Alternate Reality Exercise: Can you imagine how big Mass Effect could have been if...

In my past, I never would have considered myself as much of a fanboy of anything. The original Transformers cartoon series maybe, which created a spectacularly special universe richly imbued with atmosphere, character and ultimate coolness. Or during the Nintendo 64 era of games which was a mind-blowing period of new experiences and full-on enjoyment for me that left deep impressions. I think I was at a ripe age in my teenage years to fully appreciate first booting up Mario 64, getting totally absorbed in Zelda and mucking about in Goldeneye and Mariokart with my friends.

Since then, I've only consumed a relative low number of extreme highlights in my entertainment "career" that have blown me away and consumed me in return, such as The Matrix, Resident Evil 4 and Game of Thrones. During the subsequent times of Gamecube/PS2 and all the way up till now, I've become somewhat disenchanted with the AAA entertainment that's on offer and even quit gaming for years. I guess it's possible to get spoiled with works of such outstanding quality, that it makes almost everything else around it look stale, lacking and boring.

But then I discovered the Mass Effect trilogy this year. Nothing could have prepared me for the immersive, thrilling and emotional rollercoaster ride I was about to take. I had just lost my job and so for the next 3 weeks was able to fully climb into this universe. And what a time I had. I don't think anything that's on offer in any entertainment medium today combines all the very best qualities of cinema, games, music, storytelling and world building at such a high level that Mass Effect is able to achieve. I lived that experience. It took me there. Almost as if it really happened. And it was the most amazing thing I ever experienced that was "simulated" and not "in real life". I can't think of higher praise or praise high enough to heap upon it to be honest. I am a Mass Effect fanboy and will evangelize it to anyone who will listen.

Because of all that extreme goodness, the shortcomings and failings of the series cannot ruin it for me. But that doesn't mean the ending didn't feel strange. As if it didn't fit with everything that came before it. As if something far more epic and simply better and more worthy was meant to sit at the finish. I have accepted it, but it has bothered me. Especially the levels of anguish that have been generated amongst all the other fans as a result. And it makes me sad that a piece of art so stellar with such grand achievements is so tarnished and viewed the way it is in the mainstream. It had a place reserved at the very top of the heap and yet so very heartbreakingly it is just one thing that ruins its legacy which had such massive potential.. that m*th#rfu€k*n cursed ending and the accompanying backlash.

I wish EA & BioWare listened to the overwhelming feedback with its very clear and justified message. I wish they were as humble as they should be and admitted they messed up and the fans deserve what they're asking for. I wish they reworked the entire ending and made something that feels right! But it doesn't seem like that will ever happen. So instead I ask you to imagine: How different could things have been if Mass Effect 3 had hit it out of the park and had left everyone with satisfied or even elated feelings at the end of it all? Imagine the equivalent amount of positive buzz as opposed to the negative backlash it has gotten and what that could have done for its popularity spreading and amount of copies sold. If it hadn't messed up, it could have become a big cultural phenomenon, selling millions more, possibly drawing more people into the medium and becoming a gold standard for all games. And next to all the FPS CoD clones, I think we all would have loved more of our games to be influenced by and to strive for all that makes the Mass Effect series so bloody great and for me despite everything still the greatest of all time.