I know I've been behind on posting up my Letters, so I'm going to catch up all at once and to be ready to post my next letter in the second week of March. I promise.

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March LFTE: Decisions That Matter

There is a lot to love about Mass Effect 2. I’ll let Reiner’s review do most of the talking (see review pg. 80), but I want to throw in my two cents as well.

I remember being in a hot and cramped room – in Amsterdam, of all places – when I first heard of Mass Effect. It was one of those head-spinning moments, and I don’t mean because I had been out enjoying the city the night before. Moments after BioWare revealed the Mass Effect project, the team stressed that it wasn’t just a game – it was designed from the ground up as a trilogy. Frankly, I didn’t really think much of it at the time, as I hear a lot of PR rhetoric in my line of work. I had also just come out of a meeting in the room next door where I had been told that Too Human was also a trilogy (yeah, right). BioWare’s description of its team dedication to the science fiction story and how decisions in the trilogy would matter didn’t fall on deaf ears, I just didn’t realize how much impact these design choices would have on the game until I saw the fruits of their labor come to life in Mass Effect 2.

If you have a previous save of the first game to import into Mass Effect 2, the imprint of those previous decisions are all over the sequel. For me, that means the decisions I made in 2007 are affecting the game I’m playing in 2010. Consider my mind blown.

I don’t just want to play Mass Effect 2 multiple times to see how the various decisions affect this game. I want to replay an old game to see how it changes the sequel. I have a strange feeling I’m going to want to play all three games over and over once Mass Effect 3 comes out a few years from now.

Imagine if you could make decisions in Star Wars that changed The Empire Strikes Back. That’s what BioWare has accomplished with Mass Effect 2, and it’s simply amazing.

February LFTE: For Great Justice

Do we reward the best work, or does the best work reward itself?

Whenever award season rolls into town, I find myself spending an excessive amount of time reevaluating the games I have played and thinking about where the industry sits and if the true artists are getting the accolades, mindshare, and ultimately dollars they deserve. In other words, is there justice in the video game industry?

This isn’t an easy question to answer. For every example of justice, like Infinity Ward’s success for all their hard work, I can think of a great injustice. The first one that comes to mind is Tim Schafer. Despite being one of the industry’s brightest talents, he still can’t find the pot of gold at the end of rainbow.

Then there are the games that find themselves sitting in the middle, like the critically praised Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The game has sold well, but it certainly hasn’t moved as many copies as a title of this caliber deserves. Yes, it is a PlayStation 3 exclusive, but that doesn’t stop Halo from raking in the dollars on the Xbox 360.

So as we hand out our awards this year, please remember that the teams that make these games deserve more than awards, they deserve the reward of people buying and playing their games. I always take a look at what products are defining entertainment in movies, music, and TV and oftentimes, I can’t believe how the lemmings follow and reward some of the worst entertainment drivel of the 21st century. When I read that So You Think You Can Dance continually ranks high in TV ratings, I rest easy knowing that gamers have better taste.

The video game developers continue to deliver on their end of the bargain, but let’s make sure that we, the gamers, deliver on ours and reward (and award) the deserving. Cheers.