We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.
Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!
The other half of the Geek. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat duo has arrived! Everyone welcome Will to the collaboration. Murr joined us last month for his fantastic piece on Ryo, so now the puzzle is complete. Of course, you should check out Will’s pieces on G.S.R.R., as well as his great contribution to The Games That Define Us.
Thank you, Will, for joining us, as well as this wonderful piece on an iconic video game character.
Just to preface this I will be referring to Commander Shepard as he/him because I choose to play as the male version of Shepard.
Character customisation is quite often a big part of an RPG’s DNA. Creating someone who either you resemble or someone that you feel connected to can be the key to feeling immersed during your impending adventure. Taking that person with you, moulding them and their personality to whatever you want can make it feel like more of a journey and one you’re sharing.
It was about three hours in to the first Mass Effect game where I’d realised I made a terrible mistake. I hated my created character, he looked stupid, like he didn’t belong, and I resented his very appearance even though I was the one who bestowed it upon him. He wasn’t Commander Shepard. Thankfully the realisation dawned on me fairly early, the guy on the front cover of the game; he was Commander Shepard, not this abomination I’d created. My mistake had to be rectified.
I restarted the game – not something I’d normally do, and suddenly seeing default Shepard felt right. Thus began an incredible journey that has stayed with me ever since.
The thing about playing a game like Mass Effect is that even though you have your main character, his persona, how he acts and what his allegiances are aren’t defined by the game. I’m the one who controls what he says, who he treats badly and who he helps. As a result he becomes a character that is almost unique to everyone that plays the game. Shepard defined me just as much as I defined Shepard. It’s almost as if Shepard could be a part of my subconscious, as I approach a conversation he pops up in my head saying “Here’s how we can respond to this, what do you want to do?”. We guided each other through the difficult situations and judged them as we went.
Where choice and being good or bad is an option I tend to play more on the good side of things. It’s easy to be evil; to indulge that darker side of your subconscious, where emotion rules over rational thinking. Trying to do the right thing in the face of adversity can be a lot more difficult. Trying to act rationally or stay focused on what you think is the right thing, when your emotions boil to the surface can be a much harder to do. That’s why I choose this path when playing video games, and those emotions, those difficult choices, were never more present when playing through the Mass Effect series.
As the first human Spectre I felt I had a responsibility for all of humanity. My actions – seen at a galaxy wide level, would be how humans were perceived, I felt an obligation to paint us in a good light. In my eyes Shepard was a man who listened; a man of compassion, reason and selflessness. He would take time to speak to not only his crew mates, but also those outside of his crew to see whether he could help their plight in some way.
It’s not all about Shepard though. Just like in real life we can be influenced by those around us, we sympathise with friends, foe and total strangers. Our relationships shape us; they change us as we grow to understand different perspectives. The crew of the Normandy are just as important in the Mass Effect journey as the main character himself. I grew to love my crew and I wanted to keep them safe, keep them happy and make them feel like they belonged on my ship.
When the suicide mission came around I knew there was a chance I could lose some of my crew mates permanently, so I planned and research as much as I could to ensure that everyone made it out alive. There are so many moments like this in the game where you genuinely struggle to choose what to do, where you debate the pros and cons of your actions, the right and wrong of them. I would seek wisdom from my crew mates where I could to see if they could help me make the ‘right’ decision.
The journey through the Mass Effect trilogy was a rollercoaster; it had epic moments, emotional turmoil packed with conflicting feelings and every step of the way Shepard was there like a beacon of hope in the darkest times for, not just humanity, but all life.
Adventure Map! *FINISHING UP!*