Was There A GJP Mass Effect 3 Conspiracy?

My last #GamerGate piece was straightforward reporting, a pure recitation of the chronology of events. (Or a reasonable facsimile of same.) This one is all my opinion. Well, not quite my opinion, as I’m totally, unquestionably correct, and people who disagree with me are utterly wrong, but we’ll get to that in a second. Let’s start with conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories, and conspiracy theorists, are nuts. They take absence of evidence as absolute proof that a conspiracy is, in fact, occurring. “A successful conspiracy, by definition, leaves no trace!”


What do you do when actual evidence surfaces? For example, actual evidence that, for various ideological reasons, a group of gaming journalists have been colluding to suppress stories they don’t like, highlight stories they do like, and speak in unison on various issues.

When gaming journalists all spoke with one voice recently, all saying the exact same thing, gamers suspected collusion. And it was so. (As I highlighted last week.) This is critical to understand: this wasn’t suspicion, assertion, or imputation. The collusion was proven by actual emails from the principals involved (sent on the GameJournoPros email list, and leaked to a journalist). Gaming journalists conspired to suppress stories and form a unified rhetorical front against gamers.

At that point, it is no longer conspiracy theory, it is conspiracy fact. So we have to ask: when else might these same individuals have conspired?

Erik Kain, of Forbes’ online component, has been covering #GamerGate, being one of the few gaming journalists to remain neutral in the matter (criticizing both GG supporters and opponents). He said something interesting on a recent Radio Nero podcast.

The “Gamers are Dead” articles that launched #GamerGate were, in his opinion, “most similar to the Mass Effect 3 controversy…when a lot of the gaming press wrote similar pieces about how gamers were entitled.” There was “a similar contempt towards their readers.” He’s talking about Retake Mass Effect.

Ah, Retake Mass Effect. The scandal I can’t forget (still boycotting Bioware, thanks), but I don’t want to talk about.

retake ME3

I’m gonna do it anyway. Just a little bit.

I know at this point some of you will want to jump in and argue about the ending. Suppress the urge. This isn’t about whether the ending was good or bad, or even whether gamers were justified in their anger and actions or not. The issue is the behavior of the gaming press.

#Gamergate: A bunch of similar stories, at the same time, with similar wording, published by the usual suspects — like Kotaku and Gamasutra — all condemning gamers and defending one of their approved developers.

Mass Effect 3: A bunch of similar stories, at the same time, with similar wording, published by the usual suspects — like Kotaku and Gamasutra — all condemning gamers and defending one of their approved developers.

In both circumstances, they acted nearly the exact same way. Was there a conspiracy? Don’t know, don’t really care.

But it’s more than plausible. It makes sense. It could have happened, because that’s the way the GameJournoPros behave. They’ve done it for a long time, and they’re proud of it. And that’s a problem.

In a free society, the press has a vital role. As an institution, it exists to provide necessary information to the public, with the assumption that any other mission comes a distant second. Even making money is second to providing accurate information. (That is, you don’t soft-peddle or spike stories about advertisers and you don’t sell coverage, which is why there’s a “wall” between advertising and the editor’s desk. You also don’t sex up, mad monkey style, people you’re covering.) Reporting comes first.

But when the press covering a community has proven itself to be corrupt and unreliable, proven itself to be capable of abandoning its vital cultural purpose to pursue ideological ends, then there is no trust. People who boast of their corruption, or seek to cover it up, or simply ignore the issue cannot be trusted. They do not regret their actions, given the chance they will do it again. You cannot — should not — trust the incorrigibly corrupt.

By their behavior and explicit words, a significant plurality of the gaming press has proven they view themselves as being superior, morally and mentally, to the community of gamers they cover. There can be no rapprochement between the two, not on that basis. You cannot negotiate with someone who views you as inferior and disposable — you have nothing they want. They will not change, because there is no reason to change.

The only alternative gamers have is to identify press (or fan) outlets who do not view them as subhumans, as “obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers”, and patronize them. Boycott the unrepentant (and pressure their advertisers), patronize the abashed or untouched. (Or even — Gasp! Shock! — start your own.)

