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Forgive me GIO, for I have not blogged. It has been two months since my opinions last graced this website. That's right, two months since my blog about why I love Lego video games. For the last couple of months, I have been focusing on physical fitness, my family, and work. A lot has happened in that time and I have a lot of opinions about them, but most of those are not things I would talk about much here.
Regardless, the last couple of months have been spent making some difficult decisions, once of which has much to do with video games. No, not about violence in video games and how it does or does note sate my apparent lust for blood and gore (thank you Senator Yee for pointing this out to me). I have been pondering how much of my life is spent in devotion to the hobby of gaming. While this debate would make for an interesting topic of discussion, it isn't why I am writing. Instead, I am writing about Mass Effect.
So, what does Mass Effect have to do with my absence and the consideration of the influence of gaming in my life? Simply put, it was what brought me back from the proverbial edge. You see, over my two month absence, I truly considered setting aside the gaming hobby forever, selling my Xbox and every game I own. While I did end up selling many of my games and gaming paraphernalia, I found I could not bring myself to sell any of my Mass Effect items. And because I could not bring myself to sell them, I eventually put Mass Effect 3 back into my console and reminded myself that I love gaming and I also love the Mass Effect series.
So what is it about this series that started in the early days of the Xbox that has brought me back from the brink?
The Immersive UniverseI am a Star Wars fanatic. While there are parts of being a Star Wars fan I don't enjoy (conflicting cannon), I love the extensive and very detailed universe Lucas and his contracted compatriots have created over the years. Like Star Wars, Mass Effect is not just a game and it is more than just an interactive story, it is a whole new universe. If you pay attention to the entries in the codex, the history of nearly every part of the Mass effect Universe is explained in great detail. It is these details that make the universe so believable and incredibly interesting.
The Addictive MultiplayerI know there are some amongst the GIO community who will disagree with me on this point and consider the multiplayer/coop aspect of Mass Effect 3 to be uninteresting or plain not fun at all. I disagree.
When I was a kid, I was hooked on a card game called Magic: The Gathering. I know the game still exists today and there is even a downloadable game for it available in the online stores, but I have fond memories of playing the game at the local comic shop during the entirety of my summer vacations. I would spend every waking minute of my weekends trying to gather enough money to buy a booster pack or two that week, hoping I would get my hands on that one card I really needed to complete my deck. I couldn't get enough.
Mass Effect 3 brought this same level of addiction to its weapons and equipment. You earn credits by completing waves and challenges in game, working over a couple of missions to earn enough and buy an equipment pack. These days I am keeping my fingers crossed for the Black Widow sniper rifle instead of a Shivan Dragon from my Magic days, but the concept is the same and is just as addicting.
While many complain about the lack of variation amongst the game types, the variation of difficulty levels and the challenging hazard maps, in my mind, more than makes up for the lack of differing game types.
The Epic StoryShortly after the release of Mass Effect 3, there was a big to-do and a deluge of complaints about how Mass Effect 3 closed out the Shepard trilogy (if it truly did close out the trilogy...). Fans everywhere took to the internet crying about how they deserved a better ending, even sending cupcakes to Bioware over it. First, while this outcry shows how involving the Mass Effect universe really is, I must point out my utter distaste for this line of thinking. If you want a story with the ending the way you want it, open up your word processing program and go to town. Personally, I loved the conclusion to the story.
The Shepard trilogy of Mass Effect is quite similar to other trilogies out there, and is set up with a three act dramatic structure. The first act presents the principal problem (Mass Effect 1 sets up the primary character of Shepard and introduces us to the Reapers via Sovereign as well as the initial concept of indoctrination). The second act deepens the plot, generally placing the main character and/or their values in worse jeopardy (in Mass Effect 2 we learn of the imminent invasion of the Reapers and their desire to make a human/reaper cross breed. The third act ties everything together and solves the problem, for good or ill (Mass effect 3 closes the Reaper invasion, depending on Shepard's final choice, and ties up a number of other loose end including the Turian/Krogran issue, the Geth, and the genophage).
At the end of each game, I felt satisfied in the story I experienced. Mass Effect 1 set up the universe and Mass Effect 2 set up the people and personal connections to the varying races of the universe. Finally, Mass Effect 3 closed all of that out and left me satisfied with the story, the experience, and the ultimate outcome.
In the end, I consider the third Mass Effect title to be an ending, from the point where Shepard escapes Earth all the way to the final decision, the whole title should be viewed as the ending and not just the last few minutes.
While this covers only small bits and pieces about how I feel about this series (and yes, one of them is that I find Yvonne Strahovski to be insanely attractive), there are many other reasons for why I love this series. You may not agree with me on how I feel about Mass Effect, you may hate it and may have added your name to the petition to change the ending under a dozen different names. But Mass effect has reminded me why I love gaming and so long as I cannot bring myself to sell those games I know part of me still belongs to this hobby.