When a Game Is More Than a Game

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My regular readers will know that I’m an avid game player. I’ve spent many an hour in front of the PC or Xbox in my time and I’ve lost count of all the games I’ve played. There have been a few games which have made an impression on me, which have been more than just entertainment. Some of those games include DOOM, Half Life, Gears of War and Assassin’s Creed. There is one game, however, which has had a bigger and more profound effect on me than all those games put together. The game, or rather games, I’m referring to is the Mass Effect trilogy.

I picked up the first game purely by coincidence. I had only just got hold of my Xbox after having been absent from the gaming scene for a few years. I made the amateur mistake of going to the shop without having done some research beforehand. I had no idea what to choose! Ignoring the whining from the sales person, my attention was drawn by the box art work of Mass Effect.  I guess it was only natural being the Sci Fi geek that I am! I picked it up and had a look at the blurb on the back. I was discouraged – my preferred genre had always been first person shooters while this was a third person RPG. I almost put it back on the shelf. But then I thought to myself “what the heck, it’s on discount, let’s give it a go!” All the time the sales person was dribbling over some shooter and trying to convince me to buy it. It made the purchase all that sweeter seeing their dismay that I was buying a discounted game! I may have even heard a little whimper too………

Mass Effect Box Art

I got home, fired up the Xbox and started the game. The disappointment remained – “I don’t like third person. All this fiddling with options, RPGs aren’t for me!”. Being that I had spent my hard earned cash on the game I was determined to finish it. So I persevered. Then, something strange happened. After the first few hours of game play I started getting used to the controls, started getting into the story arc. I was enjoying it! I was enjoying a RPG! I really got into the game, played all the side missions and finished the main game too – Saren was dead, Sovereign destroyed! It was a no-brainer that I would have to play both sequels too!

Normandy

The thing is, this game had an effect on me, an emotional effect. It was surprising actually as I had never really experienced this before from a game. You see, the characters within the game had become more than just non-player characters, they had become friends! How is this possible you may ask? These aren’t real people! That’s true, but Bioware, the creators of Mass Effect, had incorporated a very important element into the game. While it was technically competent and on a par with other games, it had a trick up its sleeve. It focused very closely on character development. You were engaged in the characters lives, their needs and their tragedies. This was especially true in Mass Effect 2, were Shepard, your character in the game, was tasked with gathering his team and gaining their respect and loyalty. To do this he had to help them with personal issues. These were missions orientated around the characters and their personal lives. Through these missions, the characters’ personalities developed and you got to know them like you would a real person. Each character had his own quirks and intricacies that you came to know and love.  I do believe that some of these characters were more human, had more substance, than some real people I’ve had the “pleasure” of meeting.  There was also the socialising on the Normandy, the banter of the crew, the chit chat during those long waits in the lifts on the Citadel. All these things added up, helped you to get to know the characters. Friends were made. We all had our favourites!

Garrus

There was Garrus the strong warrior of few words, Tali the tech geek and Mordin the eccentric genius. I lost Tali towards the end of Mass Effect 2 during a shoot out with the Collectors. This hit me hard and effected me so much that I seriously considered restarting the game to try and save her. I should emphasise that this happened almost at the very end of the game! But this was my Shepard’s story and doing that would be cheating myself and the friends I had made on the Normandy. So I continued on and played through the entire trilogy to its inevitable conclusion. The battle with the Reapers was over, and while it was great to bring peace to the galaxy this was a side note. For me Mass Effect was about the characters, the friends I had made, and in reality it saddened me as I had to say goodbye to them all.

Reaper

I wasn’t the only person to be effected by the game in this way. Just look at the reaction to the ending of Mass Effect 3 – it bordered on the hysterical! So big was the outcry that Bioware extended and enhanced the ending sequences of the game in an attempt to placate their ravenous lust for a “better” ending. In the end though, these games were brilliant and they hooked you like no other game could. I still miss Shepard and the crew of the Normandy. I still think of the adventures and near misses we had. I long for another chance to spend time with them. Playing over isn’t an option, the story would change; it wouldn’t be my Shepard any more.

Bioware say Mass Effect 4 is on the way. We don’t know anything about it yet other than Shepard wont be featuring in the game. I hope they don’t make a prequel, they never work – you already know how it will all end.

I could go on and on about this game, the characters, the story and my love for the whole Mass Effect universe. I shall resist that temptation though and instead I shall leave you with a very important question, one which all true Mass Effect fans ask:

What ending did you choose?

Me?

I chose Synthesis!

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