BioWare's decision to "address" widespread criticisms of Mass Effect 3's endings via "game content initiatives" is at once a triumph and a travesty. It's a triumph because it reveals the extent of our attachment to Mass Effect's unprecedented marriage of galactic scale and intimacy, the extent to which we've submerged ourselves in the person of Commander Shepard. It shows a developer mindful of the fact that players have helped shape and direct its universe, freely giving over their leisure hours to the widening and deepening of the fiction.
And it's a travesty because it throws the whole notion of narrative (as traditionally understood) into jeopardy. In order to challenge us and deliver closure, works of drama must themselves be closed; questions may hang after the ending, but if the tale is to sustain emotional investment, there can be no "what if" about the chain of events itself. What the #RetakeME3 petitioners have done, by implication, is reduce all existing game narratives to "what ifs", awaiting resolution in the form of an update screened and vetted by end users. In giving players a historic degree of control over the trilogy's evolution, BioWare has created a monster. It has placed us in the paradoxical position of dictating the form of our own delusions.
How exactly designers should navigate these troublesome waters is a topic for another day. In the meantime, here's the result of this week's alternate Mass Effect 3 ending competition.
Reviewing the many, thoughtful and lengthy submissions, we've favoured well-written finales which address two of the more common quibbles about the existing endings: a perceived gulf between Shepard's ultimate decision and the choices that got her there; and a lack of information as to the fates of her crewmates and the game's races. Huge thanks to everybody who participated. Winners: please PM "OXM ETboy" with your addresses.
The Runner-Up: Vi1ncent1Zer0
Congratulations - you've won a Mass Effect soundtrack CD
Well here goes...
Continue from the scene where Shepard and Anderson are sat on the Citadel, looking out on the vista that is the Earth before them as the Ward arms slowly expand out into a star formation. The Crucible is in place, and their work is done. There is nothing more they can do. They have given their all, weary, spent and bleeding out. Close up on Shepard as he realises that Anderson has given up the ghost, and that he, himself has not long left. Suddenly his face is illuminated by the light of the expanding Crucible Effect as it expands across the Earth, (Armada ships are seen to be moving away from orbit, the Normandy among them- getting to as safe a distance as possible within the Sol System) drawing power from the planet and drawing the Reapers away. It is a power that is channeled through the Mass Relays connecting system to system drawing all Reapers away back to Dark Space. Close up of Shepard as he breathes his last... Fade to Credits...Then:-
PARAGON ENDING (the player has brought every species together successfully to confront the Reapers)
1000 years have elapsed. The Sol System has become known to the Greater Galaxy as the Citadel System. The Earth is gone, an unforseen casuality to the Crucible Effect and the Citadel has remained in its place. It remains the hub of the Galactic community. The council remain but has expanded its ranks to include a female Krogan councilor as well as a Geth/ Quarian symbiote among others. The keepers are still there, indefatigable in the pursuit of their myriad tasks.