means more than just watching the show and encouraging as many people as we can to do the same (although that is an important part of it), and supporting the Chuck cast & writers in all their post-Chuck projects (although we should definitely do that too). It means that we should never take for granted the most awesome thing that this show has given to us: Each other.

Chuck has given us a group of like-minded Chucksters/Nerds/friends who are always ready to give each other an encouraging, friendly word when we need it. Finding the Chuck fan community was the first time I had ever encountered such a widespread community of fans outside of Star Trek, Star Wars, and World of Warcraft, and I will always be grateful for finding each & every one of you.

So, as we continue to watch Chuck, bring new fans into the fold, support the Chuck cast & crew, and work toward hopefully bringing about a continuation of Team Bartowski’s adventures in a Chuck movie, let us not forget to live up to the values of friendship, family, loyalty & camaraderie that are hallmarks of this show that we love.

Long Live Team Bartowski. Long Live Chuck. :-)

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My thoughts on the film “(500) Days of Summer” (Spoiler Alert!!!)

“What I’ve learned is that a great love is a lot like a good memory…When it’s there, and you know it’s there, but it’s just out of your reach, it can be all that you think about. And you can focus on it, and try to force it, but the more you do, the more you seem to push it away. But if you’re patient, and you hold still, well maybe…just maybe…it’ll come to you.”
–Epsilon-Church (Burnie Burns), Red vs. Blue Season 8: Revelation

“Every long-lost dream led me to where you are,
Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms,
This much I know is true…
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.”
–Rascal Flatts, “Bless the Broken Road”

NOTE: In this blog post, I’ll be discussing several key plot points of the movie (500) Days of Summer, including the very ending of the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading immediately and go watch it before continuing with this post!!! You’ve been warned!

Well, now that that’s out of the way, I wanted to go over a few of my thoughts about (500) Days of Summer, which I just finished watching for the second time after getting my own copy on DVD (I had first watched it several months ago as a Netflix DVD rental). Since I first saw this movie, I’ve discovered that opinions of its main characters Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are sharply divided. Some folks empathize more with Summer, and say that Tom was being a selfish & clingy jerk who didn’t respect Summer’s emotional boundaries. Others say that Tom was just trying to be a nice guy, and that Summer should have given a serious relationship with Tom more of a chance instead of being so distant and noncommittal. As for myself, I sympathize with both Summer and Tom.

I sympathize with Tom’s plight, because I understand how it feels to be rejected by someone who you’ve developed feelings for (as I’m sure most, if not all of us, understand as well). I will also grant that Summer could have been much more open with Tom when they reconnected at Millie’s wedding, and should have told him that she was seeing someone with whom she was getting serious. That way, it might not have been so much of a shock for Tom when he showed up at Summer’s party & learned that she had gotten engaged.

However, as was pointed out many times throughout the story, Summer was upfront with Tom from the beginning: She was not ready for a serious, long-term relationship with someone. In persisting to stubbornly cling to his idea of how love was “supposed to work,” Tom not only disregarded Summer’s legitimate feelings about relationships (stemming from her parents’ divorce), but he jeopardized the possibility of a rewarding long-term friendship with Summer. If Tom had had the maturity and courage to speak openly to Summer sooner about where their relationship was heading–and had been honest enough with himself to admit that it wasn’t ultimately going to go anywhere serious–then he might have been able to avoid the falling out that the two of them had. As it is, while Tom and Summer were able to come to terms with each other in their final conversation, it seems clear to me that they weren’t going to have much (if any) relationship as friends after this story. This is one of the saddest things for me about this film.

There is, however, a bittersweet irony in Summer & Tom’s ill-fated romance. While “happily ever after” was never meant to happen between them, Summer & Tom were meant to meet each other and be together for a time, so that each one could have an impact on the other’s life and propel them farther along on the path to finding the ones who they truly were meant to be with. In Summer’s case, she was meant to encounter Tom and give thought to his stubborn belief in fate & true love, so that she was better prepared to be open-minded when she finally met her husband-to-be. As for Tom, his experience with Summer was meant to give him a much-needed and long overdue wake-up call, so that he would find the will to shake himself out of his funk, rediscover his passion for architecture, and pursue his dream of a career in it. This, coupled with finally being willing to let go of his infatuation with Summer as well as his own rigid views of how romance was “supposed” to work, provided Tom with the opportunity to meet Autumn–the woman who he was truly meant to be with, and might have been with sooner had he not been so fixated on Summer.

