Mass Effect: Andromeda launched with problems. We all know it at this point, and complaining about it is akin to beating a horse to death after it’s already dead. But it’s getting a buttload of DLC, or rather patches, in the next few months. The patches are not only going to address the technical issues, but also some structural and even narrative aspects of the game. Final Fantasy XV wasn’t as busted as Mass Effect: Andromeda, but people still had complaints about it. Maybe some were legitimate, maybe some weren’t. Square Enix is so scared of feedback that much of it is being adjusted after launch and tons of extra stuff is being added to the game’s story. Even more is on the horizon, outside of the pre-planned DLC. This is a huge problem, it might be partially our fault, and we’re paying for it.
Remember Mass Effect 3? The ending sucked. It was really bad, like for real. People were upset in a way that I don’t recall happening before. Maybe it was the social media explosion in the years since Mass Effect started, giving many more people a visible voice. Either way, BioWare was aggressively bullied by people who somehow identity as fans, to the point where the developer straight-up altered the story and added more content to the game, much of it for free.
Our demand, our bizarre expectations, are turning into entitlement. Game budgets have ballooned and development time is often not enough, resulting in rushed games, despite most of them being super-complicated, open world deals. Glitches abound, regardless of subjective storytelling components. For some reason, those kinds of things, the more creative and less mechanical, are also treated like objective technical aspects by many in the industry and the people throwing money at it.
Now we’re at the point at which games are being significantly altered after launch. If you see a movie and you don’t like it, do you scream obscenities at the director and demand they re-shoot the film? No, but because the game industry actually gave into this kind of stuff, we’re at the point where BioWare sees people who worked for them being harassed, says “thanks for the feedback,” and gets to work.
This doesn’t sit right with me. It blurs the line between authorial intent and corporate, studio machinations. How do I know if a game I’m buying is the same game it will be if I choose to revisit it down the line, or what if it changes while I’m still playing it? It’s insane. Games should be allowed to stumble, to reach for the sky and fail. It makes them interesting and nuanced, it helps move along and evolve games discourse. If all we think about when a game comes out it “it’s the best ever,” or “it’s garbage and let’s go scream at them,” this medium is doomed.
If we want games to be elevated, to be taken as seriously as film and literature, we need to let the creators be creators and let them fail or succeed on their own terms. Criticism is one thing, it helps the creators learn and expand their perspectives and approaches to their art. But making demands when something doesn’t sit well with you is as childish as can be. If you’re composing a Tweet telling a game developer to off themselves, or something equally vulgar, stop for a second and realize not only are you hurting another person, you’re also hurting the thing you claim to love.