Big Picture: "Mutants & Masses"

Because I, evidently, am a glutton for punishment.

37 thoughts on “Big Picture: "Mutants & Masses"

  1. biomechanical923 says:

    They will not, nor ever, damage an entire medium and sent it spiraling back a decade.
    But fans can have an effect on a genre or a medium as a whole.
    Negative fallout over seeing a story that you didn't like because it didn't end how you wanted it to simply adds to the motivation for developers and publishers to put their money on safe bets.
    I for one am sick of every new franchise being created from the ground up as a trilogy with cross-media tie-ins and a predictable plot.
    When fans throw a fit over any piece of art that fall outside of the formula of the traditional “Hero's Journey” archetype, then the market is just going to respond by making more and more formulaic Hero stories.


  2. Taylor says:

    If the Mass Effect 3 fanboys get their way, it won't be a victory for literature or democracy, it will mos definitely send an entire medium spiraling back a decade by compromising the ability of writers to follow their creative drives rather than pander to fans.

    And if you file an FTC complaint because you didn't like the ending of something, then yes, you deserve to be made fun of.

    And this whole pablum crapping fad of “Kickstarter is saving art for the people rather than the corporations” is a complete farce.

    No it won't, being directly beholden to appealing to a hype driven mass audience will not encourage artists to take risks. They will encourage you to try to pander to a hype driven mass audince.


  3. Taylor says:

    James, since when has being an atheist made someone less self-righteous?

    And as a side note, critics kind of get to be self-righteous about their opinions. They have right to be.


  4. biomechanical923 says:

    On a side note, I've noticed that the major complaint about the ending is that regardless of your choices in the game, it really did nothing to change the ending.
    I'd like to think that the ending of Mass Effect was some sort of artistic commentary on the nature of Free Will vs. Destiny in the narrative structure of games, or Hero stories as a whole.
    I'd like to think that….. but we all know this is Bioware we're talking about, so I doubt the writers are that smart, especially since some of their best writing talent jumped ship in January/February citing “creative differences”


  5. Tony says:

    I'll just note I disagree on this “Set the medium back a decade” thing.

    See the thing is it's not folks just complaining cause “I don't like the ending” of some random game.

    It's not like Uncharted or any number of games that are strong on narrative.

    Yes the entire series is multiple choice, and the natural assumption & spoken promises from developers were that choices would matter in the ending.

    Then they didn't, everything is the same with a few palette changes.

    Fans will NEVER rally like this about any narrative heavy games because they aren't as invested and aren't told that they can/do change the story.

    The fact developers may think twice about outright lying about what their game contains or doing a nonsense ending just to “leave them talking” (Or, more likely, to make doing DLC & sequels to your 'ending' easier) is a good thing.

    Video games in the age of DLC will have additions to story.
    In a story that is, by it's very core about fan interaction with the storytelling, fans saying what story they think the DLC should expand/alter is natural and a good thing.

    Did some fans go too far and act stupid (FTC complaints and such) yes I'll agree they did.
    But to judge an entire movement by it's most extreme faction is like writing off EVERYONE who opposes abortion as a abortion clinic bomber, or everyone who is to the left as a violent revolutionary anarchist.

    Judging a movement by only it's most extreme voices is effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


  6. Anonymous says:


    Then don't look to the mainstream market to save us.

    Of course they are going to appeal to the lowest common denominator, that is what they do. It is the whole point of franchises.

    If you go looking toward EA for innovation, you will fail.

    The people at Double Fine or the creator of Wasteland 2 are a good example of creator driven games with fan feedback. It is all about options.


  7. Mads says:

    If the Mass Effect 3 fanboys get their way, it won't be a victory for literature or democracy, it will mos definitely send an entire medium spiraling back a decade by compromising the ability of writers to follow their creative drives rather than pander to fans.

    Yes. You’re right. This debacle will actually guarantee that bioshock infinite will be worse than the first one, because of this setback. At most, it can hope to be better, or as good as, games from 2002 or earlier.

