In Response to Colin Moriarty's IGN Video About Mass Effect, a Discussion of the Videogame Medium

I first posted this on the Bioware forums after being stonewalled by IGN, but it is in the form of a letter to Mr. Moriarty.

_______________________

Mr. Moriarty,

I would like to start by saying I am an avid browser of your webpage, and have read several reviews written by you - the most recent of which was, of course, the Mass Effect 3 review. I disagreed with your review in only a single way: I would have given Mass Effect 3 a 9.9 (though I know it is no longer IGN policy to give such scores). Since finishing the game, I have watched, and marginally participated in, the debate over the ending of Mass Effect 3, including the video comments you have made this situation. I noted in the your recent video comment about the Bioware decision to create content clarifying the ending (Dr. Muzyka was not clear on exactly what the content was to be) that you were without a contrary voice, so I thought I might offer myself in the form of this note as such a voice. I am not here to discuss the merits of the ending - which I found personally disappointing and I would relish such a discussion with you, should you so choose - but rather to offer an opposing philosophical view of the situation.

Before anything else, I thought I might start with an observation about your assertion that the disgruntled fans are an entitled, vocal minority. Calling the dismayed fan entitled is an unfortunate ad hominem attack that leads those aggrieved fans to automatically discount everything else you say - even though you have a strong philosophical argument about the medium. I fear that this may be reflecting poorly on you and your news outlet in the eyes of some onlookers, myself not included. Perhaps more troubling to me, though is your repeated assertion that the aggrieved groups is a minority of those playing. Based on my own dissatisfaction, I feel like a majority must be disappointed with the way the tale was wrapped up. Unfortunately, the vast majority of players will never speak a word online in favor or against the closing moments of the wonderful Mass Effect Trilogy, making your assertion and my feeling impossible to prove or rebut. An irrefutable assertion is not good for any argument, and doesn't have much place in a conversation about the future of an artistic medium. I offer this merely as a suggestion to improve your argument.

If I understand your point of view properly, you believe that a consumer of video games successfully petitioning to change the ending of a video game irreparably compromises the artistic integrity of the storytelling medium that is the videogame. I believe I recognize that this philosophy is similar to that which Ayn Rand espoused in The Fountainhead. I fully respect the idea that an artist's work should be respected and protected in order to protect the medium of an art form. In fact, if we were having this conversation about the latest installment of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I would be on your side. However, I think your argument is wrong as applied to the medium of videogames, for two reasons: an economic argument concerning rights of consumers and an argument about the nature of the medium, itself.

When talking about art as a commodity, it is important to differentiate between the various forms. When a consumer goes to buy a landscape or a portrait or an artist's abstract interpretation of New York City (I have one hanging on my walls), the consumer gets to fully see the piece that they are purchasing before they buy it. Obviously, this gets more complicated with books, movies, or videogames. Books are rather returnable, so long as you do not abuse them when you read them. Movies and videogames, due to the shrink wrap contracts tending to preclude a consumer from returning the product. I am personally of the mind that it is next to stealing to return a book, movie, or videogame once someone has read, watched, or played them. The user has gotten the satisfaction that they paid for and demanding their money back is improper. Thus, for those media the consumer can only express their displeasure economically by boycotting future works by the producer that may or may not be infected by the same issues that aggrieved the consumer. The interaction between the internet and video games, however, changes things. In an era of downloadable content the consumer can request that the producer consider changing the ending of a videogame. I don't think this is a problem for a producer of an artist medium, I think it's an inspired moment for the relationship between consumers and producers.

The economic argument, to me, is only part of the point, and it would seem that to you it is beside the point. As I mentioned above, it would seem that your belief is that the medium is harmed in its abilities to tell stories unless the work of the creators is left alone - regardless of the feedback on it. With a book or a movie I wholeheartedly agree with you. Both these media are a means to present the artist's vision to an audience that has asked for it, the audience takes no part in the tale other than being a third party observer. Due to the utter lack of interactivity between the story and audience, there is no room in the artistic medium for the audience to really have input into the tale, itself.

Videogames, however, feature the audience playing an active role in the telling of the tale, making the conversation about audience input more complex than it would be for books or movies. No longer is the audience watching as characters like Nick Carraway (from The Great Gatsby) or Billy Costigan (The Departed) meander through their tales, the audience and the main character in many instances are one and the same for the exposition of the story. Of course, this level of interactivity between the story and its audience varies amongst the various types of videogames. In the typical video game, the audience has first party control over portions of the game that cannot change the story and second or third party control over portions that do. For instance, when I am playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, I control Mason in the shooting scenes but I don't control Mason when he's moving us between them.

