Apr 30, 2012

Emotional Investment in Games aka Why We Were so Disappointed in Mass Effect 2, part three or so

Illustrations are gratuitous Asari pinups, as that is a search term that has been used to find this blag. We like giving the Internet what it asks for.

Naked Asari

The text is a pretty incoherent response to playing Mass Effect 2 which I composed when it first came out but never put down anywhere.

I'm a girl. I'm a girl gamer. I enjoy shooting things in the head with my space rifle. I enjoy saving the world with a kick-ass hero. I enjoy having an option for that hero to be a woman who gets to do all things that the male hero does. In short, I really like Commander Shepard.

I also like having love stories and personal relationships in games. Maybe that's girly, I don't care. I want the kick-ass, and I want the fluff. I want true role playing. I want my choices to count.

I really (mostly) liked how they did relationships in Mass Effect 1. You weren't forced into a relationship, you could choose whether to flirt (or respond to flirting). You only had three options, sure, and limited queer or alien options, but you get an almost-lesbian relationship with an alien, and that's a big first.

My choice, still, was Kaidan, a human man. I love Kaidan. Yes, I know, but I do. I liked him as a love interest. I found it sad that he was limited to being the possible love interest for the female Shepard only, but I could deal with that. (That's what fan fiction is for, after all;)

The relationship story arc was fulfilling, you had the choice of flirting with him or not, you weren't pushed into a relationship, and you got to have a sex scene! That was something new.

Uncensored version

And then we get Mass Effect 2. The gang's all there, in the beginning you get to continue from where you left off, in the game as in the relationship and... yeah, here come the spoilers, but as the third game is out already, I figure you can deal with them.

Then you die, and wake up in what appears to be an alternate universe, but everyone else seems to be in denial about this. My co-bloggers have addressed this issue already, so I'll concentrate on why the game was so unfulfilling emotionally, in the context of the first game. (Not saying anything about the cardboard cutouts that you are offered as love interests in this game, nor about the fan service of Garrus and Tali.) (After all, nothing you said to either one during the first game affects how they behave in the second one at all. Garrus is a crazy vigilante in any case, and Tali is as crazy and genocidal as ever.)

Mostly Naked Asari

You had (if you had) this deep connection with another person in the previous game, and as much as all of the relationship options spelled out that this might have been just a one-off, I would expect to get *some* reaction from the love interest in the next game.

Kaidan sends you an e-mail. When you meet him, he's the only one who finds it wrong that you're working with your old enemy, the Cerberus, and I was yelling, 'Thank you! I thought I was alone in this! Let me come back to the Alliance with you!' Do I get to do that? No. I get to invite him to join the terrorist organisation with me. "It'll be just like old times." What? I wonder he didn't deck me.

And then he sends you an e-mail saying 'maybe'. Maybe you could continue your relationship at some future date. I survived for weeks on that e-mail.

I never went through a relationship with Ash because I found her attitude problem and xenophobia quite unappealing. But I gather she has a similar reaction. (Why? She would fit right in with these human supremacists.)

Another Naked Asari

What does Liara do? She's had a personality transplant, has given up her career as an archaeologist, and is organising assassinations. ...wait, what? She says, "Hi Shepard, heard you were alive after all, wanna help me choose which of my associates to murder?" The emotional connection, I can feel it.

Mass Effect has never been big on having your companions react to what's going on, but when my Shepard, having just seen her lover in for what for her was a few months, and for him two years and having been rejected by him, goes to talk to Garrus, who was around in the "old times"... what I wanted was a bloody hug, what I got was "Too busy to talk right now, come back later and I'll make a pass at you." Well, technically.

Full frontal nudity Asari

One thing they got right. If you choose to *not* romance any of the very straight love interest options you have, your last night before facing the Big End Fight is spent staring at Kaidan's (or who ever was your first game love interest) photo. Thank you. I felt that. I *felt* that. You managed to give me two moments of real emotional contact with the game. An e-mail and a photo.

Okay, Tali becoming officially part of your crew was touching but was ruined a bit (or a lot) by the fact that you could only achieve that by lying for her, losing important allies for nothing, and going along with her attitudes towards the geth. Doing it was out of character for my Shepard but for once I chose the game mechanic over the role playing (which, admittedly, is usually mostly in my head because the games don't support it) - I wanted her loyalty.

Another Naked Asari

After finishing Mass Effect 2 I told people that the only thing that would make me want to buy Mass Effect 3 was if it gave me an option of getting back with Kaidan, and/or allowing the queer options.


Wait, they did what?

Oh damn.

Well, at least I'm buying it used.

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