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March 13, 2012

Chris:   I had tried playing Mass Effect 2 before.  My friend Matt generously gave me a copy of the game, but advised I go find the first Mass Effect and play it right. 

Matt’s friendship meant I would have to put aside my grudging biases against EA and the Mass Effect hysteria that seemed so common in the media.  

I played Mass Effect 2 but failed to complete it, defeated not by difficulty or disinterest, but beaten by the sheer magnitude of the moral complexity. 

I physically pulled the plug on the computer.   A raw, gut deep aversion to having to face the terrible nightmarish consequences of either choice. 

Pyrrhic defeat. 

Yet, love hath called me back to face it once again.  Take heart dear loved ones, be brave. 

The Quest of the Mass Effect Trilogy.

Chris:  For me, the emotional tectonic shift that occurred in Mass Effect 2 was both extremely pleasurable and utterly devastating.  

 I was there at Pong, Colleco Vison, Commedor 64, Amiga, Atari, Nintendo.     How could I not be jaded?  

But when Mass Effect 2 presented me with a moral dilemma that I could not face, I was amazed.   I could not finish Mass Effect 2 simply because it had so upset my scale and limits of what kinds of power a single person should wield.   

Rather, I was certain I lacked the wisdom to correctly choose in that particular situation.   I wasn’t cut out for it.  Not anymore.   

I needed help. 

I needed Amanda Shepard.  I named her after the Latin “worthy of love”.    I had been praying and meditating on the right name.   For the name sets the motive, the sincerity of my effort, the light I’m searching for at the end of this tunnel.    Love.  

Chris:  To help me talk about this brave new adventure, I’ve asked Amanda to come help me narrate this experience.    Thank you for coming. 

Amanda Shepard: ….

Chris:  Amanda has been created to allow me to explore the Mass Effect Universe without having to get locked up in my personal ethical and moral constraints. 

Amanda Shepard:  I’m a surrogate.   A proxy. 

Chris:  A vessel of purpose. 

Amanda:   (rolls eyes).  

Chris:  I made Amanda to be very different than me.   Ironically, I chose her origin to be Earthborn.   Earthborn description had “hives” in it, which reminds me of Warhammer 40k.  Grim. 

Personally, I’ve been born into an amazingly peaceful, safe, loving, and relatively pain free existence.  Amanda has not.  Hunger, poverty, violence and plunging desperation were all part of her childhood.   The only way out was the military.  

Then I made her a Survivor.   No, not a Champion of War like my other Shepard.  Amanda, worthy of love, was never loved.   Never cherished.   The shine you see on her now is the flensing of flesh and bone.   I put those scars on your face. 

Amanda:  Thanks (sarcasm). 

Chris:  So would you like to start us off?

Amanda:  Sure.  So you think making me a scarred, damaged, victimized, goth lesbian is a progressive point of view?

Chris:  I wanted to make it clear from the outset.   You weren’t an object of desire.   The only way I could guarantee that I would take you seriously the whole way through is if…

Amanda: If what?  If you scarred me on the inside and out, hurt me so badly from the moment of my birth, fucked me over from day one so that deep down we would both know that the name Amanda is just your pandering to irony.   “Worthy of Love”   I think we both know better.

Chris: (silent)

Amanda:  I’m not a lesbian either. 

Chris: (narrows gaze)

Amanda:  Oh fuck you, we have the same haircut.  Maybe you’re the lesbian. 

Chris:  I didn’t play a woman on my original attempt at Mass Effect 2 because I thought staring at a hot ass the whole game would diminish how seriously I would take the subject matter. 

Amanda:  But an ugly, damaged woman.   You’ll take her seriously? 

Chris:  You’re not ugly. 

Amanda:  You cut a line across my face that will never heal! 

Chris:  (Swallows  and stands) You are a survivor, Amanda.   You are not here to be eye candy.   You are here to be strong.

Amanda:  Have you ever thought by making me you’re only making things worse?   Maybe I’m going to be the Shepard that kills all humanity and sends all souls in the universe screaming into the void.  

Chris:  (sits) I have considered that. 

Amanda:  Have you considered what happens when you fall in love with all these characters?  What happens when I fail them? 

Chris:  You could be right, but I’m not doing this for you.   I’m doing this for love.   

