playVIEWS — Are you the Hero?

Are you the hero - playwisegaming.comThe clock reads 11:59 p.m., and I’m the only one left awake in the house. As I glance down from my TV at my controller, I notice that my palms are sweaty. Moving my eyes back to the screen, the choice is still there, staring me in the face.

Will I save this evil reaper technology that’s been plaguing the galaxy for millenia, or will I let it all be destroyed?

As time passes, it doesn’t make my choice any easier. I finally make up my mind selecting an option while hoping for the best. Was it the right choice, or did I just doom all of humanity and the rest of the galaxy for years to come?

In “Mass Effect 2,” you play as Commander Shepard, and choice is a main part of the game — the reapers are just one of the many evils you face. This scenario, and many others from “Mass Effect 2,” left me questioning my choices as a player in the game. Was I, the player, making decisions based on what I would do, or was I making those choices based on what I thought was best for the main character.

If we take “Mass Effect 2” being a game out of the equation, I think I would have saved the reaper technology, because humanity could learn from it. However, in the game, I didn’t choose this option, and that’s what I want to explore.

When it comes to story, games can be divided into two categories: games where you are the main character, and games that let you play a predetermined character created by the developer. When playing a game where there is already a predetermined character, it seems to cloud the player’s judgment when it comes to choice. I chose not to save the reaper technology, because I thought Shepard wouldn’t.

If “Mass Effect” had been a first-person game that didn’t have a voice actor or custscenes, I wonder if people would make different choices? Would they feel more connected to the game world and not worry about a main character when deciding what to do?

In a role-playing game, such as “The Elder Scrolls,” there is essentially no predetermined main character. Naturally, you are motivated to play as yourself, and it makes you feel more connected to the environment. Additionally, there is no one to associate your choices with, and you have to think about them solely from your own perspective.

This is not the case in “Mass Effect.” Shepard is a developed character with a voice actor and a recognizable face. I understand that you can change some options to modify Shepard, but the developers have created a main character whether you change his appearance or not.

A game that has no main face or voice actor seems to change your thought patterns when you play as that character. This doesn’t mean that either style of game is bad, but it’s interesting to evaluate how they affect your judgment. I wonder if BioWare intended for players to make their choices without weighing Shepard’s own feelings, or would they rather you look at situations from his perspective?

After giving it much thought, I prefer the “Mass Effect” approach to choice and story. In a world where I am the main character, I like the feeling of immersion, but I tend to always play the same way. Instead, a game that gives me a role to fill and a personality to work with challenges me to think differently.

My choices are no longer my own but a blend between me and the character on screen, making it feel unique. Subsequently, consequence seems greater because you are now choosing for someone else rather than just yourself.

What’s important is that you play the games you love and discover what makes them connect with you. Maybe I did doom the galaxy for years to come, and now Shepard has to live with that because of the choices I made as the player. Hopefully, in “Mass Effect 3,” my decisions will prove to be truly heroic deeds rather than uninformed blunders, not just for mine but for Shepard’s sake as well.

Image Credit: BioWare

This is the first in a series of articles we’re dubbing playVIEWS. Each article will be an analytical exploration into a specific facet of the gaming industry or a particular game.

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February 2011

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