Those who know me surely know my biggest and most favorite hobby is playing video games. I could go on for a good while explaining when my passion for them started, how my video game interests have evolved over time and why they’ve been so important to me (and at some point, I probably will write about it) but I want to talk about one in particular. It is by far one of the most important video games to me of all time.
Mass Effect is a science fictional, story driven third person shooter / role-playing game. You play as Commander Shepard. Early on in the story, you are warned of a race of sentient machines, the Reapers, hellbent on wiping out all advanced organic life. You are responsible for saving the galaxy and putting an end to the Reaper threat once and for all.
Now, that’s a very crude summary of the story but I only wanted to very basically outline it and I also didn’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s interested in playing.
When I started playing the Mass Effect series (it’s a trilogy) I actually started with the third installment. I had always heard great things about the series and it had just come out so I decided to just go with it. Needless to say, I was blown away. As soon as I finished the game I immediately went and bought the first one and played that. I beat it, excited to get the second. So, I did and I beat that too. Then, I went on to beat the third one for a second time.
This pattern actually went on for about two and a half months. I continuously beat each game over and over (I’ve beaten each game three times now [that’s nine total times between all three games]). I remember one time I was playing the first one and I played for 18 hours straight. I was absolutely hooked on this game, totally and completely enthralled by the story (I think I’m starting to make myself sound like a freak but I promise this is getting somewhere!)
I couldn’t help but ask myself “Why?” Why was this game so much different than any other game? What made this one so… appealing to me? Initially I chalked it up to incredibly great story telling, but it wouldn’t be until just recently that I would find the answer.
Let’s talk about a science fiction story. Star Wars. You can go up to just about anyone in the world and ask them what the story of Star Wars is about and almost anyone will be able to tell you “It’s about the Sith Empire wiping out the Jedi and Luke Skywalker leading the rebels to bring the Empire down”. And it’s great. It’s one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time, in fact. There’s a very distinct difference between the two stories, however.
In most (not all, but most) science fiction stories, humanity is depicted as a common people in a vast, galactic community. They may even be a major super power. They are no less common then any other intelligent race. In Mass Effect, this is most certainly not the case. Humanity is a very young race. They’ve only been apart of the galactic community for a few decades while other races, like the Asari and the Salarians (the founders of the galactic community) have been around for thousands of years. Humanity actually has to prove itself to the other races that they are ready to be a part of the galactic community. Many don’t think they are. It isn’t until the very end of the series, after countless efforts and endless adversity that humanity is respected among the other races.
It’s also only set about 150 years into the future. This really added a level of realism to the game. It actually got me thinking. I found myself constantly pondering and wondering what’s out there. I realized just how many possibilities there are. What if there are other intelligent beings out there? Galactic communities being created all over the Milky Way, inter-species friendships and relationships being made. While we’re sitting here, stuck on our rock, fumbling over our petty differences.
It sparked a profound interest and passion in Astrophysics. It’s also what led to my “A better me, a better humanity” initiative. It showed me the importance of focusing on our future, of banding together as a single, unified and collective group to move our species forward towards prosperity and happiness, to learn, grow and improve ourselves as much as possible. It helped me truly realize that our future is in the stars and I want to do everything I can to contribute in getting us there.
All because of a single video game. That’s why it’s different for me. It presented an idea that I had never thought of before. It quite literally changed my life and the way I view humanity, and the future, for the better.