Oh, Indoctrination Theory. You have no quit in you. Despite the advent of the Extended Cut, which should have been the final nail in your coffin, you persist. You gotta give the Theorists credit; if nothing else, they are persistent.
They are also delusional. Don't take that as an insult; believing in the Indoctrination Theory at this point matches the very definition of what a delusion is: believing in something with strong conviction despite overwhelming contrary evidence. This fits the IT to a T. I'm not going to bother trying to debunk inane gibberish, so let's just try to get a few laughs out of them, shall we?
Crazy Quote Compilation
I decided to compile a few quotes from Indoctrination Theorists here and respond to them, for the hell of it. These are actual things that actual people said, believe it or not. These quotes were gathered from BSN forums, YouTube, and even MEWiki. Maybe we could get a few laughs from them?
Because that totally makes sense.
Yeah, because it's not like they've tried to refuse it at all, right? Also, who said Shepard was on Earth?
Excellent point! I mean, what else could a pile of corpses be doing in a war zone? What else could cadavers mean except "I'm being indoctrinated"?
Yeah, because it's not like they were talking about the forum thread itself or anything, right?
Riiiight. The fact that the endings look nearly identical is all part of the conspiracy.
Wait... how many "forms" of indoctrination are there?
I love it when an answer can mean literately anything and nothing at the same time! Which isn't contradictory at all. Totally.
Totally right. Because a magical hologram that can "jump into peoples minds" isn't speculation at all; established facts from the game are, however.
What a sound and completely non-convoluted plan! They could show everyone in the galaxy (via magical Reaper television) a video of Shepard walking around as a husk! Then everyone in the galaxy will just give up. How could we not see all along that this was Harbinger's master plan!?
It's not like the themes were about unity, racism, alliances, synthetics, or destroying an alien race of Elder Gods; the entire Mass Effect trilogy has been about brainwashing this whole time! Also, what's "player choice"? Sounds stupid!
Yeah, putting an ending at the end of the story is too "mainstream".
Because player-choice is for chumps. Also, it's not like the game itself ever stated that a unit of soldiers activated the project instead of Shepard. Right in the beginning. When talking to Anderson. Besides, Mass Effect books are never wrong, right?
"Cut content"? what does that mean?
So... what's the point?
Absolutely right. Because according to Science Fiction rule #387, if something's nomenclature doesn't match every scientific definition exactly, it's automatically a lie. Also, it's a good thing the Leviathan DLC doesn't mention the AI or anything.
Jumping to conclusions is always fun! Faulty reasoning ho!
Because something can't be named for trivial reasons like "it sounds cool" or "it matches one of the definitions. Just like the Conduit.
I love paying extra to get the whole plot! Stories are so much better when you have to pay ~$70 to hear them, plus an additional five or ten dollars to hear how it ends.
I don't think I have to say anything in response to that. If you can read the above and not immediately ascertain why it's insanely idiotic, do Mankind a favour and don't reproduce.
Leviathan DLC? What's that?
Lying to your audience=being a good writer?
Right. It just happens to be the very last thing that happens in the story. Wait, what's the definition of an ending again?
You'd best call a contractor; the fourth and possibly fifth wall has just been demolished.
Even in a single player game, you have to take part in the totally-civilised forums and discuss (civilly) with other fanboys in order to appreciate a story. Works of art should never be able to stand up on their own. Right?
I've been speculating how much my time is worth.
Yep. Making people pay for things they already is own is always OK. Making people pay more than the base $60+ is brilliant! Why don't more companies do this?
Because angst, paint, anger, frustration, and apathy are the best emotions to feel. I can't wait for future gaming technology that shoots us in the kneecap any time your character gets shot. Immersion!
Want to beat the game and enjoy the end of the story? Too bad! It's gonna cost you 50 bucks. Oh, and you have to wait an entire year after the game releases. Because buying a finished product is too mainstream, yo.
Yeah... that doesn't sound crazy at all....
Oh, well it would have been nice if BioWare warned me that my entire playthrough was completely moot. Wait... so if my playthrough is non-canon, why does Shepard still get indoctrinated? Oh... this wasn't really thought through was it?
Not if that show is Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. But then agaian, it's not like Mass Effect 3 is the end of a trilogy or anything.
I play single player to get away from screaming fanboys. I shouldn't have to deal with tl;dr's, insults, lying, confusion, and the general idiocy that infests Internet forums just to understand what the hell is going on in the story.
