Wow. Been a while. Guess I’ve just been busy. Between writing and the holidays and playing Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, my schedule is pretty damn full. But seeing how A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!! is tomorrow, I figured I should take a moment to confirm that I’m still alive and kicking.
Can I say how much I love the Mass Effect games? Seriously, I adore them. Not only are they fun games, but it’s great to enjoy an original universe. There’s just so much to like here. What I love best though is that the game seriously avoids the Planet of Hats phenomenon. One of the most difficult elements of fantasy / sci fi is to not end up portraying all the members of an alien race or culture as one-dimensional. Whether it’s aloof elves, logical vulcans, or gruff dwarves, the tendency in fiction is to give all the human characters nuance and subtle differences while pretty much assuming that every romulan is a scheming jerk and every dwarf loves fighting and booze.
But in the Mass Effect universe, this is averted pretty hard. The alien characters you run into exhibit a wide variety of personalities, and there’s every indication that every alien culture, just like human culture, is full of its own sub-cultures and attitudes. The war-like Krogan are perhaps the most one-dimensional in their portrayal, but even then, they tend to have a wide range of philosophies and personalities. And even the sinister geth, a race of evil robots, aren’t quite so one-dimensionally evil as you might first assume. About the only genuinely “evil” race in the game are the Reapers, but even they are portrayed as just so utterly inhuman and different as to view every other species as merely lower animals.
It’s the kind of writing you just don’t see very often. I just hope that it’s not an anomaly but a future trend.
The other thing about Mass Effect that amazes me is that the game becomes the game you want to play. It is a truly interactive storytelling medium. It’s like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, but with no wrong answers, no bad decisions. You can’t lose because you pick the wrong door or you say the wrong thing at the wrong time. You can only alter the story into something else. That it does this so seamlessly is astounding to me.
My own character, Zala Shepherd, is a female Vanguard with dark skin and a no-nonsense approach. She is deliberately not super attractive because I thought it’d be cool to play a hero you just don’t see in many other games. I ended up with a woman who is of vaguely Indian descent who charges in, guns blazing. Her personality has evolved into a strong-willed, ethical warrior who believes in preserving life of all types and doing the right thing whenever possible. But she’s also no sucker and will do what needs to be done, make the tough choices, when required of her.
She is such a real and vibrant character to me that it seems unbelievable that someone could play Mass Effect and have an entirely different experience. It’s like picking up a book or watching a movie and having it adjust itself to you and your desires. It’s both amazing and bizarre. While talking to a friend of mine about the game, it was like we were playing two different games. The framework remains the same, but the execution is everything.
It’s a shame that Bioware went on to make the Star Wars MMO because, while I have no interest in Star Wars, I would play a Mass Effect MMO in a heartbeat. About the only thing that could top a tauren would be a chance to be a Krogan. Or a Turian. Or a Salarian. Or a Quarian. Well, heck, I’d even play a human if I had to. That’s how much I love Mass Effect.
But enough about that. You’re not here to read my endorsement of a game that everyone already knows about. Let’s talk about A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!!
It’s tomorrow, but you already knew that.
As is tradition, this is the day when you get friends and family together, play a board game or two, watch a monster movie OR a superhero movie, and then push my books on people. You can buy the books. Or you loan them. Or tweet about them. Or blog. Or just mention how awesome they are to strangers on the street. Whatever works best for you. The great thing about A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!! is that there’s no wrong way to celebrate. Just as long as you take a moment to remember how cool I am and how much I’ve given to you.
And all I ask for in return is your unfettered adoration and a paycheck every now and then. Now, isn’t that reasonable of me?
Keelah Se’lai, everybody.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,