The “Meet Cute”
I was introduced to Mass Effect by B3 earlier this summer. He and B2 had known and loved Mass Effect for years now, but I was always too busy to make it a priority. You know the story: my job, my friends, my graduate work…they all took precedent over my personal relationship with gaming. All that changed when B3 marched into my apartment with his old XBox 360 in tow. He hooked it up to my television and set the stack of Mass Effect games next to it. “Play it,” he said. “Trust me. You’ll love it.”
I was definitely skeptical. In my youth, horror games had been my favorite, not sci-fi epics. But hey, I’m just now easing my way back into gaming after a long absence…it couldn’t hurt to listen to some advice, right? Right. So I settled in to give it the old college try. It took me an admittedly VERY long time to get my character set up (I had the most trouble with getting her mouth right. Anyone else have that issue?). In the end, I made her kind of sort of look like me…if I were an intergalactic badass with “HERO” written on her forehead. Which I am not.
The First Date
I’d like to say it was love at first sight, but it wasn’t. It was…awkward? I guess? It took me a little while to get into the controls and I definitely got myself into some sticky conversations accidentally by being way too nice too fast. I think I could definitely extend that lesson to my actual real life. Fact.
But once I got past the growing pains of remembering the mechanics and getting my physical appearance right, I had a grand time. I made some great friends, took down some haters, and walked away feeling like I was a success. I had a nagging feeling that I was forgetting something all through the first game, but I tried not to let it bother me too much. On to the second!
The Second Date
Mass Effect 2 was, impressively, even better than the first. My character looked more like me with the graphics makeover, and I was feeling pretty professional with the controls. Easy peasy. Only not, because I remembered what I’d been forgetting all throughout the first game: EVERYTHING carries over. EVERYTHING. There’s no clean slate or reset button. No. Everything I’d said and done in the first round was now impacting the second one. B3 had warned me, and I’d neglected to remember. Oh, boy.
Now, thankfully, I’d been making most of my decisions based on what I think I’d actually do…as an intergalactic badass…with a few exceptions. And oh man did those exceptions make me nervous for the first 10 hours of game two. Hoo, boy. I had to try to undo a couple of things and uh, change some relationships, but in the end, everything turned out okay. I even began to think that maybe B3 was being just a LITTLE dramatic in his cautionary tales of Mass Effect missteps. Enter Mass Effect 3.
Happily Ever After (*sob*)
Whew. Well, what can I say? I lived the third game (yes, you read that right) over a week ago, and it’s still with me. I know it might sound silly, especially to any of you who haven’t yet played these games, but I feel like I learned a lot about myself in this game. I AGONIZED over some of the decisions, sitting on my couch with my head hanging down, working out all the different sides to certain choices before making my selection. Never have I felt so tested by a game. Ever. It was genuinely stressful for me to be in charge with the entire universe hanging in the balance. My choices mattered and it was awful! But I pushed through my fear and uncertainty and made decisions based on what I thought was the right thing to do, even though that often meant I earned lots of renegade points as a result. What can I say? I don’t always do well with boxes and…staying inside them.
I don’t want to give too much away for fear that some of you dear readers might be late-comers to this franchise, too, but my ending was a happy one. Tinged with sorrow, certainly, and not without heartbreak, but beautiful, too. Beautiful and just how it should be. And I felt so proud of myself! Through countless tough decisions and often-times sacrificial leadership, I saved my friends and the world.
B3 warned that when I finished these games it might be a little while before I feel like picking up another one, and he’s right. Like with a great book or television series, the world of Mass Effect has stayed with me. I find myself dipping into it mentally from time to time. As a writer, I’m inspired by the world-building and character development across the three games. It’s something to behold.
Oh, and I also learned that I don’t ever want to be in charge when the whole universe goes hand-basket. No, thank you.