Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Moving Image Studies

First Advisor

Gregory Smith

Second Advisor

Jennifer Barker

Third Advisor

Daniel Reynolds

Fourth Advisor

Ethan Tussey


Since the success of the player-led Mass Effect 3 ending controversy, player-led video game controversies have become mainstream sites of industrial and ideological contention between developers, players, and the culture itself. This dissertation focuses on the history of the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy, the game’s specific textual qualities that encouraged player protest, and the negotiations between players and developers in online spaces that persuaded developers to alter the game’s ending based on player demands. Using the Mass Effect 3 as its primary object, this dissertation argues this controversy—as well as subsequent player-led video game controversies—was not simply the result of dissatisfaction with a single plot point or representation in the text or video game community, but the complex negotiation of creative differences between players and developers over the production and control of video game texts and culture. Video games and their controversies are rooted in the medium's intrinsic qualities of interactivity, choice, labor and the need for shared production between developers and players to progress and produce a video game text, which encourages the development of a sense of agency and ownership over the text for both groups. This dissertation argues that video games are not just texts that developers create and that players play, but rather texts produced through the co-creative production practice that Axel Bruns has defined as “produsage”—texts where producers act in dual roles as users while users to also act as producers—that allow players a creative stake in the outcome of a video game text, encourages a sense of agency and ownership, and collapses traditional boundaries between developers and players. Video game controversies naturally arise when players perceive a loss of agency and control over the video game text and attempt to reclaim control over ownership of the text through controversy.


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