A Different Kind of Storytelling

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There is something beautiful about the kind of storytelling that is found in video games. You can get lost in a book or a movie, but it isn’t the same level of immersion that you can find in video games. Games allow you to live the action instead of just witnessing it.

I think that is why most people play video games. There may be different reasons behind it, but at a basic level, video games provide some level of escapism. I know that I personally use games as a way to dive into another world for a period of time.

Ever since I started gaming a few years ago, there is one thing, in particular, I have fallen in love with when it comes to gaming.

I am talking about the power to make decisions.

The first two series I played through were Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I was floored by the impact my decisions had on how the story unfolded. I think that might be part of why I got so hooked on the games. There is something thrilling about being the only hope for the world in the face of some great darkness. Add on to that the fact your decisions can actually affect the outcome…it is easy to get sucked in.

These games force you to think about where you stand on tough issues. They put you in uncomfortable situations where you have to make a choice whether you want to or not. Many people say that the games punish you for making the “wrong” decision, but that isn’t necessarily true. They just force you to live with the consequences of those decisions.

Sometimes they even go so far as to back you into a corner where there is no “right” decision, but you still have to choose. Who do you save? Who do you leave behind? How do you decide between two bad options?

 

While these decisions can be incredibly difficult, even painful for players, they are important. They remind us that sometimes, there is no right choice. Sometimes, you can’t win. You still have to choose.

And it isn’t easy.

Video games have the unique ability to let you live through situations you will never have to face in real life. They make you tackle complex issues on a broader scale than most people would ever have to consider.

They make you take a long, hard look at your beliefs. They make you reevaluate your moral compass. The way you look at the world. They also put you in some really tough situations where one wrong decision could have disastrous consequences.

The interactivity of games, especially the decision-based, narrative-driven games, makes it feel real. That is why it is so easy to get sucked into the games. You become emotionally invested in the characters and in the world itself, which makes the lessons you learn feel so much more real. It also makes the consequences of your decisions that much more painful.

Games offer one thing, though, that real life doesn’t.

The ability to try again. To start over with a slate that is truly clean. You can play the hero, the villain, even a god in some cases. You can wreck as much destruction as you want or work to the best possible outcome. Then you can start everything over again, doing it differently. It is something you will not find anywhere else.

I will be talking more about this later, but until then…

Why do you game?

Why the end does(n’t) matter

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In the 300th issue of Game Informer, they listed the top 300 games of all times.  Mass Effect 3 was ranked #99 (above Breath of the Wild!).

Yet I would be willing to bet money that there are still people who hate the ending.

The most popular argument is that the options you are given in the end don’t match up with the common themes of the game. There are also MULTIPLE jokes about color coded endings.

Image result for me3 3 endings

You have the paragon and renegade control endings.

The Reapers prefer the synthesis ending (it personally creeps me out).

And then you have the destroy ending, the one ending I can’t bring myself to chose.

People have come up with all kinds of theories to explain the oddity that is the ending, the most popular of which being the Indoctrination Theory (I highly recommend Game Theory’s version)

I even have my own indoctrination theory about how the Reapers have been unintentionally indoctrinating all organic life towards their way of thinking throughout the entirety of their existence. More of that later.

Back the point of this post. My defense of the ending of Mass Effect 3.

No matter what your opinion of the ending is, there is one thing you probably haven’t considered.

Let me ask you a question.

How many times have you replayed the series?

I am currently on my third play through. The ending punches me right in the gut each time I play. It doesn’t matter that I pick the same ending, it still tugs on every single one of my heartstrings.

If there had only been one ending, it would not have had as much of an impact. If the ending had been everyone living happily ever after, I may not have been as compelled to live through the story again and again.

This is a game where all of your decisions matter. Where you represent the hope for the future. So, what happens if, in the end, you refuse to decide?  Then it is game over for everyone. The only way to ‘lose’, is to chose not to chose. 

I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as profound.

You can dislike the ending. You can wish there was something more, some way Shepard could survive.

But you will still keep on playing the story over and over again. You will relive the story of Shepard, maybe making the same choices, maybe not.

You will never forget the power of having your choices matter.

You will never forget the power of knowing that Shepard’s story will live on.

What legacy did your Shepard leave behind?