The role-playing genre, however, offers the greatest amount of interaction between the audience and the story - an attribute that makes it my absolute favorite in the videogame medium. This level of interactivity creates expectations that the audience has a hand in crafting the tale that is being told; in fact, critical and popular reception regularly lauds games that emphasize player choice. With the level of interactivity, the audience in many ways becomes a co-author with the creative minds who have presented the story to them. Bioware's Mass Effect series took this level of audience customization of the story to a level previously unseen. Not only did a player's choices affect spoken dialogue, but decisions affected outcomes in the next game! As a medium that emphasizes interaction between the story and the story's audience by making the audience the object of the story, the medium will necessarily develop towards greater interactivity.

Bioware's decision to modify the ending at the behest of their fans is not a step back for the medium, but it is a step forward. At present it is impossible for a videogame's player to be both author and audience, but the rpg genre of the medium is clearly trending in that direction. With this interaction and customization at the core of what makes the medium different from others looking to tell stories, Bioware is increasing the role played by the players in writing the story by agreeing to modify the ending that many of its fans are dissatisfied with. Rather than cheapening the artists' work, this furthers the medium.

- Chris I

You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

It's probably a tie between them and Gamespot.

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Just because they take a lot of bribes does not mean that they cant be right some times though, kind of like in this situation.

Das Boot:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Just because they take a lot of bribes does not mean that they cant be right some times though, kind of like in this situation.

Any journalism outfit that takes bribes looses all credibility and is not a valid source on anything. Opinions are a different story, but even then why would you want to listen to someone who's sacrificed their journalistic integrity for money?

Well, what do you all think about my conception of videogames as a story telling medium? I think a discussion into that is useful for the industry.

Fappy:

Any journalism outfit that takes bribes looses all credibility and is not a valid source on anything. Opinions are a different story, but even then why would you want to listen to someone who's sacrificed their journalistic integrity for money?

Does it really matter why they lost their journalistic integrity? I can just as easily ask you why you read any of the articles on the escapst? Its like like the guys here have any more integrity then IGN, the only difference is why they dont have any. Well except for Yahtzee anyways that guy still has journalistic integrity of a sorts.

Das Boot:

Fappy:

Any journalism outfit that takes bribes looses all credibility and is not a valid source on anything. Opinions are a different story, but even then why would you want to listen to someone who's sacrificed their journalistic integrity for money?

Does it really matter why they lost their journalistic integrity? I can just as easily ask you why you read any of the articles on the escapst? Its like like the guys here have any more integrity then IGN, the only difference is why they dont have any. Well except for Yahtzee anyways that guy still has journalistic integrity of a sorts.

I haven't seen compelling proof that the Escapist is guilty of taking bribes. If there was I wouldn't consider them a valid source either. Integrity is everything. If they've lost it their not worth my time as anything they say could be influenced by a 3rd party.

Fappy:

I haven't seen compelling proof that the Escapist is guilty of taking bribes. If there was I wouldn't consider them a valid source either. Integrity is everything. If they've lost it their not worth my time as anything they say could be influenced by a 3rd party.

Oh no im pretty dam sure nobody on the escapist takes bribes or anything. Its just that none of the "journalists" know what the word biased means. Taking bribes isnt the only way to lose your integrity.

Das Boot:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Just because they take a lot of bribes does not mean that they cant be right some times though, kind of like in this situation.

That is a matter of opinion. And this IGN prick is still wrong in my opinion. And by the way, my opinion in this case is a fact.

Ah, yes, "Colin Moriarty". The IGN journalist alleging that a change to the end of Mass Effect 3 would set a dangerous precedent. We have dismissed his claims.

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Citation pretty seriously needed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz8_j-ebfaI&feature=my_liked_videos&list=LLRzS3xDT1nyCFx5yYK_qQiA

This video seems fitting to post here right now.

Das Boot:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Just because they take a lot of bribes does not mean that they cant be right some times though, kind of like in this situation.

...I have no words for a post like this...

Please please please be trolling.

versoth:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Citation pretty seriously needed.

I'll just note one thing here.

IGN is owned and controlled by the News Corporation, which is Rupert Murdoch's company.

Go do 5 minutes of research on him and the company if you don't recognize the name.

A few shady reviews for them would be small time, run of mill stuff.

