Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Game With Such a Mass Effect on the Player

As you can guess from the title, this blog entry will pertain to the wonderful game series from Bioware, Mass Effect.



If you haven't heard of and/or played any of the series, please raise your hand. Good...now flatten your palm and fingers and proceed to slap yourself silly. Now, put some ice on that and I'll explain to you the amazing world of Mass Effect. In 2007, Bioware released an Action-Role Playing-Shooter game called (you guessed it) Mass Effect. It was the first in a trilogy that (literally) spans all of space and future time. You are Commander Shepard of the Alliance Navy: you can play as Male-Shepard, Female-Shepard, orphan-Shepard, military brat-Shepard, ex-slave-Shepard, etc. etc. While on a seemingly routine mission to some human farmer colony (Eden Prime), sh*t hits the fan. And by "sh*t hits the fan," I mean mechanical robot units (Geth) starting bombing the place while attempting to steal this fancy-shmancy (Prothean) artifact. From there, the plot thickens with some political intrigue, double-crossing, alien-human smack-downs, and oh yeah... the entire galaxy at stake. But, this is just the overly-simplistic summary of a truly, one of a kind, in-depth series. Mass Effect runs much, much deeper than anything else. 

While reading through Jules, something struck a deep chord in me. His assessment of "attachment" instantly made my gamer head explode with crippled snarky pilots, brutish alien mercenaries, and generally epic feelings. If there's one game out there in all of gaming history, Mass Effect is the epitome (for me at least) of player involvement and attachment. Not only can you create your own Shepard, thereby putting yourself in his/her lovely military boots, you are allowed to interact with your alien/human bros on a level previous games neglected.


Case in point: Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams. 



Now, if you aren't a freshman to the world of Mass Effect, then you probably know all about the controversy of Ash (I can spend a whole blog over Ash, so I'll leave that for later). You meet her while attempting to defend Eden Prime. She's a rough, tough, mean military woman. Now, here comes the choice: you have the option of patting her shoulder with a grin and taking her with your OR roll your eyes and quite plainly "We don't need no stinking women!" and give her the metaphorical boot. Either way, she still tags along despite your rotten, Renegade attitude (Batman in the distance screaming, "My parents are deaaaaad!") or best Paragon, Mother Theresa impression.

Either way, fans are practically attached to either hating Ash's guts or wanting to get matching marine tattoos. Me in particular, I find that there's some sort of spice and pep to Ash's character that has me constantly wishing she were corporeal and able to fist-bump me in combat (dude, she spews poetry and knows how to beat you up with an assault rifle!). It all comes down to the marvelous character development and writing that Bioware does with the first game that really cements yourself as The Shepard: this isn't some guy/girl saving the galaxy. It's you. You and your decisions alone shape the outcome of the ending as well as for the next two games. What your friend Billy Bob-Joe did at THIS point in the game is completely different from what you did. You feel pretty faaaaaantastic for beating big, bad Sovereign because you've been made to immerse yourself as the game's hero.


Shepard's friends/enemies are your friends/enemies. His/her chosen romantic partners are your romantic partners (by the way, you get more options in the second game--Garrus FTW!). If that's not "attachment" than colour me purple (whatever that means). I don't believe I've ever played a game that had me on the edge of my seat during the story's climax or crying my eyes out whenever I unexpectedly lost a crew member. Dozens of hours of gameplay can do that to a gamer, and Bioware does a phenomenal job at letting you escape your boring reality for a better one.

Because seriously, why clean up aisle 6 when you can shoot rockets at galactic space worms the size of skyscrapers? 

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