In conclusion, there are two lessons that I take away from (500) Days of Summer. First, we must not allow our own stubbornness and selfishness to ruin opportunities for rewarding friendships. Second, if we want to find love in this world, we must be willing to relax, take a deep breath (both literal and metaphorical), and allow love to come to us without trying to force it. To quote some valuable advice passed along from my friend Jonathan, “You want to know the trick to finding someone? Stop looking.”

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Sorry folks, but it’s time for me to go on a bit of a rant…

I have had it up to my eyeballs with people on the news repeatedly beating to death the idea that there is a supposed link between fictitious violence in video games & other entertainment media and real-world violence such as the tragedies in Aurora, Colorado & Newtown, Connecticut.

As a response to this idea, I would like to quote this message prepared by the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) for concerned gamers to submit to their Congressional and Senate representatives as well as President Obama (my own commentary will resume after the quote):

“Christopher J. Ferguson, the chair of the Texas A&M International University’s department of psychology and communication, among others including federally funded studies, have shown there’s no link between violent video games and real world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression. Past research has been mixed, at best, and often weakened by substantial methodological flaws.

While video game sales have increased, according to the FBI’s own statistics, violent crime has been steadily decreasing. In 2011, violent crimes nationwide decreased 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, it’s decreased 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales.

At the same time, federal courts – including the Supreme Court – have routinely held that government regulation of media, including video games, is unconstitutional.  Funding more studies – or passing laws that then get fought out in courts – costs taxpayers like me millions of dollars.”

Now, do I feel it is appropriate for young children to play video games that have been rated “M” for “Mature” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)? Absolutely not! I would no sooner buy a young child a copy of a game like Grand Theft Auto IV or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 than I would a copy of a movie like Scarface, The Godfather, or Robocop.

However, the ultimate responsibility for making sure that young kids aren’t allowed to view violent video games, movies, or television shows does NOT belong to the government or the entertainment industry–it belongs to the parents/guardians of those young children. Sadly, many parents don’t seem to take the time or put forth the effort to educate themselves about the content of “Mature”-rated video games.

This is the description of the “Mature” rating, courtesy of the ESRB website:

MATURE

Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.”

As further illustration, here’s a picture of the rating symbol & content description from the back of a copy of the popular BioWare game Mass Effect 3:

Seems pretty clear, wouldn’t you agree?

I work in the electronics department of a major retail chain, and I am constantly approached by parents, grandparents, or other guardians who approach me asking to purchase “Mature”-rated games for kids. Every time this occurs, when I get the game out of the case, I turn the game’s box over to show the parent/grandparent/guardian the “Mature” rating symbol as well as the description of the exact kind of content the game contains, and I say something to the effect of: “This game is rated Mature, and this is the content that makes it have that rating. Do you still want to purchase it?” The overwhelming majority of the time, parents/guardians approve of the game, and they usually do so without really paying any attention to the rating or content description.

This is not a failure on the part of the video game industry. This is not a failure on the part of a video game retailer. This is a failure on the part of parents and guardians.

Some of you might be saying, “Well, what about all the retailers who don’t try to show parents the ratings and content of games?” I’ll grant that retailers should all do a thorough job of making sure customers understand the content of the games they’re purchasing, but even so, the ultimate responsibility lies with parents to educate themselves about the content of the games and other entertainment their kids consume.

In closing, I want to reiterate that it was not a video game that killed 12 people & injured 58 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. It was not a video game that killed 26 innocent children & adults & injured 2 others at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Those people were killed and injured because two deranged men who had no business being anywhere near dangerous weapons were able to access military-style assault weapons.