They're an absolute blight on society.

I wish the mods would stop giving people warnings and bans for low content posts and would instead direct their attention to giving warnings to those who make mass effect thread after mass effect thread.

I have yet to find a person alive who thinks IGN is a more reliable balanced and unbiased source of information than Fox news.

Kyp:
Well, what do you all think about my conception of videogames as a story telling medium? I think a discussion into that is useful for the industry.

I love how you were like "discuss the unique place of vidoegames in art!!" and everyone else is like "If journalists take bribes then x."

Anyway.

So, I guess first I should start off by saying I have always thought Mz. Rand was something of an idiot and that the fountainhead was a bad book. Most importantly, that objectivism (sp?), while not entirely devoid of good ideas, is mostly silly. And mostly wrong.

Let us discuss Mr. Martin's latest entries into... No. Lets do one better. Let us discuss Robert Jordan's Crossroads At Twilight. That. Was. A. Horrible. Book. And if Mr. Jordan had listened to people who told him that the 9th installment was quickly taking him down the wrong path, it would not have sucked so much.

Notice how I was objective up there. Like I said, it's not entirely devoid of good ideas... Like being able to call crap things out on their crap.

The point I am making is that an audiences opinion or desire to enact changes is NOT somehow inherently "wrong" just because they did not create the original product. In fact, one of the biggest problems I have with the whole "An artists work is sacred" crap is that its just... Stupid. The idea that no matter what a single persons idea will always be better than several people brainstorming together? I mean sure, in some cases of course. But in every case? Even in most cases?

That's why the publishing industry has editing to begin with. And why do people think that great painters never took ideas from other people? Or great writers? Or hell, great architects? The whole of human history is of people taking others good ideas and inspiration, and one upping it. And its awesome. And beautiful. Except when the ideas are stolen. Then its just kinda dickish.

How does this all relate to video games and Mass Effect 3's ending? Well. If I think paintings, books, and movies can all take some advice from the crowd (definitely not all the advice, the crowd can be pretty stupid sometimes) then video games, which as you say are an interactive medium to begin with, can definitely take some advice from the crowd. Especially in the RPG area where the crowd is the one that is supposed to be controlling the story to begin with.

TL;DR Objectivism is silly and if Bioware changes the ending it doesn't compromise crap, most certainly not some vague idea of "artistic integrity".

Isn't Colin Moriarty that innkeeper from Fallout 3..?

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

You're aware of course, that this website gave Dragon Age 2 a perfect score.

versoth:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Citation pretty seriously needed.

Canadish:

versoth:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Citation pretty seriously needed.

I'll just note one thing here.

IGN is owned and controlled by the News Corporation, which is Rupert Murdoch's company.

Go do 5 minutes of research on him and the company if you don't recognize the name.

A few shady reviews for them would be small time, run of mill stuff.

They're an absolute blight on society.

Thanks, I work for them, It's so nice to hear the community is aware of us and when faced with decrying crappy endings written by a company who specifically said that endings would be bespoke, depending on choices made in ME1 or ME2 or decrying a global company which employs over 50,000 people, and happens to own a gaming website, digital libel is first on the agenda.

Canadish:

Das Boot:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Just because they take a lot of bribes does not mean that they cant be right some times though, kind of like in this situation.

...I have no words for a post like this...

Please please please be trolling.

He does have a point, in a "just because a crazy person says the sky is blue doesn't mean the sky isn't blue" sort of way. The second part (conveniently scratched out, likely by some charismatic stallion) is just silly though.

Das Boot:

Fappy:

Any journalism outfit that takes bribes looses all credibility and is not a valid source on anything. Opinions are a different story, but even then why would you want to listen to someone who's sacrificed their journalistic integrity for money?

Does it really matter why they lost their journalistic integrity? I can just as easily ask you why you read any of the articles on the escapst? Its like like the guys here have any more integrity then IGN, the only difference is why they dont have any. Well except for Yahtzee anyways that guy still has journalistic integrity of a sorts.

as much as i love his videos, yahtzee is nothing if not a professional troll. if a game has any good features, they are buried by problems that only he sees. the video game journalist community is somewhat corrupt, but the average consensus goes against what he often says.

for example:
in the gears of war 3 review, yahtzee did not mention a single redeeming feature in what was essentially the xbox 360's killer app. im not defending musclenecks of walls 3, but it was an impressive game gameplay and graphics wise.

