*Warning Spoilers for ME 3 follow*
At the end of the hit sci-fi game Mass Effect three you run into a completely new character out of the blue. A God-Child computer program that designed the Reapers and enables them to reap all sentient life every fifty thousand years or so. This God-Child gives you three choices, Control the Reapers, merge organic and synthetic life in a new matrix, or wipe out all synthetics in the galaxy. Thats it. No choices, no options, not even a little bit of the character righteously asking the God-Child ‘why, why must I do this?’
And thus completely destroying almost one hundred hours worth of game play involving deep player choice and control over the most miniscule of details. But beyond that it also ruins the theme.
And really goes against one of the personal themes that has been set mainly throughout the entirety of Science Fiction. The idea of personal choice.
In Mass Effect you were supposed to have the ability of full player choice. That your actions and in actions had dire and dramatic consequences for the world you lived in and the people who surrounded you. Who lived, who died, who you helped, who you condemned. Which had an impact on the storyline and how effectively you were against the Reapers, or at the very least who you brought to the final dance.
But yet at the end you are limited to three contradictory and insulting choices without as much as a howd ya do.
In most science fiction stories that I know of to an extent it is all about human progress. About humanity and individual actions raging against the machine and those in power. It is very…libertarian. And perhaps one of the reasons I have so much respect for individual freedom, choice, about small Government ideals and not judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of the character. It has, as I said, a very real effect on my personal, social, and moral development.
Characters challenging Governments, Gods, would be Gods, demi Gods, and any person in authority that was deemed to have the temerity to dictate terms. Even going so far, again, to challenge characters and entities that claim to be God.
In Star Trek V Captain Kirk and crew go to the center of the Galaxy on a search for God and when they find Him Kirk challenges the entity in question leading McCoy to utter one of the most famous lines in Star Trek: ‘Jim, you don’t ask the almighty for his ID’.
To the Stargate franchise which dealt with in its flagship show Stargate SG-1 the battle between a team of US elite military operatives and a race of beings that were impersonating ancient deities from various cultures. As they challenge these claims to their God hood and eventually help ferment a revolution against those beings.
To the two-part series of Star Trek Deep Space Nine where Benjamin Sisko leads a revolt against the benevolent authorities of the United Federation of Planets who under pressure and fear from imminent invasion by a hostile species imposes strict martial law on their inhabitants beaming down armed troops into the center of major cities and declaring a curfew to try to crack down on enemy agents.
To Babylon 5 where the main character John Sheridan leads a civil war against his own Government who was shooting down civilian transports and bombing cities in the colonies to impose his iron fisted will on the people.
Science Fiction has always represented a challenging of the status quo, at least to me. To saying, wait a second, who are you to play God? What is your authority here? Do you really make sense? Is what you are telling me factual? Sadly a lot of people in the science fiction community does not seem to appreciate these lessons.
Even television shows, movies, and books with no user input has a challenging of choices presented by the main character where they, often, are faced with an impossible situation but move on, grow, adapt, challenge, and overcome.
But yet Mass Effect a franchise that was based on the pinnacle of player choice and a personal story designed by the player does not do this. They do not challenge, they do not let the player control their destiny. At the height of the action with everything on the line your character can either disintegrate herself, throw herself into an energy beam…and disintegrate herself…or shoot a power conduit which causes an explosion killing themselves unless you meet a certain amount of pre set conditions.
Everything falls apart at the last moment.
Thus betraying both itself, its medium, and the genre it is playing in.