Amanda: (shakes her head) 

Chris: (clears throat…twice, loudly sips coffee).  Ok.   So…I think I really started to appreciate this game inside the Council’s Tower at the Spectre ceremony.   The cinematic and orchestral quality to the scene, building and tightly written, began to really pull at me.  All the fetch quests that I’d been running around doing had suddenly gathered enough to stir me.    I felt this flickering, budding pride in you.   

Amanda: …

Chris:  I’m playing the soundtrack (again thank you Matt) in the background, let’s just listen to Spectre Induction again.   

Amanda:  Pride? 

Chris:  Ya, first human to be knighted Spectre.   The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first.     

Amanda:  Don’t preach at me, old man.  

Chris:  Really?  You supported that Hanar in his Enkindlers religion.    You gave him money.

Amanda:   That was just to get experience.   What do I care? 

Chris:  Gasp!  You think Hanar are cute.

Amanda:  That just means you think Hanar are cute. 

Chris:  (Hums to himself introspectively).  That’s why we helped the Hanar on planet Novaria smuggle items into Port Hanshan?  Hanar are cute? 

Amanda:  (Stares back unflinching)

Chris:  So I’m pushing you out of character a little? 

Amanda:  Why?  I can’t like anything cute?  Does my scar interfere with that?

Chris:  So we both think the Hanar are cute.  

Amanda: Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t kill one. 

Chris:  I wasn’t worried about that.  We already dropped a room full of humans in that office of Synthetic Insights. 

Amanda:  You don’t like that, do you? 

Chris:  I’m supposed to like killing humans? 

Amanda:  Well you better get used to it, there’s going to be a mountain of dead people by the time I’m done. 

Chris:  (concerned stare)

Amanda:  Oh please, like you didn’t know what you were getting into. 

Chris:  I knew.  That’s why you’re here. 

Amanda:  (studies Chris for a moment then dismisses)

Chris:  I loved your Captain’s speech on the Normandy.   It was all fire and fuck you. 

Amanda:  thanks. 

I wouldn't say this, but Amanda would.

Chris:  I especially liked dissing the old captain option and then the Pro human, fuck those aliens racism at the end.  I like how Garus and Wrex both looked at each other awkwardly then.

Amanda:  It’s not racism, it’s fact.  Have you been absent the whole time?   Did you not see the way the Council treats humans?

Chris:  It’s ok.  We’re all a little bit racist ( insert Avenue Q song), but it cracks me up that you’re from the future and you’re pro alien religion but xenophobically racist. 

Amanda:  (ignoring me)

Chris:  I want to go back to Novaria and those offices in Synthetic Insights for a minute.    I know we could have prevented those deaths if your intimidate number had just been one box more. 

Amanda:  Whatever, lesson learned.  Put a point in next level, but remember this, boss.   Geth aren’t going to want to talk.  Reapers aren’t going to be impressed by the huff and puff.   We save those we can save.    We kill those who try to stop us.   Doesn’t matter if they’re human or not.  Now who’s the racist?  

Chris: Indiscriminate homicidal behavior is not the counterweight to racism. 

Amanda:   Start thinking about dead planets full of those corpse robots.    That’s what we’re up against.   And you’re worried about crooked cops.    Crooked, thieving, murdering cops?   You ever have the local law gangs decide it was time for a house inspection to see if the pretty girls are home today?  

Chris:  As far as I know, that’s not canon.  So right now, Amanda, you’re just posturing.  There is zero mention of sexual assault or rape in the background. 

Amanda:  What the fuck do you think was going on in those hives?    The official Bioware background doesn’t mention drugs, rape, murder, kidnapping?   That’s going on right now on Earth.  Don’t pretend to be so naïve.  You know what happens when you jam a billion people into towering slums?  

Chris:  I’m not…(Closes mouth and stops.  Starts anew.)  Lastly, I just wanted to say.   Please just be a little bit more disciplined in the fire fights.  As soon as you start to think it’s going violent, you blaze right in.  You’re not thinking tactically. 

Amanda:  You picked my class to be Vanguard.  You’re the impatient barbarian.    

Chris:  Of course, you’re right.   Any last comments you would like to make?

Amanda:  (pauses to consider).  Are you having any fun? 

Chris:  (Swaggers head and grins)  Ya.  I am. 

Amanda:  You’re not doing this just for Matt anymore, are you?

Chris: (shakes head)


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