To give the hostile and arrogant press your clicks or pageviews is to reward their behavior with money. There are other sites which are neutral or even friendly to gamers, such as The Escapist, Niche Gamer, TechRaptor, and others. #GamerGaters communicate with various sites on a daily basis, they frequently pass around notices of which ones actually value their customers, rather than seeing them as a burden.

There’s no way to tell — yet — whether the GameJournoPros colluded on ME3 coverage. But their behavior in many other instances has been appalling and unethical. We cannot force them to recognize this, but we can drive them out of business. Money talks, even when morality (sadly) goes unheard. Time to let our money talk.

32 thoughts on “Was There A GJP Mass Effect 3 Conspiracy?”

  1. You know what? I kind of agree with you here. Oh and for just a sec, TOO BAD, the ending sucked and you know it! A freaking glowing kid! Really? I could have come up with 6 better multiple endings on the spot with no prep, just bust them out than Bioware did with a game that made them relevant. I’m sure the hardcore Dragon’s Age fans will find a way to argue buying anything by them is okay but I never will.
    It really was weird, all the sites had basically the exact same story. I wasn’t freaking out, in forums, online etc. I just thought that ending was awful, I paid for my game like everyone else and am entitled to my opinion. But back to the point, I don’t find it hard to believe. The Usual Suspect type sites are dripping with evidence of collusion between developer and journalist, this was something more though, like Bioware went around paying off everyone to write stories with the same kind of spin.
    Never know right?

  2. I was wondering the same thing myself a few days ago. Its such an odd way to run a business, biting the hand that feeds you and all.

  3. I don’t think so, simply because the entire online reaction was so irrationally entitled and full of vitriol that they deserved to be called out over it. Even today, years later (as evidenced by the comment directly above mine) there are people who just can’t let go. It’s ridiculous the amount of butthurt on display every single time Bioware or Mass Effect is mentioned. There’s always going to be one neckbeard who is going to go full Comic Book Guy in the comments section.

  4. “Those assholes deserved it” does not constitute clear and convincing evidence that nothing untoward occurred. And, even if they did deserve it, collusion on a secret email list between major gaming journalists is not a good thing.

    The collusion and contempt is the real issue, and the only pertinent issue, two years after Retake (almost three).

  5. And it’s not like there’s no example of it being done and for some reason isn’t subject to normal market forces.

    I’m referring to the Main Stream Media.

    It was what? Six years ago the journolist scandal hit the news. In fact that scandal was mentioned in a Gamer’s Pro email as an example for them to make sure didn’t happen to them.

    The bias and contempt that is found in the Main Stream Press for the readers of this country is blatant and can not be refuted. Dozens of polls, studies and essays have been written about it yet those in the Infotainment Industry still deny that they are biased.

    Journolist proved them wrong.

    The only question is why does it profit those who act that why? I would guess that there is enough traffic to those sites so that the “cost” in readership is blunted or at least muted. So long as the advertisers are happy, it doesn’t matter. (and note that most bias in reporting has some commercial basis for some writer/editor)

  6. This kind of thing is kind of freaky. However, I will say I thought at the time that the ME3 thing was… overblown. I remember as far back as Mass Effect 1, as you are learning about the scope and size of the threat you are facing, that I was kind of worried about how they were going to pull this one off as a victory in a realistic and plausible way. A LOT of epic fantasy authors fall into the same trap. In one corner you have your godlike aliens, in the other you have your plucky band of adventurers who cannot seem to get it together.

    Was ME3’s ending all I had hoped? No. Could it have been better? Yes. However, I loved the game because for me it had transcended being just about the Reaper threat but also about the characters you met along the way. This is why I loved the Citadel DLC so much- in a lot of ways the main story was a backdrop for the characters you had met, and the one you had created for yourself. The amount of vitriol that was thrown out at the time, while I agreed with some of it seemed excessive.

    Now does this mean that the writers of the various sites did not collude when they put out their reaction to the vitriol? Nope. I do not have a lot of faith in game writers when I read reviews and they seemingly all tell me exactly the same thing. Different people SHOULD be able to tell you about a game without sounding like the harmonic, creepy twins from the Shining.

