(Again, massive spoilers for MASS EFFECT trilogy, particularly MASS EFFECT 3)
That Indoctrination theory that's been doing the rounds and being largely dismissed as wishful thinking? It actually makes quite a bit of sense. Enough to fill out the twenty freaking minutes of this remarkably well-edited YouTube video. It certainly uncovers hints that cannot be accidental, such as the bullet wound that Anderson and Shepard share even though only Anderson was shot; the completely nonsensical rooms in the Citadel that seem to belong to other ships in previous games; that fucking Star Child saying he's the Catalyst, but at several points implying he's a Reaper, and saying it with three simultaneous voices, two of which are the male Shepard and the female Shepard; the reversal of colors in the three choices, with The Illusive Man being portrayed as a Paragon and Anderson as a Renegade; and finally, there's the extra ending that can only be obtained by players with a high Effective Military Strength rating who choose to destroy the Reapers (the "Renegade" choice) -- an ending that shows Commander Shepard waking up in the ruins of a warzone that is very likely Earth, suggesting that he never actually went up to the Citadel. It's like Bioware wanted to reward the more hardcore players with an extra hint that there's more coming.
All of a sudden, the ending makes sense and is remarkably clever to a point that cannot be coincidence. Hell, the theory not only explains the ending, it also explains ME3's weak beginning. Now there is a narrative reason for that ridiculous child to show up inside a vent and inexplicably refuse help. If it turns out this child is Harbinger trying to manipulate Shepard's emotions all along? I will kiss the writing team in the mouth. Considering the high standards I've come to expect from them throughout the MASS EFFECT series, the Indoctrination theory is to me more plausible than Bioware actually coming up with the ending as it currently stands, and saying, "Yeah, that'll work." It's too much of a narrative and thematic clusterfuck if taken at face value.
Since ME3 was released two weeks ago, people have been trying to figure out what exactly is going on in the ending, and together they came up with the Indoctrination theory that establishes the "Renegade" choice as the only one that breaks the Indoctrination's hold and thus allows the story to continue. Many think that this is bullshit, that this is denial, and that Bioware just fucked up and that's it, get over it.
Do you see how the doors are open for an absolutely brilliant and unprecedented metalinguistic prank?
If it turns out this was indeed all planned, then the game successfully "indoctrinated" a legion of gamers. Who will, of course, be very unhappy if the "real ending" DLC comes at a price and takes too long. If Bioware releases it soon -- thus revealing that its was already done or at least near completion when ME3 was released -- and doesn't charge for it? I think they'll be applauded for their cleverness and their sheer brass balls even if the actual ending also sucks.
And they've been interestingly vague when questioned about this. They were implying the ending was intended to be final. But now, they're thinking of changing it. I'm hoping their next step is to reveal it. Because as much sense as the Indoctrination theory makes, it can only be proven if they actually finish the story. If the ending was intended as final and the hints were just dropped to make it open for interpretation, Bioware disastrously failed to pull it off. But that doesn't sound like them.
Seems too good to be true, yes, but also too good an opportunity to miss.
We shall see.
- Incredibly detailed analysis of MASS EFFECT 3's ending from a logical standpoint.
- Interesting blogpost on Destructoid.
- Another excellent Gamefront article analyzing the Indoctrination theory.
- Jimquisition episode in which Jim Sterling, quite correctly, says it's awesome for videogames that people care this much about MASS EFFECT even though the ending sucks. And this is why it would be so, so genius if it turns out there is an actual ending DLC planned.