N7 and the Impact of Mass Effect

Happy (belated) N7 Day everyone!

In case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit of a BioWare fan. Especially Mass Effect. It was the first game series I ever played on my PS3. Can you blame me?

The love started long before that, though. My sophomore year roommate introduced me to the series. In fact, our bonding time included me knitting dishcloths (for Christmas presents) while watching her play Mass Effect. We made it almost all the way through all three games.

It wasn’t until I first played the games for myself that I was hooked. And man did I get hooked.

The music. The storytelling. The characters. The world. It drew me in. Enthralled me.

It was then that I decided that I wanted to write for BioWare. Playing through Dragon Age sealed the deal (more on that later).

I think one of the things I loved the most about it was the power of choice. I got to control the character. I got to control their personality, their morals, how they interacted with the world around them. I was Commander Shepard, and the crew of the Normandy was my family.

I wasn’t just going through the motions of playing a game, I was deeply invested. Even though I had already seen most of it, playing through it myself added more depth and meaning to the experience.

It was my first time ever being able to design my character and choose their backstory. The death of Jenkins hit me hard, as did Nihlus. I wanted to save them, but I couldn’t.

I felt a sense of validation when Garrus offered to help me take down Saren. Then Wrex offered to join after I took down Fist.

I was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get to Tali in time, and so relieved when I realized she was going to be okay.

I will never forget the sense of pride and accomplishment when I was made the first human Spectre.

The rest of the journey was a whirlwind of discovery and bonding with my crewmembers (especially Kaidan). Helping Garrus and Wrex right a few wrongs from their past further secured my feelings of friendship towards them. My heart stopped beating for a few seconds during the standoff on Virmire before I was able to get Wrex to stand down.

I will forever regret not being able to save both crewmembers on Virmire.

The second game was even better, with a wider diversity of characters and worlds to explore. Working for the Illusive Man felt a little weird, but the rest of the crew became family. There was a thrill that went through me when they revealed the Normandy SR2 (still does every time). It was tough, though, having to deal with the loss of two years. So much had changed.

The crew I gathered for the suicide mission soon became a second family, populated partly by old friends from the first game. The world became so much bigger.  

When we went through the Omega 4 relay, I could not take my eyes off of the screen. I hoped and prayed that I had not missed any of the upgrades needed to protect my crew, and I breathed a sigh of relief when everyone came out unharmed.

That entire mission was intense and satisfying. Though nothing was as satisfying as telling off the Illusive Man.

The third game was filled with heartbreak. I hated leaving Earth and cannot listen to that song without getting emotional. The whole process of building up the army and uniting the entire universe was tough, but oh so rewarding.

Having to play through Tuchanka and then going immediately to save the Citadel nearly left me in tears. How am I supposed to process the death of Thane when I am still getting over Mordin, who literally just died?

Then there is Thessia. I had no idea what was coming. I never made it this far watching my roommate. The pain in Shepard’s voice….

Don’t get me started on the Citadel DLC.

Long story short, this series was rich with ups and downs and events that I will never forget. That is thanks to the story and how it was told.

The story didn’t control me. I controlled the story. At least to an extent.

This was really powerful. It forced me to think hard about the situation, about what I would do. The game forced me to live with the consequences of my actions.

I honestly think this game made me a better person. It has made me more open-minded, more accepting of those who are different than me. It has also helped me form fast friendships with some really cool people.

The story of the game itself is kind of fascinating as well. BioWare had already published a few successful games, Jade Empire and Neverwinter Nights. They were basking in the spotlight after the success of Star Wars: The Old Republic (a great game). So they decided to take the leap and make something new. An IP that was 100% their own.

That is how Mass Effect was born. Since then a massive fan community has grown around it. It has helped people through depression, through loss, through very stressful times in college *cough cough*.

I also know for a fact that I am not the only woman inspired to become a game dev by these games. I was talking with a former TellTale game dev who is currently working on a new game with Mike Laidlaw, The Waylanders RPG, and she mentioned that she too was inspired by these games. Most of her friends were too.

This leap of faith has had an impact beyond anything the devs at BioWare could ever have expected. Today, people all over the world are celebrating this franchise and what it means to them. People whose lives have been changed for the better. People who have gathered into communities, who have come together to make a difference.

Mass Effect first released in 2007. Now it has a total of 4 games and a huge, devoted fan community.

It’s been one hell of a ride.

The best.

Why the end does(n’t) matter

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?