Happy Endings! Or Perhaps Not…

I feel like I double back on a lot of things in my blog posts. I’ll talk about something in one, and then refer to something else. I suppose this is because my enjoyment originates from a series of different things and no matter what I’m talking about, it will entwine several of these things together. Or it could be because I start write without planning my thoughts and as a result I end up trying to cover every point that comes to mind. I’ll let you decide which one it is.

Side note: Before I start here, I want to clarify something. In previous blogs where I’ve mentioned Mass Effect’s ending (re, pretty much every blog) I hadn’t realised that many of the complaints about it were to do with the fact we were promised multiple endings, but only got a few, very similar choices. My problem was that there was no boss fight and the ending saddened me.  But I changed my mind and we will never speak of it again.

Anyway, I mentioned the idea of happy endings in my last blog. Essentially I voiced the opinion that I want endings to be more complex and less ‘everybody lives happily after’ while criticising L.A Noire and Mass Effect for finishing in that style. Somewhat contradictory but it shows how complicated this issue can be. Even I can’t decide what I want from games. I might change my mind again, who knows?

This is because part of me want to see the hero, the guy I have controlled, the guy I have emotionally connected to, become victorious and live to see the repercussions of his actions. I don’t want him to sacrifice himself at the end for everyone else. But he is a hero and that’s what they do. So it hurts to see your character die or lose somehow, but it makes sense. Would Mass Effect 3, L.A Noire, Bioshock etc be better if the endings were different? Probably not. It would be nice to see everybody get out fine, but it wouldn’t be as satisfying. Not that it should always be that way. Dragon Age and Enslaved ended positively, at least to my memory, and I wouldn’t change them either.

It’s all down to the writer’s decision, more often than not. And that’s how it should be. Mass Effect should have had the option, depending on your previous decisions but shush, we aren’t talking about that any more. It is what makes most sense, and that is down to the guys who created these characters in the first place. If they decide the protagonist dies, then who are we to argue? We may not like it, but if he died saving everybody else, then there is a certain pride in it.

When I think about it even more, it works out better that way. I’ve formed more of a connection to the characters that died, because I’ve been in control of them throughout it all, I’ve saved the day, got the girl or killed the bad guy. What else is there for them? Bow out as a legend. Otherwise they might just spend the rest of their days punching people out of boredom. Although I’d probably buy that game, it would smear their reputation somewhat. But it is the not knowing what is going to happen which keeps you interested. At some times they could die, but do not. Then when you think it is all over, one last blow wipes them out. Or maybe somebody else died for them.

Even Gears of War, where the main guy, Marcus Fenix survives, there are several deaths that overshadow the entire thing. He loses family, he loses friends.  But providing there is that emotional connection, it’s irrelevant who lives and who dies. In most cases at least, you should come out feeling somewhat satisfied…perhaps with a tear in your eye.

Halo 4 will be interesting. At the end of the first trilogy, the Master Chief had stopped the threat but ended up trapped in space. Now that there is a second trilogy to mark the return of Xbox’s poster boy, it’ll be worth seeing how they bring back that connection when we assumed it was all over. But that is the Master Chief. He doesn’t play by everybody else’s rules.

So what is my conclusion? I guess it all depends on the context of the matter, and the ending is what the gamer perceives of it. Whether it is happy or sad, as long as you’ve been moved by it, or at least entertained, it has worked. I’m going to enjoy it and when I’m writing my game stories, I plan to keep the gamer guessing, just like these great games have kept me guessing.

Oh and I do apologise for all the spoilers. I know I haven’t been explicit or specific about how these games end, but I’ve given you a good idea. But frankly if you haven’t completed these amazing stories by now, you don’t deserve to have the surprise. You’ll have probably forgotten all of this by tomorrow anyway.

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