    Also, strawmen gallore in this episode. Noone claims the fan should have the right to the mass effect intellectual property. Noone claims that they should be allowed to hire another studio to ammend the series.

    It's ludicrous to bring ideas of entitlement and ownership into this, because using that language completely skews the discussion, and people start talking about it as though the fans assume any kind of ownership.

    They don't. They simply excert pressure via speech….and if that's entitlement, the kind of entitlement that you get from the 1st bloody ammendment, and that's your fucking right.


  8. Zacqary Adam Green says:

    Aww, that's adorable, Bob. You believe in creative property rights. You think that once somebody's idea leaves their head and gets disseminated or published, that it's physically possible for them to retain control over it. You think already-communicated ideas have owners.

    See, here's the interesting thing: I completely lack respect for that viewpoint. It's tantamount to a belief in Zeus or the fucking Tooth Fairy. And I will whine as loud as I damn well please about it, and viciously try to get you to change.

    But you know what? You don't have to. Even if your crazy, 18th-century batshit earns you the ire of everyone who otherwise respects you, there is no obligation for you to pander to them. You can go right ahead holding an idea in your head — and even sharing an idea in your head — that is absolutely ridiculous and infuriating. Nobody is stopping you?

    Oh, what's that? If everyone started to hate the things you said, they might stop paying you to say them, and then you'd be effectively silenced due to the fact that you'd die of starvation? Well, that's capitalism for ya. Tough shit.

    Unless you have a better idea than capitalism, of course. Because telling people not to be dicks or not to exploit a broken system has never, ever worked.


  9. Anonymous says:

    I find it so ironic that Bob's generation is complaining about change in TMNT when their version was a watered down andbadly animated butchering of the original comics. And The TMNT movie was tied to the 2003 cartoon (the better one), not the other movies.


  10. Taylor says:

    “Aww, that's adorable, Bob. You believe in creative property rights. You think that once somebody's idea leaves their head and gets disseminated or published, that it's physically possible for them to retain control over it. You think already-communicated ideas have owners.”

    Okay, first off you call it batshit an try hard to write with righteous sarcasm but the concept of authorship and canon are actually very well defined in literary theory (It's why I can't rewrite Hamlet and expect people to accept it as legitimate)

    Second, what you're describing is exactly what Mass Effect 3 fans want to believe. They want to believe that Bioware has full creative control and ownership of their property. If not: Then they would have no ability to change it. If things that are published are out of your control, than rewriting the ending would be a pointless exercise even if you're the original author.

    Third, if authors don't control their property because that's impossible, than why would fans, who have even less claim to the work be able to assert control?

    Please provide an answer that does not include unrelated claims about capitalism in general to make your argument seem elementary.


  11. Jake says:

    While not a fan of Mass Effect, I'll just say that as a consumer, if you buy a $60 game that doesn't come out the way you want it to, you have a right to complain.


  12. Nic says:

    Bob, what's your preferred flavor of irrational vitriolic backlash: the people who miss your point completely, or the people who think you missed theirs?

    Enjoy the smorgasbord 🙂


  13. MerelyAFan says:

    The interesting thing I find is how much longer the concept of rallying movie studious, game companies, and TV productions to change things in stories will last.

    Yes we're still a long way off from any fan production genuinely rivaling the work of major creative businesses. But in a age (especially) in gaming where more and more people are coding and programming, where original web series are flourishing, and fan productions to get better every day, I'm left wondering how often the most literal application of personal canon will start to become the norm.

    No I'm not suggesting fanfic or fan work is somehow going to replace professional productions, but I do believe that the concept of just accepting a shitty part of a film/book/show/game and moving on could be supplanted by people finding alternatives to such in one form or another.


