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Hello all. I wanted to write a quick follow-up to my last post, "Indoctrination Theorists Say the Darndest Things, Part II". For those involved in the discussion, this is essentially my way of outlining the major point against the Indoctrination Theory. If you aren't interesed, or don't care, move on. Believe it or not, people still hold out hope for this inane dribble, so I'm going to write about it. More than anything, it's an organised and detailed rebuttal to many of IronicAtheist's points raised on my previous article.
If it seems irrelevant, or if it feels like I'm ranting, I apologise, but as I said, it's mainly a follow-up to my previous post. I'll try to keep it short.
The Importance of Choice
First and foremost, this theory removes player agency. The three choices we have, though somewhat flawed, are at least thought provoking and capable of spawning intelligent debate. There's no right answer here, and that's the way it should be. Mass Effect is all about being thrust into that morally grey area, and facing the consequences of your actions. It is not however, about randomly guessing the correct choice, when all others lead to failure.
Consider how annoyed people will be if this was the reveal. People would have made a choice based on their own values, and by assessing the pros and cons of each choice. They have a weighty decision to make, and they made it, only to find out they never had a choice at all. They wanted to play a game where their decisions had a massive impact on the story, and instead, they get roped into a social experiment. That's not fair. That's not what Mass Effect has ever been about. You don't slap an arbitrary pop quiz at the end of a branching storyline. You thought a confusing ending alienated the Mass Effect audience? What about an ending where Shepard is indoctrinated?
One argument for the IT is that this will be "emotional" and invoke drama. Not true. Slapping the player in the face with a huge surprise like this, and essentially saying "you fail, the Reapers win", isn't just off-putting. It's insulting.
Most Indoctrination Theorists desperately want this, but they don't care about the actual fanbase. They claim to represent the fans, but in truth, they advocate a poorly implemented plot twist that serves to exclude, alienate, and worst of all, punish players. Many theorists say that the answer is obvious if you pay attention (really though, it's just paranoia), but there's a problem with this reasoning. Not every player has played all three games. All the evidence in the world is literally meaningless because these newcomers won't care. They bought one game, and they wanted to experience the story of that game. And you want to punish them for not "paying attention" to games they never played? Give me a break.
Here's something else that a lot of them don't consider. If your EMS is low enough, you are left with a single option (pre-EC). This option is determinate. If you destroyed the Collector Base, you get Destroy. If you preserved it, you get Control. Now the flaws with the former are obvious. If the Reapers are trying to indoctrinate Shepard, why only give them the option that leads to success? In fact, why mention it at all? Now, I've heard "it has to be there" and that's where things get more convoluted. You're now making up new rules to fit the theory. This isn't based on pre-established lore any more; it's based on player fantasy.
The problem with the latter is just as palpable. If your only option is to pick Control... well how is that fair? It's entirely justifiable to preserve the Collector Base. How on Earth is it fair to punish those players by forcing them to pick the one option if it leads to failure?
Many ITers point out that the Catalyst supposedly doesn't want you to pick Destroy, thus it's trying to indoctrinate you, but I'd point out that it doesn't want Control either. It doesn't like the idea of being replaced, and when you consider the AI's point of view, it much prefers the idea of Synthesis, because then everyone wins (again, from the AI's perspective). If Control is supposedly one of the options that leads to failure, why would it try to discourage that option?
Another thing to think about is how this essentially punishes you for gathering EMS. Come prepared? You unlock the Synthesis option. It's not perfect of course, but it can be viewed by many as middle road solution. It means progress for the galaxy. If we have to work to attain that option, why are we getting punished for picking it? Punishing the player is bad enough, but punishing them for coming prepared and being given more options? Not cool.
The entire driving force behind this theory is that by picking Control or Synthesis, you are accepting Reaper philosophy and you end up agreeing with them, thus indoctrination. This is already flawed on its own, but let's take a closer look. The Reapers don't want to be controlled, and synthesis was never before an option for them. These things were introduced by the Crucible, and don't quite match up to what the Reapers want or what you want. You could say that Synthesis is what Saren wanted, and Control is the Illusive Man's idea, but these aren't flawed philosophies outright. This isn't Reaper philosophy; it's our philosophy. It's our own way or fighting the Reapers. They merely twist our ambition to suit their own needs. So really, picking Control or Synthesis isn't agreeing with the Reapers. Indoctrination isn't even about that. Indoctrinated people still stick to their original ambitions, albeit now they are blind to manipulation. By sticking to your original intentions, aren't you doing exactly what they want?
Really, if you think about it, picking Destroy follows the Reaper philosophy. The Reapers don't believe in coexistence, and they certainly don't want to be controlled, so how are those options agreeing with the Reapers? The Reapers are programmed to commit genocide in order to preserve the status quo. They sacrifice these races against their will in order to preserve organic life. Sounds a bit like Destroy, doesn't it?
So yeah, when you think about it, the entire thing just falls apart.
Organic Insignificance and United Alliances
This was a trilogy was one of many themes. It explored humanity's place in the universe, and how we fit into the larger galactic community. It was about our insignificance of a grander scale, a la H.P. Lovecraft. Other common themes were self-annihilation via synthetic life, the persistence of racism, even in an advanced society, and forging an alliance against a greater common foe. On a more personal level, Shepard dealt with survivor guilt, just like Jack. The recurring idea that you can't save everyone is a commonly recurring idea in the narrative, and is highlighted by the Virmire decision as well as the little boy back on Earth. These were all ideas that were explored to some extent in the series.