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Why I’m a fan of “World of Warcraft”

I first began playing World of Warcraft when I set up a 10-day trial account for the game on November 17th, 2007. A teacher at the school district where I substitute had brought up WoW in a conversation about video games, and asked me if I played it. When I told him I didn’t, he suggested that I try it sometime to see if I’d like it. I had been a fan of StarCraft since I got it for my birthday in 1998, so I knew that Blizzard made great games, but I was a bit hesitant to try WoW. In addition to hearing stories of how addicting it was, I wasn’t sure if my computer at the time could run WoW, and as much as I appreciated Blizzard’s reputation for quality, I seriously doubted that any game could be good enough to be worth paying a monthly subscription fee to play.

Once I started playing World of Warcraft, however, any doubts I had about it went right out the window. I enjoyed WoW enough to buy a full retail copy of the core game several days before my trial period ended, as well as a copy of the expansion The Burning Crusade shortly thereafter. Almost five years & two expansions–Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm–later, I’m still playing the game, and with the release of the new expansion Mists of Pandaria coming up on September 25th, I have no plans to stop playing World of Warcraft any time soon.

Some reading this may ask, “Why? Why such strong fan loyalty to this game? Why are you willing to pay a subscription fee to play it?” I wouldn’t presume to speak for all people who play the game, but for my part, I have four reasons why I’m a loyal fan of World of Warcraft.

First, World of Warcraft provides players with a wide variety of ways to create exactly the kind of character they want to play, with two very distinct main factions to join (the Alliance and the Horde), thirteen playable races to choose from, and eleven character classes (each of which can be customized to a specific play style).

Second, the range of activities available to players in World of Warcraft is incredibly varied. From simple & fun solo quests, to five-person dungeon instances, to complex & challenging 10-person & 25-person raids, to Player versus Player Arenas & Battlegrounds and beyond, there is no shortage of fun activities in WoW. With the new Mists of Pandaria expansion, this range of activities will expand even further with such new features as PvE Scenarios, Challenge Mode Dungeons, and the Pet Battle System.

Third, World of Warcraft–indeed, the Warcraft franchise as a whole–has an incredibly deep and rich story which has been carefully crafted over time by the remarkably talented minds at Blizzard. Not limited to the games themselves, the mythos of Warcraft has also been explored in an extensive series of novels, as well as comic books and manga. There are even plans in the works to adapt Warcraft‘s story into a feature film!

Finally, I am a fan of World of Warcraft because of Blizzard Entertainment’s dedicated support of this game and sincere appreciation of its fans. Blizzard diligently performs regular maintenance on WoW and its massive network infrastructure to make sure the game stays in good working order. They also provide a range of different options for players to contact them for account and technical support, whether by E-mail, telephone, message boards, or even in-game support from the ever-helpful Game Masters. Blizzard also has a dedicated team of Community Managers such as “Zarhym,” “Bashiok,” and “Nethaera,” who regularly address the comments, questions, and concerns of fans on the official message boards and on Twitter. World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg Street (a.k.a. “Ghostcrawler“) regularly communicates with fans as well, and fans are even able to contact Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime and Senior VP of Creative Development Chris Metzen on Twitter. In a world where it can be very easy for customers of large companies to feel like nothing more than a number, it is extremely gratifying to see Blizzard put so much effort into maintaining lines of communication with fans of their games.

For all these reasons, I am very happy to say that I am a fan of World of Warcraft, and I will continue to be for years to come. :-)

If you’d like to know more about World of Warcraft, check out the game’s official website here. If you decide to take the plunge into the game and would like some additional guidance for how to get started with your adventures in the world of Azeroth, check out my beginners’ World of Warcraft guide here!