Shellshock? What's that?
You have a very loose interpretation of the word "facts". That, and the word "theory". and "works".
So... the bizarre dream sequence was for poops and giggles then?
So... what was the point of all that!?
I don't want to live on this planet any more.
The Overwhelming Evidence to the Contrary
So, for the hell of it, I decided to list a few of the things that completely debunk the IT, and why it's the most idiotic ideas in the history of storytelling since... this.
One Way Out
This is the first and foremost piece of evidence against the Indoctrination Theory. If your Estimated Military Strength is very, very low, the player can be left with only one option: Destroy. If Destroy is the only way to beat the Reapers, and Destroy is the only option available to you, why would you be in the dream sequence if you're guaranteed to win. Why are you guaranteed to win? Why do people think this theory is so flawless?
Now, I've heard people say that choosing Destroy with low EMS means the Reapers don't indoctrinate you at all; you just die. Even though it's the same choice, you get a radically different result. So... what's the point? Why show the exact same dream sequence if you can't be indoctrinated? If you have to make things up and rationalise something for it to be true, it's a bad idea from the start.
And another thing: why does the Catalyst AI mention destroy at all? What magical unwritten rule says the Catalyst, an AI, must give Shepard the option to resist? If it's trying to indoctrination Shepard, why even have that option? It's already far-fetched enough that the amount of ships we have somehow impacts the amount of options we have in our mind, so why doesn't the Catalyst simply say we can't pick destroy? Why bring it up at all? Why does Shepard even have a choice? Since when is having Stockholm Syndrome a choice!?
For many level-headed reasonable Men, the "refusal" or "reject" ending, whilst undoubtedly a giant middle finger to the fan base, would at least serve as the final nail in the IT's coffin. However, the most delusional have proven us wrong, and continue to wallow in self-pity and buyer's remorse.
Let's just jump right into this. Why would "rejecting" the Catalyst AI yield the same result as "accepting" their philosophy? Destroy is also interpreted as a rejection of the Catalyst's ideas, yet it has a completely different result? This whole thing isn't very well thought-out is it?
Test or Twist?
Forget the fact that IT is impossible. Really, it's all a moot point, because the IT is just bad storytelling.
Most people say that it's an excellent twist. Why is it so brilliant exactly? The story was never about that, and to have Shepard become so suddenly brainwashed in such a contrived way is jarring at best. We don't know a lot of the specifics of indoctrination; most of the IT is just speculation and subjective interpretation. It has been stated that Shepard has the willpower to resist indoctrination. In other words, plot armour. You either get brainwashed by Space Cthulu, or you don't. It's just that simple.
Here's what confuses me. Many Indoctrination Theorists say that it's supposed to be a big surprise. I won't bother trying to explain that a twist ending isn't necessarily good simply because it surprises you; it has to actually fit in the narrative. A twist isn't mind blowing because just because you didn't see it coming. Mass Effect 3 was never about Shepard's subtle indoctrination. There is no real foreshadowing, just paranoid people jumping to conclusions.
However, at the same time, others say you're supposed to look at "clues" from all three games. It's something we're apparently supposed to ascertain beforehand, thus knowing that Destroy is the only right answer. If this is true, how can it even be called a twist, when it's something that players should already know? Also, how is that exactly fair to people new to the franchise? What about people who just want to enjoy the story?
In an episode of Bones, I remember Dr. Temperance Brennan explaining that Mythologists aren't really scientists, because they start with a conclusion, then look for evidence to back it up. Instead, one should start with an open mind, look at the evidence, and then draw a conclusion. Indoctrination Theorists are essentially the same as mythologists. They start with an asinine assumption, then work backwards in search of evidence. Of course all the evidence makes sense to them; they've already decided that it's true.
I've already said it before, but it's worth saying again. Indoctrination is pointless. It adds nothing to the narrative, and leaves the conflict unresolved. It creates more problems than it fixes, but people don't want to listen, to admit that the theory is nothing but a bad fan fiction gone wrong. There numbers are few now, and that seems appropriate. The hype has died down, and only the most radical theorists remain. I'm not complaining; it's funny to listen to these people ramble. I know you might be tired of blogs related to the ending, but I hope that we can at least get a few laughs from the ridiculous things these people say. If you can't teach them, laugh at them.
In the end, I'd say the Indoctrination Theorists seem to have the same problem BioWare’s been having: they can’t get their story straight.