On a thematic level, the series was never about indoctrination. Losing your mind to the reapers fits in as a larger part of the Lovecraftian themes, but indoctrination itself was never that huge a part of the game. Putting it at the forefront now, at the most important moment in the entire trilogy, is just plain idiotic. Saying indoctrination is a major theme in Mass Effect is like saying light sabres are the premise of Star Wars.
What's the Point?
Here's another reason to ignore this theory. It creates more problems than it solves (it doesn't solve much), and is utterly pointless.
Another point against the entire theory is the "Rejection" option. If you tell the Reapers to shove it in the same place you did the Council, and fight on your own terms, why do you still fail? It's incredibly pointless to show us how we failed to beat them conventionally (it is impossible to beat them that way), only to later reveal we never died at all. It removes the weight behind our actions and railroads us into uncertain territory. This wouldn't even be that effective. It would just be confusing and worse, annoying. What would people do once they found out they picked the wrong choice (in a game based on making morally ambiguous choices, I might add)? They'll reload their save. They'll reload and pick the right choice. It's not something you have to live with. It'd exist solely to roadblock us at a time when tension and action should be at its highest.
And what happens when we wake up? We activate the Crucible. The Crucible is the only way of winning the Reaper War, so yeah. You dreamt a highly convoluted pop quiz in which you fire the Crucible in one of three ways, and then you wake up... and do it again? What's the point in that? Since those other options are wrong, wouldn't it be safe to assume the Crucible simply works as we hoped it would, and then, based on EMS, we just get another Reaper death sequence? Why dangle choice in front of our faces, only to take it away?
And another thing. Isn't it extremely stupid to show detailed slideshows and cinematic of all these different characters and races surviving and thriving... only to say, "Nope! Indoctrinated!" The entire point of those slides is to give us closure. The IT removes the point of them entirely by saying that didn't even happen, since Control and Synthesis are non-choices now.
Poor Problem Solving Skills
The indoctrination theory is a lot like a Bethesda patch. It creates more problems than it solves. It goes out of its way to remove the resolution to the game and replace it with a cliffhanger. It invalidates the $65 journey I took and demands I pay more money to get another conclusion. If BioWare were to release this "Reveal" DLC that these idiots are all foaming over the mouth over, it'd retroactively make the main game worse by shouting "that ending never happened! There is no plot resolution in the game any more!". It's going out of its way to simply exist, and that's what it does. It doesn't exist because it's artistic or ingenious, because it's neither of those things. Think on all the problems I've listed here alone. All of that, and for what? A cheap surprise? More Shepard? Validation for those who picked Destroy? It's not worth it. This theory exists solely for the purpose of existing. This is made evident by its supporters. Press them enough, and back them against a wall with actual logic, and they think of excuses, not reasons, for it to exist. They just want it to happen. They go back and retroactively twist anything in the trilogy to fit their ideology. They're working backwards, trying to use suspension of disbelief and any ambiguous plot element as "evidence". Whatever is malleable or open to interpretation is enough, because they desperately want it to be true. This is why you see trees, corpses, and idle animations used as evidence.
However, if you think about the theory long enough (I'd say a good 2-5 seconds is plenty of time), there's nothing all that great about it. It adds nothing to the narrative except for a pop quiz that punishes you for thinking you had a real choice. The list of problems I've listed here isn't even exhaustive, but it's more than enough. If I may use my Lord of the Rings analogy again, it's the equivalent of a random bandit knocking Frodo out just before reaching Mount Doom, then ending the entire movie there. No, it's worse than that even. It erases the resolution, then fails to replace it. For this reason alone, any ending utilising the indoctrination theory is a thousand times worse than the original endings, love them or hate them.
You see, without the IT, the ending resolves the plot. It's fundamentally flawed sure, but as I've pointed out, so is the indoctrination theory; it doesn't even hold up with lore. The IT however, fails to resolve the conflict. Who wins the Reaper War? Is organic life annihilated? Can the Reapers be stopped? Does Shepard survive? Who knows. The Indoctrination Theory sure doesn't. This theory put indoctrination, one weapon of the main villain, and makes it out to be the most important part of the entire franchise. It simply isn't. It practically brushes the Crucible aside in favour of fanboy fantasy. You remember the Crucible right? That thing we spent the entire game building?
"Oh but wait Milkman!", I hear you say, "It's all explained in DLC!" Stop. This is the absolute number one reason to not support this idiotic theory. Any indoctrination theorist who would actually purchase downloadable content like this is advocating the sale of incomplete products for the same price. Does that not register with these people? Your asking for companies to take games and remove pivotal parts, without even lowering the price of the game! That's the absolute most amoral and unethical business practice one can do in this industry, and these people are begging for it! Going back and revealing a plot twist a year later, when this game is no longer relevant and many have sworn of the company altogether, isn't just poor timing; it's pointless. It has to take away a chunk of the narrative we've learned to accept. Hell, they've already even released an ending DLC. What was the point of all those slides they added, if they're extensions of the same non-reality? Literally nothing about this entire theory makes sense.
If that's not stupidity, I don't know what is. If you can shrug off all these issues, then you're no longer reasoning; you're just making excuses.
Darn. That wasn't short at all. Sorry.