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A quick poll for “World of Warcraft” players on leveling from 1-58

Hi! As a lot of folks who know me on Twitter and in person are aware, I’m a big fan of the online game World of Warcraft. I wanted to do a quick blog post & poll for fellow WoW fans on something I was curious about, so those of you who don’t play the game may feel free to disregard this post. :-)

Note for WoW fans: I primarily play Alliance characters (I do have some Horde alts, though. :-))

I recently set out to level several alts entirely in the Eastern Kingdoms continent, as I had spent most of the time with past characters leveling in Kalimdor. However, as I got one alt to the Level 35-40 range, I found that I just wasn’t enjoying questing in the Eastern Kingdoms as much (the zones of Stranglethorn are fun, as are Westfall, Redridge Mountains, and Duskwood, but Western Plaguelands just didn’t hold my interest for some reason). So, I took the alt in question over to Feralas to get it up to Level 40 before switching to another alt, and I’m finding that I really do enjoy the feel of the zones in Kalimdor much better from Level 20 onward.

So, here’s my poll question for my fellow WoW fans:

If you’d like to go into more detail on your choice in the Comments section, please feel free! (Just keep the language family-friendly as much as you can, please! :-)) Also, please check out this guide website I created a while back for new WoW players, and see what you think! If you like it, please steer new players to it! http://mattswowguide.weebly.com

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My thanks to Gray, Mel, and Liz for their efforts with “Chuck vs. the Podcast” and ChuckTV.Net

Back in February 2010, when I first became a fan of Chuck, I really wasn’t sure where to turn for information about the show beyond NBC’s and Warner Bros.’ websites. Luckily, a Google search turned up a treasure trove of info: ChuckTV.Net, the outstanding Chuck fan website run by Mel Lowery (@chucktvdotnet) & Liz Henderson (@PrlsOfLizdom). In addition to providing a wealth of news & information about Chuck, Mel & Liz’ outstanding site introduced me to “Chuck vs. the Podcast,” the fun & informative Chuck podcast created & hosted by Graham “Gray” Jones (@GrayJones) and co-hosted by Mel & Liz.

With ChuckTV.Net and “Chuck vs. the Podcast,” Gray, Mel, and Liz have done an outstanding job keeping Chuck fans in the loop these last few years with news, spoilers, and tons of awesome behind-the-scenes interviews with Chuck‘s creators, writers, crew, and cast. As just one example, the podcast’s 1st episode featured a phone interview with none other than Sarah Walker herself, Yvonne Strahovski! Gray, Mel, and Liz’ efforts have played an important role in not only informing fans about Chuck, but in helping me personally feel like a member of a larger community. It was an article on ChuckTV.Net that first prompted me to join Twitter, which connected me with the wider network of Chuck fans around the world and also helped me connect with new friends & acquaintances who may not watch Chuck, but who I share other interests with.

I recently finished watching the final three episodes of “Chuck vs. the Podcast.” I think I delayed watching these final podcast episodes because of how integral to my fan experience ChuckTV.Net and “Chuck vs. the Podcast” have been; prolonging the end of the podcast for me was, in a way, like prolonging the “end” of my experience with Chuck itself. The more I think about it, though, the more I am reminded that while Chuck‘s run of new episodes may be over, the experience of Chuck fans is not. We still have DVDs to watch, new fans to bring into the fold, and if we’re very lucky, a movie to help spread the word about if the opportunity presents itself down the road. Whatever happens, I’m sure that Gray, Mel, & Liz will be there to serve as a voice of the Chuck fan community, as they always have.

Gray, Mel, and Liz, I know I speak for Chuck fans the world over when I say, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You & God Bless for all you’ve done for us and for Chuck itself. If I’m ever lucky enough to thank you all in person at some point, first round of drinks is on me! :-)

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My experience with Bioware’s “Mass Effect 3,” and my thoughts about the game’s ending (Spoiler Warning!!!)

SPOILER WARNING: This blog post covers my experience with and thoughts about Mass Effect 3. As such, I will be discussing important points about the game’s story and details about its hotly debated ending. If you have not yet played Mass Effect 3, or if you’ve started the game but haven’t finished it, I urge you to stop reading now and come back once you’ve finished the game and had a chance to form your own opinions.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Mass Effect franchise since I got the first game on a whim when it came out in November 2007. I figured it’d be good, since it came from the same developer that had made Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but nothing prepared me for the richness & depth of story and fun gameplay that Bioware had crafted for the first Mass Effect. It was a given, then, that I would purchase Mass Effect 2 when it came out, and I was even more blown away by the improved combat and increasingly engaging story. This was made all the more meaningful by the ability to import my saves from one game into the next, thus maintaining continuity of my own custom version of the narrative.

