Date: 2014-02-12 02:28 am (UTC)
beccatoria: (commander space jesus)
From: [personal profile] beccatoria
Aww, man, people were talking Mass Effect on my flist and I DIDN'T SEE IT til three days later! So I'm late, but I'm gonna make up for it (or possibly terrify people) but talking about all the things now.

So firstly, yay, this is such a great idea because more people should know about and play this game. This is a great overview and I want to check out some of the external article links.

One of the most interesting things to me about the way the constraints of the medium essentially mean that Shepards of both genders behave almost identically is how safe it made me feel regarding her story. Like, I basically knew that all the crap that happens to female leads in TV shows, even when they're the main characters, like the getting backseated in the narrative, or getting really gross gender tropes pushed on them, I knew that wasn't going to happen to her. I knew that she was going to get to be the protagonist. And it's a really sad commentary in a lot of ways that it takes this sort of setup to achieve that. But also I ended up surprised by how much it mattered to me. Not just that I was getting to play as a woman whose authority and competence were not questioned, but that I had a genuine reason to believe that it would stay that way. I got to stop...expecting it to screw up (in that particular regard). It made me realise how much of my time watching other things I spend doing exactly that.

Another thing I think it's really interesting to talk about is the background diversity you mentioned. The ways the franchise both succeeds (yay random women are mercenaries!) and also fails (Quarians are the only race where we reliably see two genders because they HAD to make Tali!)

Your point about ME2 introducing people of colour as squadmates is a really good one. I also think that Kaidan and Ashley in ME1 look like they're designed to hint at a somewhat mixed heritage and they ended up kinda whitewashed in ME3; that said I don't think that slightly-exotic-white-people counts as representation of poc. I don't think you can argue that they're not white, but I do think it's worth noting the disappearance (with said white-washing) of an interesting metaphorical comment about the future of being white, and the possible erosion of its oppressive position of power? Ugh, I hope that makes sense.

In terms of things that ME1 does better than ME2, though, when I was replaying it recently it REALLY hit home to me how many of the NPCs were characters of colour. Anderson, Udina, Admiral Kahoku, Emily Wong, Kalisah Al Jilani, Gianna Parasini, the hispanic security chief in the Thorian colony whose name escapes me, the Korean ExoGeni exec on the same mission, just off the top of my head and trying to stick to people in positions of authority or influence. ME2 has fewer human NPCs in general, but the major ones they introduce (Bailey, Hackett too since he's just a voice in ME1, the Illusive Man, basically every human on Omega and Horizon, every new non-squadmate on the Normandy) are white. It's so odd when you consider they obviously thought about the issue of representation on the squad itself.

Like you say, they're flawed games, but...in totality such an amazing experience.

The last thing I want to do is like, go to bat a bit for the ending. I'm aware that it's a contentious issue, so you know, I'm not trying to cause drama. The long version of why I loved it can be found in the meta tag [personal profile] goodbyebird so graciously linked to already, but for those who don't want to scroll through a ton of random meme answering, it's here.

But the super short version is that I was amazed and overjoyed that they actually made their atheistic, transhumanistic, technobiological conflict the centrepiece of the finale, and capped it off with a lesson in practical existentialism which I think could only have been achieved in a video game, because it relied on the immersive experience of living for 90 hours in those games with those external moral structures and systems of consequence and reward and then taking them away, and if nothing else, that's pretty fascinating?

So like I said, I don't expect agreement on this. I know a ton of people really hated it and I'm honestly not trying to kick a hornet's nest with this. I just genuinely think it's interesting and it'll make me sad if I don't at least mention how cool I thought it was in passing. ;)

Thanks again for such an interesting post!
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