  14. Lord Slithor says:

    :Does slow hand clap:

    Bravo, Bob! Bravo! Hear! Hear! 🙂

    Bob, I may not always agree with you, and I don't mind disagreeing with you at times, and when all is said and done I respect your opinions. Honestly, I was was so glad to hear you say this, though. Between TMNT and ME3, the behavior of the geek community has had me worried. And what you said addressed every concern I had as well. It's true, just because you're a fan of something doesn't make you arbiter of it, whether it's TMNT, ME3 or whatever. You deal with it. If people are allowed to change the ending of ME3, then I ought to be able to email Stephen King and ask for a more satisfying climax to The Stand, or tell Joss Whedon to make Willow heterosexual again (or at least bi), or that Metallica go and take Load, Reload and St. Anger off their back catalog. But I can't. What's done is done. And it isn't fair to them or even to me.

    One other thing that might bear mentioning too is that even though some may not approve of Bay's Transformers or his production of TMNT, it's usually major movie projects like these that end up jumpstarting related projects for TV and elsewhere. The DCAU, Bruce Timm's new Green Lantern show, Transformers: Animated, Transformers: Prime, G.I. Joe: Renegades, X-Men: Evolution, Wolverine & The X-Men, Spectacular Spider-Man and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes are all very good shows, and I'd argue that we probably wouldn't be enjoying them now were it not for the successes of their movie-related projects that preceded them, whatever you may think of them. So if it means having to endure a possibly bad or mediocre movie if it means greenlighting a superior TV show down the line, that's not such a bad trade-off I think.

    Oh, and I will disagree with you however on the 2003 TMNT show. Sure the production stumbled a bit towards the end of its run, but on the whole I thought it was much more faithful to the comics than the 80s show was, and thought it was superior to it.


  15. B.L.C. Agnew says:

    Here's something people either seem to forget or just not be aware of:

    BioWare ASKED for this.

    Yep, sure did. For those who might not know, not to spoil it (because heaven forbid Bob do as much research on this as he would before a Big Picture on Doctor Who or Manga), the VERY LAST THING the player sees at the end of Mass Effect 3 is a screen that says this:

    “Congratulations on Commander Shepard being legendarily awesome! Buy our DLC for more ledend-building awesomeness!”

    Not. Making. That. Up.

    We knew Mass Effect 3 would have DLC. ALL of BioWare's console games this gen have had it, ME3 had it on Day 1, and – oh yeah – the end of their flagship series straight up said “Look out for more DLC!”

    So what did fans do? They told them where they could damn well start with the $10-a-pop expansions.

    That's not entitlement. That's not a confusion of ownership or a destruction of artistic integrity – that's a crowd shouting out “Freebird!” when the band announces “Now taking requests.”


  16. Anonymous says:

    I'm still playing Mass 3, but I've found my share of obnoxious, pretentious and self entitled fans who are so incredibly egotistical that they diferentiate themselves by refering to them as “REAL FANS” even have a section in their site called “Free A Mind” when they tell stories of how they “free the mind of a former stupid fan”.

    Take a load at this guy and tell me if Fans can be taken serious when THIS types of people are both seen as “brave” and “voice of the voiceless” by “smart fans”:


  17. Anonymous says:

    I take them as seriously as people who post news about Micheal Bays every move on their blogs and not expect that reaction.

    Or when they say that whoever likes Bay's Transformers or Expendables are horrible human beings who shouldn't vote.

    Both are “REAL FANS”, just different kinds.


  18. Sanunes says:

    I have no problem with either franchise having people that are voicing concerns about what is happening.

    My issue is when people are so focused on their being right no matter what you say you are a “blind fan boy”, “reviewers have been bought by …”, now I also add in filing frivolous court documents.


  19. Anonymous says:


    Fan re-edits of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was a thing as far back as… 2002? Maybe earlier? The proof of concept is over a decade old and while a video game is just a little more intensive to edit, there's always the mod community and “no programming needed” game development kits are getting better every day. We very well may end up with a buyer's market on all sorts of canon reinterpretation.

    Of course, you could just do what Trekkies have been doing since the sixties (and other people much, much longer than you'd think) by reading and writing fanfiction. Yes, there's a lot of shit and yes, it's generally written by girls obsessed with romantic pairings, but talent does rise to the top.