All of this contributed to extremely high expectations heading into Mass Effect 3‘s release two weeks ago, and I’m very proud and pleased to say that the overwhelming majority of the game didn’t simply meet my expectations–it exceeded them more than I could have imagined!

I was thrilled by combat that was even more refined & tighter than in Mass Effect 2, which itself was a huge improvement over the combat in Mass Effect (apart from the cumbersome inventory system, combat was the only part of ME1 that needed improvement). Apart from generally feeling faster-paced & more visceral, the combat in Mass Effect 3 was improved over the previous two games by smarter & more aggressive enemy AI, as well as smarter AI for squadmates (I didn’t have to specifically direct squadmates on where to take cover as often as in ME1 or ME2). The incredibly wide variety of weapons available was a plus, and actually prompted me to give a second look at some weapons I had neglected in previous games (for example, the Vindicator battle rifle, which I didn’t care for in ME2, became my assault rifle of choice in ME3).

The War Assets game mechanic was another aspect of ME3 that I really enjoyed. It was a fun, clever way to keep track of the job I was doing in building up the armada to take Earth back from the Reapers, and the process of scanning for assets in the various systems was much simpler to deal with than the tedious mineral scanning of ME2. With regards to the new-to-the-franchise cooperative multiplayer, I really enjoy how straightforward & fun to play it is, thanks to the game’s excellent combat system. Many people have complained about the fact that the multiplayer has an impact on how prepared your singleplayer armada is, but I appreciated that aspect of it; it has made me want to participate in multiplayer in a way that other games haven’t up to this point. As far as the equipment packs for multiplayer are concerned, I enjoy being able to earn money to buy better weapons & supplies, but I’m not sure how I feel about the micro-transaction option. I’m concerned that people who can’t shell out the money to quickly buy the best stuff might find themselves booted out of games on a regular basis, but hopefully they’ll be able to avoid that by saving up in-game credits playing with groups of friends.

The lionshare of Mass Effect 3‘s story has been everything I expected and far, far more. Along with minor story atmosphere details such as being debriefed by Hackett after every N7 mission and side mission (which made those missions feel much more relevant than their ME1 and ME2 counterparts), I loved how subplots both large and small were resolved in ME3. Some of my favorite story moments included:

  • Coming to terms with Khalisah al-Jilani–Yeah, I know she’s the reporter everyone has loved to hate, but as a Paragon player who has always shown restraint with Khalisah, I really appreciated how using the Paragon interrupts allowed me to give her a chance to use her bully pulpit to do some real good, and that it made her a War Asset (interestingly, she provides more individual benefit than Diana Allers–who I think should have been given more to do in the game–does).
  • Conrad Verner–Ah, Conrad, ya goofy knucklehead. I loved that despite his continually inept nature, Conrad was given a chance to contribute (however insignificantly) to the war effort, and even sacrifice himself to save Shepard’s life (“Did I help, Shepard?” “Yeah, Conrad…You helped.”) I did the side mission to help Jenna in ME1, however, so Conrad didn’t die in my playthrough.
  • Discovering EDI’s origin–I had a feeling that the side mission to stop the rogue VI on the Moon in ME1 would have a payoff farther down the road, but I wasn’t expecting anything quite as cool as finding out that that VI eventually became the indispensable EDI, whose character development in ME3 was very enjoyable to watch unfold.
  • Encountering David Archer and Jack at Grissom Academy–The ending to the Mass Effect 2 add-on Overlord was one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching moments I’ve ever seen in a story, especially since I have a relative who is autistic. For that reason, encountering David Archer at Grissom Academy–and having him vouch for you to the other tech students–was incredibly satisfying. I also had EDI with me as a squadmate on that mission, which results in a brief but very touching exchange between the two of them. I loved the story development that has none other than Jack working as an instructor–and fiercely protective den-mother–for the biotic students at Grissom Academy. The part where Jack hauls off & punches Shepard while lecturing him/her about trusting Cerberus made me laugh out loud, as did her line to one of the students about taking…something…out of her purse.
  • Curing the genophage–This was one of the two biggest & most important subplot moments for me in Mass Effect 3, and it didn’t disappoint in the least. Mordin’s self-sacrifice to cure the disease which he helped perpetuate was a remarkably powerful moment, and I couldn’t help but finish singing the line “…scientist Salarian” after the explosion that killed him. The subsequent scene showing the Krogan female & Wrex express gratitude & promise that they will guide their race toward a better future was incredibly gratifying, and I hope we all get a chance to see how that future plays out in any subsequent Mass Effect games that come along.
  • Ending the conflict between the Geth and the Quarians–Apart from the obvious benefit of getting “two fleets for the price of one” in the war effort against the Reapers, being able to broker peace between the Geth & Quarians was supremely satisfying, and I’ve been waiting for it ever since the revelation in ME2 that not all Geth wanted to go to war with organics. The final moment when Tali removes her helmet & freely breathes the air of her homeworld for the first time was the perfect way to cap off that sequence.

