Sunday, November 30, 2014

30 Day Mass Effect Challenge, Day 30: Overall Opinion on the Mass Effect Trilogy

Via Joystiq
Woooooohooooooooo, second challenge completed ON TIME. It wasn't easy, but dammit, I did it. And I learned a few things throughout the experience. I almost don't want to stop the challenge, but well, next month is December, in which I'll be moving and celebrating my 31st birthday and Christmas. Can 2014 be over yet?

Anyway, when I first started this challenge earlier this month, I thought it was because Mass Effect had such a large impact on me creatively, but as I got further into November, I realized just how much this was true. The world building was so intricately drawn that I can't imagine ever being that detail-oriented. I mean, they even have backstories on planets that have nothing to do with the main narrative; it feels real. But even more than that, it feels like the creators care. It's not like other game developers don't have that type of connection with their work, but Bioware has a long-standing history of putting out games that seem very personal, Mass Effect being their most recent. They also used the game to examine deeper subjects, like the nature of humanity - all of the alien species are avatars of the human condition: the asari are our long-view, cooperative sides, the turians are our heavily masculinized, Martian-style (and I mean the Roman god here, not an alien named Marvin) attributes, the salarians are our secretive, intellectual aspects, and the krogan are our animalistic, brutal facets - and the readiness of humans to explore and join a grander universe. They also discussed war crimes and their consequences with the genophage and the exile of the quarians from their homeworld, something that I don't recollect being in other video games prior. But really, I think the focus is on personal choice; everything else is just a backdrop to immerse you in the character of Shepard. We make decisions, either as benevolent or destructive entities - or sometimes, something in between - and the whole universe is changed, for good or for ill.

This makes me examine my own series - both The Legion and the in-development Paradiso - in a new light, which was kind of the point with this challenge and all the ones that will follow. Novellas and short stories aren't the interactive masterpieces that video games are, but it's just as important to focus on the sort of things that will draw readers in, make them take ownership of the mind-movies they are creating as they read your book. Have I paid that much attention to the world surrounding my characters? Do I show meaningful interaction between characters, both main and otherwise, so that they build at each encounter? It's daunting with just these two questions, since The Legion is a serial, and that's not even counting thematic exploration.

Yes, Mass Effect was not perfect - nothing is, really - but, as a whole, it was probably one of the most amazing video game experiences I've ever had. It's one of the only games that I continuously replay, no matter how many times I've reached the same ending. I love the Lego series of games (Harry Potter is my current favorite, although Pirates of the Caribbean is a close second), but once I've gotten all of the achievements, I sell them because they essentially are just taking up valuable space (the only one I have now is Lord of the Rings, but that's probably going to change once I move). The same goes with the Halo games (except for Reach and ODST). There's just not enough there to warrant multiple playthroughs. Obviously, I can only speak for myself, since I'm positive that there are plenty of people out there who felt it pandered too much to fans (Citadel DLC) or that it couldn't figure out if it was a first-person shooter or a role-player or whatever detraction you could mention. But for me, Mass Effect is one of those games that will stick with me my entire life.

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