My Retirement From Gaming, Thanks to Mass Effect

About this time last year I was speaking with a friend of mine on how I would retire from playing video games. We where discussing what games that year we were looking forward to. As I looked at the list of games I thought it would be a good year. But in reality all I wanted was Mass Effect 3. I was explaining to him that if I could only have one game that year, Mass Effect 3 would be it and that after I will put down the controller and move on with my life. While that statement is not fully accurate my intention still holds true. My passion for gaming has slowly descended from something I loved doing, to just something I do. I can no longer play games the way I used to and it is all because of the Mass Effect trilogy.

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Similar to most people, I started gaming at an early age. Thanks to my older brother and cousins, I was able to enjoy games at the tender age of three. While I may not have known what the hell I was doing, I did make things move on screen (even if my controller was not plugged in at the time). My first actual console of my own was the Sega Genesis. During the 90’s I will have played a plethora of great games. I will also have owned almost every major system from that point on. Gaming became everything to me. The older I got the more games I explored. It was not until Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid that story really mattered to me in games. These two games changed my perspective on how to experience story in a game. No mater what I played I wanted a game with an amazing story. Needless to say Bioware became one of my favorite developers the day I finish Knights of The Old Republic. Any game they released from that day on I would find a way to play. So when I first heard of Mass Effect I was more than ecstatic. On Nov 20, 2007, my hunger for gaming will only be feed by one series.

Like other RPG’s Mass Effect is about choice. What set’s it apart is the basic fact your choices follow you through out the trilogy. A year after the first game was released Bioware said it would allow you to carry over your save data. Everything from looks, the abilities, who lives, dies, who I fight with, who I sleep with, the lonely NPC I saved in a side mission, it all matters, and would all have an effect on the world these characters lived in. What made it even better was that I was in control of most of it. Bioware did something that others did not; it gave me as a player a bigger voice on the events that happen. By stripping away the old sentence structured dialogue system, I was able to give Shepard a better voice. Not only that, but Shepard was actually voiced by and actual person (actor). No more silent protagonist. It was like being the director of a movie. More importantly it helped me put more of who I am into the game. Suddenly the story of Shepard saving the galaxy became more important than ever. It became the story of how I saved the galaxy.

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One of the things that stood out to me most, were the characters and the conversations between you and your crewmembers. While each game had their own faults the one thing they did not lack where well-developed and likable characters’. Every race, every person you spoke to had his or her own voice, which is something most games have always lacked. It was believable, it was comfortable, and it was real. The Normandy crew became my friends. Through out thick and thin they would be there for me and I for them. As I injected more of who I am as a person into Shepard’s activities, I soon began to look at the characters in the game as my real life friends. Two of my real life best friends are male and female, who I relate to as Garrus and Liara to. Ash would be my real life girlfriend, while Tali is like my faux little sister. No other game has been able to do this.

By now I’m sounding crazy and obsessed. Well I’m not crazy, maybe obsessed, but not crazy. As I said before the series has allowed me to help direct the story. It gave me a voice in how events will play out. So for the past five years it was all that really mattered to me. I carried my friends to Ilos with me, dragged them through the Omega 4 relay, and followed me on that last push in London. They stood by me at my most desperate time. We watched each other bleed and cry, we lost some friends along the way, and made some new ones. The road traveled was a long one and in this short five years these people will have become my family. This was the end, we planned and prepped for this day and it was upon us. As Shepard stood on the crucible with the Catalyst, debating what to do so did I. Every thing up until this point was for the love of my family. No other story has or will have the impact that Mass Effect did. So as I limped my way over to end the Reaper threat, the flashbacks of my family will be one of memory. Shepard loved them because I loved them. The choices I made where mine alone. I may have made mistakes but I owned those mistakes. If any game from this point on, or any movie, book, TV show, or play can do that then by all accounts great. As far as gaming goes Mass Effect will forever have a hold on me no game will ever match. Which is why retirement seems like a good idea. Mass Effect 3 was the culmination of a five yearlong journey. One of which I, we, all had a hand in telling. I’ll probably never get this experience back ever again. I’m glad I was along for the ride.

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Say what you want about the ending, the ride we all took to get to this point was none other than stellar. I will continue play games still, but to be honest I don’t care about anything else that is coming. Commander Louis Shepard gave up everything, it is kind of befitting that I give up what I considered everything as well.