Now that I’ve covered what I loved about Mass Effect 3, it’s time for me to address the elephant in the room: the ending choices of the game, and the ways in which they are lacking. First and foremost, there is a lot that’s good about the established endings in a general sense. Shepard’s willingness to sacrifice himself/herself for the good of the galaxy, the choice of whether to destroy the Reapers, control them, or create peace & understanding with them, and losing the use of the mass relays are all good ideas, and have the potential for creating fantastic endings for the game and the trilogy. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with the way the endings were executed:

  1. The destruction of the mass relay network–I don’t have a problem with the idea of humanity and the other races losing the use of the mass relay network, at least for the short term; it creates a great opportunity for showing how galactic civilization could cope with this loss going forward. However, violently destroying the relays outright has a glaring problem which numerous fans have already pointed out. As was established in the Mass Effect 2 add-on Arrival, if a mass relay is completely destroyed, the resulting energy release is enough to completely destroy all life in the system where it is located. Logically then, if the entire relay network blows up simultaneously, it would eradicate life in every populated system containing a relay, thus rendering the struggle to save civilization from the Reapers completely pointless. Furthermore, even if a ship tried to outrun the destruction of a relay as Joker does with the Normandy in each of the three main endings, it would be for nothing since the ship would be destroyed at their destination when that system’s relay blows up.
  2. Joker & the Normandy crew fleeing Earth’s solar system–There are three major problems with this aspect of the endings. First, Joker and the Normandy crew have no apparent way of knowing what’s about to happen with the Citadel/Crucible or the mass relays, so there’s no clear reason why they would attempt to flee. Second, even if Joker & the crew did somehow know what was happening, their extreme loyalty to Shepard would demand that they make some attempt to rescue him/her from the Citadel before fleeing the system. Third, since every member of Shepard’s squad was down on Earth’s surface, it makes no sense that they would suddenly be on board the Normandy, which was still fighting in the battle overhead.
  3. Destruction option also killing the Geth, EDI, and other synthetics–This aspect of the “destruction” ending really bothers me, especially since I placed so much importance on showing mercy to the Geth and brokering peace between them and the Quarians. Forcing Shepard to betray an entire race that agreed to help fight the Reapers renders the earlier choice to ally with them completely moot. It also makes no sense from the perspective that the Crucible was supposed to be a weapon specifically designed & built to destroy the Reapers; how would it be able to destroy or damage synthetics that didn’t even exist during the previous extinction cycle?
  4. Control option showing no consequences–The lack of any depiction of consequences is a huge problem with all three of the endings, but it is particularly notable in this one. If humanity suddenly had complete control over the machine race that had been attacking galactic society, the other races would certainly have something to say about it, especially if Shepard and/or humanity chose to use the Reapers in a less-than-benevolent way.
  5. Synthesis option focusing on DNA rather than mind–It has already been established that the Reapers harvest the DNA of organics in order to create the organic/synthetic hybrid basis of their own “bodies.” However, it seems to me that if the Catalyst wanted to present Shepard with an option of creating lasting peace between synthetics & organics, it would focus on Shepard’s mind, personality, and resolve. Those were the aspects of Shepard that allowed him/her to stand up to the Reapers, and accomplish the feat of uniting the galaxy’s races (including the synthetic Geth, depending on player choices).
  6. Mechanisms for selecting the three choices–This was one of the strangest aspects of Mass Effect 3‘s ending. It makes no sense how grabbing hold of what appear to be live electrical terminals, jumping into a massive energy stream, or shooting a power conduit with a pistol has anything to do with triggering a specifically-designed mechanism for destroying or altering the Reapers. This also eliminates any potential for a realistic means of Shepard surviving any of the three courses of action, including blowing up the power conduit in the destruction option. Again, the concept of Shepard sacrificing himself/herself for the good of the galaxy makes sense from a storytelling perspective, and I kind of expected that with this game. However, if Bioware had any plans for creating DLC that carries the story past the established ending, it would have been smart to incorporate some chance of survival for Shepard into every ending (perhaps dependent on player choices or some other set of circumstances). An alternative way of depicting this choice could have been Shepard standing before some kind of control console, making a choice through the dialogue wheel, and then showing depictions of each choice’s consequences through unique cinematics.
  7. Lack of “no Crucible” option–Bioware missed a huge opportunity to cater to player choice by not including an option to avoid using the Crucible entirely once learning of the potential damage it could do to the mass relay network and/or friendly synthetics like the Geth and EDI. An option like this would have been dependent on having the strongest possible armada with no War Assets left uncollected, and it would have logically resulted in the heaviest losses to the fleet (if anyone survived at all), but it would have been very satisfying to any player inclined to go that route.