Sentox6:
Ah, yes, "Colin Moriarty". The IGN journalist alleging that a change to the end of Mass Effect 3 would set a dangerous precedent. We have dismissed his claims.

Huh....I made the exact same point to someone in another thread not five minutes ago. Trippy. Of course said person was one of those "Artistic licence, Artistic integrity, art ART ART ARTARTART!!!!" people that piss me off so much when it comes to games so I doubt he'd take the point into consideration.

Das Boot:

Fappy:

I haven't seen compelling proof that the Escapist is guilty of taking bribes. If there was I wouldn't consider them a valid source either. Integrity is everything. If they've lost it their not worth my time as anything they say could be influenced by a 3rd party.

Oh no im pretty dam sure nobody on the escapist takes bribes or anything. Its just that none of the "journalists" know what the word biased means. Taking bribes isnt the only way to lose your integrity.

My exact problem with the "news articles" on this site. The Escapist isn't so much a news site as it is a personal blog with multiple authors. Almost every news article I've seen here either has a sensationalist headline or is chock-full of biased language and personal opinions. Hell, even having personal pronouns like "I" and "we" outside of quotes is supposed to be a big no-no in real journalism. The only time this kind of thing is acceptable is in reviews and editorials, which is the only thing I come to this site for. I wouldn't trust the reporting here as far as I could throw the reporters.

dragonswarrior:
Sniiiiip

Holy shit. Sense, I has discovered someone with it.

This is exactly why everyone screaming about "artistic integrity" make no sense whatsoever. I know they need a reason for the flawed argument, but it makes no sense at all.

And, yay! 1000 posts.

Sean Hollyman:
Isn't Colin Moriarty that innkeeper from Fallout 3..?

Holy shit, I always thought his name (The IGN Editor) was familiar! Now I know why!

On Topic:Is there a point? This thread is officially derailed. Sorry, OP. :( Well written letter, though.

ResonanceSD:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

You're aware of course, that this website gave Dragon Age 2 a perfect score.

You do know that means nothing. I would have given DA2 a perfect score if in the last quarter of the game I hadn't been told that there were repeat areas. I had been having so much fun with the game I hadn't noticed.

Thinking on it professionally, I would give the game a 9.5 out of 10, on a personal level it gets a 10 out of 10.

It being the only real problem with the game, and such a minimal one, it is easy to see somebody giving the game a perfect score.

On a professional level, I would give Mass Effect 3 a 10 out of 10. Considering that the ending being bad or not is based only in opinion, so it can't effect my judgement on the game. Even if it was part of my judgement, it was such an insignificant part for me, even if I found it bad(which I don't) it wouldn't be enough to take points off from the game.

I think you are horribly wrong. They wrote the game and wrapped it up the way they i.e. THE WRITERS wanted to and to say that just because you disagreed with what they did with THEIR intellectual property and because of that it should be changed is a completely assinine ideal.

Looking at how BioWare cut up their games for DLC, insert hamfisted cameos and desperately try to fit RPG development into a 2-year cycle, i don't think they have the right to hide behind artistic integrity.

Their recent games are akin to conveyor belt products, with every corner cut to maximize profit. As such they have to meet certain massively-appealing standards, one of which was a happy ending - they did not deliver. They deserve every bit of what they're getting.

Sean Hollyman:
Isn't Colin Moriarty that innkeeper from Fallout 3..?

Thats what I thought when I read this topic thread

On topic the guy's a dick who is trying to stem the amount of fanboy rage inorder to later make reviews of the DLC so they can continue accepting bribes from EA.

Das Boot:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

Just because they take a lot of bribes does not mean that they cant be right some times though, kind of like in this situation.

Either your brainwashed or trolling. I'm banking on the latter since I don't believe a person could literally say something so stupid. I don't even think the people who bribe journalists believe that.

Fappy:

Adam Jensen:
You're taking IGN way to serious. Everyone knows they take more bribes than anyone else for their reviews.

It's probably a tie between them and Gamespot.

Game Informer probably makes it a three way of bribes.

God do all 3 suck.

Fappy:

Das Boot:

Fappy:

Any journalism outfit that takes bribes looses all credibility and is not a valid source on anything. Opinions are a different story, but even then why would you want to listen to someone who's sacrificed their journalistic integrity for money?

Does it really matter why they lost their journalistic integrity? I can just as easily ask you why you read any of the articles on the escapst? Its like like the guys here have any more integrity then IGN, the only difference is why they dont have any. Well except for Yahtzee anyways that guy still has journalistic integrity of a sorts.

