This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Imagine if Rhett told Scarlett, "Frankly my dear, I DO give a damn" and whisked her away in his arms. Or what if Ilsa left Casablanca with Rick instead of Victor? Well, they didn't, and they never will.
Those storytellers had a tale to tell, and they brought viewers along for the predetermined ride.
As technology allows video games to more and more resemble movies, traditional storytelling is running head-first into an interactive entertainment medium that puts the power of the story in the hands of the player.
Want to save the village? Click here. Want to burn it down? Click there.
That issue reached a boiling point last month in an outcry from "Mass Effect 3" fans after they reached the end of the massively popular science fiction shooting/role-playing game.
Gamers who controlled the intergalactic exploits of Commander Shepard through three interactive stories were furious when in the end they weren't given the same freedom to choose the outcome as they had during the rest of the game. While there are three main endings from which to choose, their conclusions are the same save for minor variations.
The response was deafening. Thousands blasted the game's creator, Bioware, of Edmonton, Alberta, on forums. A Facebook page demanding a new, "better" ending received more than 57,000 "likes." One angry gamer went so far as to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission for "false advertising." A group of protesters even sent Bioware 400 cupcakes in three different colors so that "no matter which one the developer would pick they would all taste the same," protest co-organizer Sam Zaslavsky said.
Ben Johnston, a 28-year-old fan from Layton, was disappointed when he played through the game in 36 hours straight.
"Most of the game play has been very interactive in directing the story. But the three different endings are so similar that it doesn't feel like the choice you made makes any difference," he said. "For games, you have to stick with the medium. If it allows the player to control a bunch of things, it should stick with the precedent it established."
In an online poll by CNet.com, 83 percent said the ending should be changed. So that's what Bioware's going to do.
In what could be perceived as a blow to the ongoing debate over whether video games can be an expression of art, the game company announced March 21 it will create a new ending and push it out to gaming consoles and PCs via the Internet.
"It's incredibly painful to receive feedback from our core fans that the game's endings were not up to their expectations," Bioware co-founder Ray Muzyka said in a statement.
"We're working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we've received," he added.
Now that games are dynamically connected to the Internet, the creator can change it on the fly, said Roger Altizer, director of game design and production for the Entertainment Arts & Engineering program at the University of Utah.
"It gets to this idea of who owns the story," he said. "With Bioware, they realized there is an economic impact of them not listening to their fans. So they better keep the 'Mass Effect' fans happy."
The problem was Bioware not being consistent with providing players choices, said Chris Jones, founder of Centerville-based Big Finish Games and one of the early pioneers of interactive adventure games with his popular "Tex Murphy" series for PCs.
"What you're saying is that if you take this path, something meaningful happens. And something very impactful has to happen, whether it's in a character relationship or someone dies it has to affect you personally. It's a step-by-step process to build that character."
Thanks to technological advances, the ability for artists to change their message is becoming more common in other mediums, too. Blu-rays and DVDs offer different visions of filmmakers' movies with alternate endings, deleted scenes and director's cuts. Interactive art installations, like those seen in the New Frontier program during the Sundance Film Festival, allow patrons to manipulate the art while it's on display.
"Our culture is so geared to that now it leads us to the expectation we participate in the formation of the content," said Aarón Moulton, senior curator of exhibitions at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, which is showing this year's New Frontier interactive art installations through May. "We have a lot of opportunities for people to complete compositions. Some like to have the [art] pre-packaged and others want to have a hand in it."
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