All of the points mentioned above depend on the idea of taking the existing ending at face value. However, some people have put forth a theory that the endings in their present form are explained by the idea that all of the events after Shepard is knocked unconscious are a depiction of Shepard fighting off an indoctrination attempt by the Reapers. In this scenario, Shepard’s choice atop the Citadel would represent whether that indoctrination attempt succeeds (choosing the control or synthesis options) or fails (choosing the destruction option, which is the only choice that results in Shepard waking up alive in a pile of rubble). For a much more detailed discussion of this theory, please consult this document (Note–I did not write this linked document): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QT4IUepvrU1pfv_B95oQj0H84DlCTUmzQ_uQh1voTUs/mobilebasic?pli=1. In addition, YouTube user ACAYVOS has created a video that presents a very compelling argument as to why this whole sequence must be in Shepard’s mind, showing resistance to Reaper indoctrination (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ythY_GkEBck).

If the indoctrination theory is accurate, it would be a very clever storytelling idea, but that leaves the question of why Bioware ends the game at this point. Why not continue after Shepard resists Reaper indoctrination with the destruction option? Some have argued that Bioware did this deliberately, so as to make any forthcoming DLC with an altered/expanded ending more “indispensable.” Whether that’s true, or if Bioware meant for players to take the endings at face value and intended no other ending for the story, they now face a dilemma worthy of the Mass Effect games themselves.

If Bioware does nothing to change this ending, many players will be upset that they were not able to experience a clearer ending that provides closure and that better reflects player choices. If they provide a new ending with DLC that must be paid for, many players will be extremely angry that they have to pay extra to get the “true” ending for Mass Effect 3. If they provide a new/altered/expanded ending for free, either through a DLC pack or a title update patch, many have argued that it will set a dangerous precedent for fans being able to change any game ending they don’t like simply by raising a large enough stink.

Whatever Bioware’s intent was with the existing ending, and whatever they decide to do to address the matter, I hope that they and other developers take this opportunity to learn how to avoid this kind of situation in the future without compromising their artistic integrity. I also hope that fans of Mass Effect and of other game franchises realize that, while they do have every right to be displeased with a game and to express their displeasure, they should respect developers’ right to artistic expression, and express their views with respect and courtesy.

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