  7. I played and liked ME 1 and 2 but for some reason I held off on 3 and I could not have been happier that I did. It is not just the fact that the ending sucked ass but the entire “synthetics will always kill their creators so we will kill you before you create synthetics that will kill you” is the most asinine, ridiculous and stupid plot point that has ever insulted my intelligence.

    I to this day have not and will not play ME3. It is also not just about how ridiculous the “space magic” ending was but also the fact that Casey Hudson flat out lied about the endings and they turned out exactly as he said they would not. Add to that the site backlash against “entitled” gamers and I just said to hell with it. You are very correct though in drawing the parallel between the Retake movement and Gamergate and the gaming “journalists” response.

  8. That whole synthetic thing was pulled out of the writer’s rear. Especially given the storyline about the Geth that dominated 2 and the first half of 3.

    Way to go, Bioware! Invalidate all your prior storylines and concepts. Who wrote this, George Lucas?

    (rant over)

    Anyway, welcome to the House!

  9. I think there’s a strong likelihood of collusion between Bioware and game journalists and that that collusion should have been seen by many as smoke for the much bigger flame that is #Gamergate. I don’t want to get into the political dimensions here–I’m just a gamer who wants to play fun and entertaining games–not get hit over the head over and over again with the Social Justice club. The ME 3 imbroglio did make me more leery of Bioware products. Bioware used to be a no-brainer pre-order for me ever since Baldur’s Gate. Now, I wait for reviews from neutral sites and LPs from youtubers I trust before plunking down my money.

    And, I hate to say this, I’m having bad feelings about Dragon Age: Inquisition. I think this game is going to be one of those cases of “creating Great Art” by freewheeling use of the Social Justice Hammer of Truthiness. If that is the case, I think I’ll pass.

  10. Thanks for the welcome. I also heard that when time came to write the ending all the writers were shut out except Casey Hudson and Mac Walters so we know exactly who to blame. After all that we did during the first 2 games the best ending according to Bioware is the one where we willingly rape every sentient race in the universe by making them organic/synthetic hybrids? Who in their right mind thought that was a good ending?

  11. Since it’s unlikely we’ll be able to prove it, perhaps it is just of historical note. But remember that the GameJournoPro list existed 2 years *prior* to the Retake ME3 event. With things like this-


    As the result, combined with nearly all games media calling us ‘Whiny’ & ‘Entitled’, I think we can safely assume that collusion was, indeed, a factor. :-/

  12. I was wondering that myself. It was an interesting period – as a person who followed the Mass Effect series closely, the ME3 was so off the rails and below expectations that I didn’t play the game for months afterward. It was like the whole Earth mission was a blend of various other games into a fine puree. And for some reason, all the critics thought we should love it. In my experience, consumers who receive a unsatisfactory product are quite entitled and upset, no matter the industry.

    Do these journalists not realize that lecturing your audience is a great way to drive them crazy?

  13. I think there’s a strong likelihood of collusion between journalists, and a less likely but still greater than 50% chance some figure from Bioware was involved.

    Also, belated Welcome to the House of Geekery!

  14. Yeah, I checked that timeline before posting. 2 years after the founding of GJP. Long enough to get comfy in their roles of newsmaker puppetmasters. Scum.

    Also, a belated Welcome to Daddy W.’s House!

  15. It seemed as if they were trying to make it into Gears of War. (IIRC, been a while. Screw you, Bioware.) Then they wrecked Dead Space 3, trying to make it like Mass Effect.

    This is why we can’t have nice things, EA.

    And Welcome to Daddy’s Big, Bad Blog!

  16. Thanks, Big Daddy! :D Now, as one of my fellow commenters at the massive thread discussion we’ve had at The Escapist said- ME3 would have been perfectly fine as a Dudebro shooter. Pretty good, in fact. What we Retakers hated (In addition to one of the most illogical, off-the-walls finales in media history- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MlatxLP-xs&list=UUI3GAJaOTL1BoipG41OmfyA ) was that they took an RPG & tried to shoehorn it into a shooter. Because, in their MEGAHIT EAthink, RPG’s are not big enough in sales. Yet, they needed that brand recognition, not realizing that it HAD that brand recognition *because* the first game was a great RPG! :-/

    See, here’s the thing- Will EA add ‘dating sim’ elements to Madden? To appeal to the female demographic? Will they add ‘concession stand simulation’ to FIFA? No. Of course not. Because that would fundamentally change the nature of the game AND those games are already gargantuan enough in sales that even EA wouldn’t think those could help.

