I wasn’t a gamer until I met my husband. I mean, I’d toyed with Bubble Bobble in my youth, but I never really understood the appeal of video games. Plus I get frustrated easily, so if I hit a level I couldn’t beat, I’d walk away. (Usually to go read a book, which worked out well for me!)
But when Husband and I started dating, once we got past that stage of having to go do “dates” someplace, I was introduced to a whole new world of video games: action RPGs. An action RPG is a story — it’s got fleshed-out characters, insanely detailed worlds, and highly customizable options. It’s basically a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, but much, much, much bigger. You, as the main character in the game, are given a main quest, and encounter options for many side quests. In order to complete your quest, you need to explore the world, pick up new skills and bits of information, forge alliances with various characters, and vanquish enemies for loot. There are huge portions of the game that are simply conversations — you engage a character, listen to what she says, and then have 5 or 6 options for a reply. Based on that reply, she’ll take the conversation in a particular direction, giving you 5 or 6 new dialogue options, etc. Each choice you make determines how the rest of the game will play out for you.
So I’d spend afternoons hanging out on my Husband’s couch, reading a book or knitting a sweater while he played Mass Effect. He’d explain about the mission Commander Shepard was on, and I’d occasionally help him choose dialogue options. (One of the reasons I fell in love with him was he always chose the good, “paragon” dialogue options, no matter what game he was playing.) I loved that one of the characters was voiced by Star Trek: TNG alum Marina Sirtis (aka Counselor Troi). Slowly, I began to see the appeal, and I picked up a controller. At first, I’d only play through the dialogue sections, passing the controller to Husband during battles. But as I got more familiar with the mechanics of the battles, I became more comfortable with fighting myself. (Though, to be honest, I’m much better at Dragon Age fights than I am at Mass Effect fights. And I got pretty good at Red Dead Redemption, but nearly threw the controller through the TV when my character stumbled upon a rattlesnake and got bitten.)
What drew me in, what kept me interested in the games was the story. I cared about Commander Shepard. I loved making fun of Ashley, trying to draw out Garrus (and I’m not the only one!), and figuring out a way to romance Tali’Zorah. Through both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, the story grew and intensified, and the choices my husband made for Shepard way back in the beginning had ramifications on the gameplay yet to come. We got invested.
So I’ve been paying attention to the controversy about the Mass Effect 3 ending not only as a fan, but also as someone who makes a living in the world of stories. Without giving any spoilers myself (but if you follow these links, be ye warned), fans are not happy about how ME3 ended. And they put up such a stink that BioWare, the company responsible for the game, is issuing new content. (After a blog post that emphasizes how much they value fan feedback.)
Which brings me to the question I want to ask you: In this age of easily-update-able ebooks and unprecedented author interaction with readers, would you ever petition an author to change an ending, or add a coda to offer more reader satisfaction? Do you expect authors to listen to reader responses about book seven in a series as they’re writing book eight? If an author’s vision for the ending of her series is different from what you expected and hoped, does that invalidate the joy she brought you with her earlier books?