    By doing either of these, you can no longer claim canon and your interpretation becomes meaningless. You can't have your custom continuity and expect anyone else to accept it.

    See, there's Bob's video without coming across as an ignorant twat!


  20. Blue Highwind says:

    Reposting for Escapist Forums:

    On Mass Effect 3, and the debate that's going on: I'm not a Mass Effect fan, I don't play those games, I don't really know what the ending is. But I can sympathize. I played FFXIII-2 a few months ago, and that ending WAS WORSE. So I'm going to play devil's advocate here, and stand by the fans against the game company. If they're pissed, they might actually have a legitimate reason.

    You know what? Screw the rights of the artist, especially when it comes to video games.

    For centuries now its been assumed that the creator has total control over his universe and that the audience just has to sit back and take it. And that's fine for a book, you're basically being read the story about other people doing other things. So you might care deeply about those characters, but you aren't actually those characters. If Tony Soprano's story doesn't end in a satisfying manner, you can pissed about it, but like your own life just ended without meaning.

    Video games, however, are the newest form of storytelling. They're a radical departure of most kinds of fiction that we've seen. This isn't just the artist feeding the audience in a one-way street. Its the audience making their own choices in the story. Both the artist and the audience are collaborating on final outcome. For example, if the player gets bored of a game, the plot of Super Mario 64 will end in an anti-climatic whimper as Mario falls down a hole and dies, never to come back. In Mass Effect, this is even more pronounced, since the player makes choices actively during the course of the three games. You get to choice who your true love is, you get to choose who to save and what missions to take, and probably other things. Then when suddenly at the end of the game, all those levels of choice are RIPPED AWAY, you're going to get mad.

    I don't see why they didn't let players actually design their own ending. Since there were multiple endings, you could have Bad, Good, Horrible, Bittersweet. That's what makes multiple endings an interesting feature. Maybe the Bad ending is the most artistically interesting, but that shouldn't be forced on people. You should let the audience discover that for themselves.

    And you can babble about how the game company is creating “Art”, but I still haven't heard ONE SINGLE argument as to how Mass Effect 3's ending is artistically meaningful. What does it represent? I honestly don't know, if somebody can argue that, maybe the Artist's side of this debate has more legitimacy. I have no idea what Mass Effect 3's ending was supposed to be, and it doesn't like many others do either. If they did understand, then they would have accepted it and wouldn't be up in arms about this.

    So this is actually an interesting turn of events, I think. If the players of Mass Effect 3 get the ending changed, it would be a remarkable turn of events for fiction. Yeah, artists are geniuses, but its not like the mass collective of viewers and players aren't creative people either. It would be interesting to see collaboration between the audience and artist in the creation of the story, not just a one-way street of “take it or gtfo”. Artists seem too often to get God Complexes, suddenly get filled with endless arrogance, assuming that since they first created the universe, they better than everybody else. Maybe that's not true.

    Why does the player have to be a slave to the developer?


  21. Elessar says:

    To all the' Screw the rights of the artist' people (ESPECIALLY Zacqary Adam Green):

    Go watch Empire Strikes Back. I'm serious, even if you've seen it 100 times and know it by heart, go see it again. Now go watch Attack of the Clones. Which do you like more?

    Here's another one. Go listen to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Or the White Album. Kay? Now go listen to Friday by Rebecca Black. Hear a difference?

    You wanna go more abstract? Go watch Pan's Labyrinth followed by Transformers 2. Or X2 followed by X3. You're going to start noticing a distinct difference in quality.

    THAT difference, that you're seeing and hearing, is the difference between caring what your fans think and not. You want ANYTHING good to get made, what the 'audience' wants to see has to be so far away from your mind that you couldn't even see it. Because otherwise, you'll never make anything challenging or unique EVER.

    And that goes for fans to. Why? Because fans don't usually know shit about how to make the story or characters work. Wanna see how much fans know? Go trawl for a few hours, see how that works out for you. I recommend the Harry Potter and Twilight sections (THAT is where it gets craziest). We don't want those people writing our books and movies and video games, because they don't understand it.