    But RPG’s have always been a much smaller niche. Dependable, sturdy, reliable in sales, but not MEGAHITS. Which is why EA wanted those changes.

    When the Anti-GG people portray us pro-GG people as ‘not wanting diversity’, they are either lying to libel us, ignorant, or completely misinformed. *Everyone* pro-GG that I have intereacted with at length over these past 7 weeks wants more diversity in games, we just don’t want it shoved down our mouth as an underhanded propagandistic move.

    And it would be easy to do. If EA & the other AAA’s would stop trying to be like the movie studios, they could easily take the $100,000,000 slated for a single blockbuster and make 10 $10,000,000 games of diverse genres. I’m no economist, but I’d be willing to bet that even if they didn’t make quite as much in return (and that’s questionable), they would have a safer, more guaranteed, more reliable income, that *just might* produce more surprises for them.

  17. I’ll be honest: one of the things I hated most about ME3 was the broken quest list. Every damn time I opened it, I was stuck in the middle of a bunch of grayed-out, already completed quests, and would have to scroll up to get to the active quests. That’s the kind of lazy BS that irritates consumers (and indicates rushed and therefore bad development)…

    But arrogance and dismissal of your base is what enrages them. I wrote something about it… link’s right around here…

    Mass Effect 3 Is Not Art: https://daddywarpig.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/mass-effect-3-is-not-art/

    Four Minutes of Mocking Mass Effect: https://daddywarpig.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/four-minutes-of-mocking-mass-effect/

    I don’t read The Escapist anymore, because I use a privacy VPN, which gives them fits. I understand the GG thread there is epic.

  18. Nice blog, nuanced article, great (transparent) cites… thank you.

    Also, took ME3 back to the store after less than 2 hours of gameplay IOT get full refund. It felt too much like ME2+. It seemed clear that character choices affected the game and the conclusion to a very minor degree – I couldn’t be arsed to complete it.

  19. “I paid for my game like everyone else and am entitled to my opinion.”

    I don’t think that can be said enough. As a paying customer, you ARE “entitled”, and should be. What is notable about the SJWs and “game journalists” is that they are the ones with an unjustified feeling of entitlement. They are not the ones paying the freight, but they expect their obsessions to be catered to, over the desires of the actual customers.

    It’s pretty much the clear mark of an illegitimately entitled individual: they’re the ones calling everyone else “entitled” or “spoiled”.

  20. The Usual Suspect type sites are dripping with evidence of collusion between developer and journalist, this was something more though, like Bioware went around paying off everyone to write stories with the same kind of spin.
    Never know right?

    Unlikely, IMAO. What’s more likely is that the GJPs, in their desire to remake the gaming industry into one that makes a product that appeals to the GJPers, NOT to the “white heterosexual male” customers. looked at ME3 as a chance to flex their muscles, and push their agenda.

  21. I would have said, that if you couldn’t or never intended to, make player choice matter, then you should never have billed it in that way.

    I will speak with authority as a Pen & Paper roleplayer of 32 years and a Gamemaster for most of that-

    Player Agency should be THE NUMBER ONE FOCUS of a GM/RPG’s job. Players are *not* there to be sit in rapt, stunned amazement at the brilliant story you’ve created. They are there to tell their stories THROUGH the medium of your own. If as a GM you are spending most of the game time speaking as an NPC, or just talking *at* the players, you are doing it wrong. I ran a Campaign from 1996-2011 and the reason it lasted so long was because I learned that most important of lessons.

    I realize this is more difficult to do in a CRPG, because you can only program so much, but if Mass Effect’s resources had been used to create just one game that focused on that fact instead of 3 who only pretended to it, I’m willing to bet it would have been hailed as one of the greatest games ever made.

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