I haven't seen compelling proof that the Escapist is guilty of taking bribes. If there was I wouldn't consider them a valid source either. Integrity is everything. If they've lost it their not worth my time as anything they say could be influenced by a 3rd party.

I don't think the staff here are taking bribes, I think their attitudes toward the opinions expressed by many of their readers are more tied into an "us (computer game industry) vs. them (consumers)" ideology. They are just stuck in the paradigm, plus to acknowledge the criticisms, in their minds, would undermine their own review. Which didn't exactly go out of its way to mention the much-despised ending.

Truly, artists make terrible critics, they can humanize and empathize with their subjects too closely. I suspect that is what has happened here. Most of the people who work for the escapist probably have friends that work for game companies (where else would they get their scoops?). It is a small step then, for their friends to see criticism of their product as personal criticism. No one wants that, so the Escapist, IGN etc, just back up their friends; then they call the rest of us who might be unhappy "crybabies" or "entitled".

DeadYorick:

Either your brainwashed or trolling. I'm banking on the latter since I don't believe a person could literally say something so stupid. I don't even think the people who bribe journalists believe that.

Why because I agree with him that Bioware changing the ending of ME3 will set an extremely dangerous precedent for the gaming industry. He made several very good points about the subject. Bioware changing the ending to ME3 is about business and business alone. Obviously if you know fuck all about business (everybody I have seen complaining) then logical points will not make sense to you.

carpathic:

Fappy:

Das Boot:

Does it really matter why they lost their journalistic integrity? I can just as easily ask you why you read any of the articles on the escapst? Its like like the guys here have any more integrity then IGN, the only difference is why they dont have any. Well except for Yahtzee anyways that guy still has journalistic integrity of a sorts.

I haven't seen compelling proof that the Escapist is guilty of taking bribes. If there was I wouldn't consider them a valid source either. Integrity is everything. If they've lost it their not worth my time as anything they say could be influenced by a 3rd party.

I don't think the staff here are taking bribes, I think their attitudes toward the opinions expressed by many of their readers are more tied into an "us (computer game industry) vs. them (consumers)" ideology. They are just stuck in the paradigm, plus to acknowledge the criticisms, in their minds, would undermine their own review. Which didn't exactly go out of its way to mention the much-despised ending.

Truly, artists make terrible critics, they can humanize and empathize with their subjects too closely. I suspect that is what has happened here. Most of the people who work for the escapist probably have friends that work for game companies (where else would they get their scoops?). It is a small step then, for their friends to see criticism of their product as personal criticism. No one wants that, so the Escapist, IGN etc, just back up their friends; then they call the rest of us who might be unhappy "crybabies" or "entitled".

I agree. That's a pretty likely scenario for many of these cases.

Fappy:

I haven't seen compelling proof that the Escapist is guilty of taking bribes.

Maybe not bribes but after the DA2 review by Tito i'm guessing they do drink a lot.

No Tito, you are never living it down.

On Topic.

I stopped reading his comments when he started insulting fans of the game in defence of the innocent princess that is BioWare. Because we all know developers are not big enough to take criticism by themselves.

Marvel at the utter hypocrisy.

Colin Moriarty, Guides Guru:
Obviously, the fact that Cole has been reverted back to his old self (somewhat) is great news. After all, Greg and I did our fair share of whining on Podcast Beyond after the new Cole was first shown on the cover of Game Informer some months back. Of course, I'd love for Sucker Punch to bring back Cole's old voice, too, but hey - beggars can't be choosers.

But beyond (BEYOND!) the excitement I feel to have old Cole back in Infamous 2, I think the sudden change in character model says a lot more. Indeed, it says a great deal about Sucker Punch itself. This is a studio that listens to its fans, cares what they want, and attempts to cater to as many of them as possible. There's no doubt that fans of a franchise can't be trusted with every little thing (after all, look at how many people were completely and utterly wrong when they predicted Wind Waker would suck based solely on its graphics - I still laugh at those people today), but it still delivers a rather important point.

But with the new Cole design, Sucker Punch heard loud and clear what fans of Infamous wanted, and they delivered. Infinite amounts of kudos to them for doing right by their community. Fans of Infamous won't soon forget it. Sucker Punch is one of Sony's most valuable developers. They are tuned-in with the PS3 faithful, and it's things like this that prove it.

You can apply his entire argument about entitlement from that video, word by word, to his own complaints about Cole's redesign 2 years ago.

It's fucking hilarious.

 

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