    This 'Death of the Artist' shit needs to stop, because it's only going to lead bad places. JK Rowling got fucking DEATH THREATS over the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (no really) so this aint new, but I honestly think it needs to stop. I didn't like Coheed and Cambria's latest album, but I didn't go to them demanding that they change it. I just didn't listen to it anymore. You don't like it, don't play it.

    I didn't like the ending much either, but I'm not demanding that they change it, because it's not my game. It belongs to the artist, same as anything else, and I didn't create it. And by the by, any DLC they DO release now is going to be instantly suspect, as is the ending to Dragon Age III and any number of video games, because now we've got people panicking. So know this people who are making such a vocal fuss about this: I get a stupid, forced, 'safe' ending to Assassin's Creed III, I'm coming for all of you.

    I'm sure I had a point in there somewhere. Oh yeah. Art belongs to the artist, fans and audience don't own shit, allowing the audience to influence the art can only harm the art, bob is right. Ta.


  22. Anonymous says:

    As what Bob said, I'm more upset about Bay handling the Turtles, the whole “alien” nonsense is just icing on the shit cake. Whether or not them being aliens is true, it still doesn't matter, Turtles is still probably going to be a shit movie.

    I, for one, am probably going to just download a bootleg of Turtles when it comes out. I'll watch his shitty movie, but I'm not paying for it. If I turn out to be wrong, and I honestly hope I do, then I'll go to the theater.


  23. Joshua the Anarchist says:

    It's odd to me that almost NO ONE is a fan of BOTH TMNT cartoons. It's seems like if you liked one, you're probably pretty apathetic about the other. Same with me. I was born a few years too late for the “Transformers & TMNT” bandwagon that everyone born in the early 80's seems to be on. By the time I actually saw the original series, I was a little too old to really get into it.

    The 2003 series, on the other hand, caught me in my early teens, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was closer to the tone of the movie for one thing, which I saw long before seeing either cartoon. Also, the new Turtles seem a have more distinct personalities, whereas the originals too often just acted like four Michelangelo's. Just my opinion.


  24. Tony says:

    Elessar: The problem is Attack of The Clones was made by George Lucas.
    Empire Strikes Back was made with some input by Lucas and directed and altered a lot by other people.

    The “artists vision” was actually better when others were manipulating it.

    The more fully controlled by Lucas SW became, the worse it got.

    I'm not advocating for “death of the artist” BUT there are times when the 'artist' is wrong or screwed up.

    You want to use movies as examples.

    Look at Batman Forever & Batman & Robin vs Batman Begins & The Dark Knight.

    A LARGE portion of the reason BB & TDK exist is because fans HATED Batman becoming a campy comedic character in the movies

    If not for fan backlash, the Nolanverse Batman movies would not exist.

    Fan backlash is a double edged sword, YES it can be used badly, and stupidly (WAAAHHH I wanted Hermoinie with Harry)

    But it can also be a positive influence that tells artists when they tremendously fubar'd their story.

    The truth of the matter is Bioware didn't do some 'grand artistic vision' ending.
    They've shown the paper they worked it on, it wasn't trying for a “good” ending. It was trying for a “CONTROVERSY!” ending.

    They go EXACTLY what they wanted.

    The truth is they were probably planning on doing a DLC ending add on from the very beginning, the reason the endings are so similar is cause it's easier to do DLC extension with everything the same than if they actually did differ wildly.


    Games are not the same as movies or books
    Especially not games like the Mass Effect series.

    I sit down and watch a movie, or read a book, I know I have no impact on the story.
    I am sitting there to just see it play out.

    If it winds up being a bad story, well, then that's that. I had nothing to do with it.

    Even with most video games, like JRPGs, Uncharted, Assassins Creed, these are narrative stories that I sit and play through and don't really influence.
    I'm there to see their tale.

    With WRPGs, Such as the ME series, I'm there to influence the story.

    The reason I (and many others) buy the games and play them is to make choices that do influence the characters and the world and the story.

    THAT is why people feel “entitled” to demand changes to the story.
    Because the reason they bought the games in the first place was to change the story, the series was sold to them on the grounds of 'you can change the story'.

    This is NOT like movies, this is NOT like books (outside of maybe choose your own adventure ones), this is not even like most video games.

    This is a unique case that isn't going to 'set gaming back 10 years' It may affect WRPGs, but that's really the only genre it will affect, because no other genre tells it's players and supporters “You influence the story, it bends to your desires and playstyles”

    (also note: I'm not someone who has actually partaken in any of the protesting. My solution is trading in the game. But yeah, I do side more with the protesters. This is NOT a case of 'poor artistes who are having their creation bashed by people who just don't understand it' …. This is more like the “Don't Taze Me Bro” jackass. He who tries and seeks controversy and confrontation, then tries to hide from the same effects they purposely sought in the first place)


  25. Jackson says:

    Bob, I agree with you entirely about the importance of risks in art. I just don't see how a TMNT movie is in any way shape or form a risk.


  26. Anonymous says:

    @Elessar and Tony

    You're misinterpreting Death of the Author (which is Lit Crit 101 material). It has nothing to do with the author having no control over their creative works or that George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Disney are wrong for radically altering them after the original release. It's about thematic interpretation; more specifically, the author's history, personality, and intent has no weight in interpreting a story. Anything not in the narrative has no bearing on what the story is saying. The original essay was written as a criticism of the tendency of periodicals to spend way more time detailing everything about the author's life as some necessary prep work to read the actual story and expecting all discussion to go back to the author.


  27. Tony says:

    Anonymous: You're right, I was referring to the comments before not necessarily the “Death of the author” concept.

    I'd also request anyone opposed to the vocal dislike of the ending take a look at this video. It's ridiculously long, but it does sum up very well WHY fans are so upset about it.


  28. Mads says:


    Ok. So you don't complain about art that sucks. You just don't buy it, and that's that. Live and let live, yeah?

    So why does it piss you off enough that someone complains to complain about them complaining?

    And why are artists works sacrosanct somehow whereas critics works of criticism are open to criticism?

    If you denounce public, influencial criticism, why even make a comment here where the ultimate goal IS to be influential and public through sharing your viewpoint?

    This anti-anti-mass effect bs is fundamentally in conflict with what it's trying to do. And yeah, my point here would be, this criticism of the criticism? I'm criticising that shit…not because criticism of the criticism is fundamentally bad, but because claiming that the criticism itself is fundamentally bad makes the criticism of the criticism fundamentally bad as well, by extension, which is nonsense when you willingly commit to it ANYWAY.

    It's an important distinction: Say that the ME criticism is bad because those spreading it are WRONG, and you have an argument. Say that it's bad because they're being influential critics and that per definition is bad is oxymoronic.


  29. Anonymous says:

    Bob, I'm sure you've spent over 100 hours reading Avengers comics.

    Imagine that at the end of the new Avengers movie, the Avengers are all knocked out by Red Skull's death ray. Then Superman arrives and says he invented the Red Skull to stop all the superheroes getting killed by Lex Luthor. As thanks for their hard work in not quite saving the world from Red Skull, Captain America is allowed to decide if he wants Superman to give everyone in the universe the super-soldier serum or if he wants to kill the Red Skull, but killing the Red Skull also kills all Asgardians. Oh, and whatever happens, there won't be any more superheroes.
    Lastly, the Shield Hellicariier explodes but Iron Man gets to pick the colour based on the profit/loss figures in his last tax return.

    If you want an explanation about how Superman arrived in the Marvel universe, you can find out in the BluRay Special Edition.

    That's how bad the writing is in ME3's ending. It's not about artistic integrity or ownership rights (seriously, Bioware are free to own their bullshit ending and we're free to create our own, better, parody endings). It's about the ending being terrible no matter how you view it.


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