Possible spoilers for the Mass Effect trilogy ahead... proceed at your own risk!
I've mentioned it before, but I seem to have the worst luck when it comes to video game romances. I dumped Anomen the wimp in Baldur's Gate 2. In Dragon Age: Origins, Alistair
dumped me after becoming King. In Dragon Age 2, Anders the psychotic possessed Mage wanted me bad... but I didn't want a psychotic, schizophrenic boyfriend, and instead decided I wanted Fenris, the skinny little emo Elf boy. Fenris liked me... but apparently not in that special getting-naked kinda way, and he just wanted to be friends. I finished both Dragon Age games to the tune of the Rolling Stones song "satisfaction" as in "I can't get no". In Dragon's Dogma I ended up in a lesbian relationship with a pre-pubescent Duchess
, and in games like Fable and Skyrim, I just grabbed any character who wasn't totally visually repugnant (which was a quest in itself) as my spouse. While virtual romance may have eluded me, at least I wasn't lonely and I got to know many of these characters well enough that their disinterest in sleeping with me was a little annoying (especially given that I was a chosen one and about to save their damn world!).
All of that has now changed and I have had my satisfyingly glorious virtual romance! One word... Garrus. While he kind of has an insectile, mandible thing going on in the looks department, he also has that glorious voice! His mixture of confidence and diffidence gave him such an endearing quality... and that voice! (Yeah... sorry... I know I said that twice!). I played through the entire Mass Effect trilogy... and it now ranks among my favorite games... incredibly awesome (and very, very, very similar to my favorite TV Series ever - Babylon 5, where chaos vs order was also a primary theme and where there was lots of "gray" - where choices, characters, races... none were specifically good or bad, black or white... just gray. In fact the similarities between Babylon 5 and Mass Effect were so plentiful and obvious that I'm sure others have probably written blogs on this topic before... so I won't bore you, but if you like Mass Effect and haven't seen Babylon 5 - go watch the first 3 seasons of it!!)
I worked really, really hard to ensure my "effective military strength" was well over 7000 before I did the final leg of the game to ensure I had optimum choices for a good ending... but ironically I was paying so much attention to the conversation choices or waiting on a paragon/renegade interrupt that I missed the designated locations for the choices and expected a definitive conversational option... so I wandered straight ahead to the blue light expecting a console where I could make my choice, only to find that I apparently had chosen "synthesis"! Oh no!... all that hard work and I never got to choose to destroy the reapers??? Dammit! I died, but the ending was wonderful. EDI and Joker, tenderly holding each other close... and Garrus, my beloved, looking suitably heart broken as he added my name to the memorial for those lost (though Tali was looking a little bit too prepared to comfort him over his loss... bitch!). I was rather hoping for a final scene of Garrus and I sitting on a beach together sipping pina coladas... so yeah, I re-played the last section again and chose to destroy the reapers... but no EDI! Garrus and I weren't sitting on a beach either... and it well... I think I accidentally chose the right ending for me - synthesis was more emotionally satisfying. I may have selflessly died, but everything else just ended up so much better and even the reapers were still there to help with re-building. I love how even my "accidental ending" worked out best for me with this game.
I'm rather glad that I waited for the trilogy to come out and was able to enjoy a seamless play through of all three games at once. The continuity was wonderful and I found that I liked them all equally. The first game was like a wonderful movie with a great plot. The second game was like a great TV series with a bunch of superb episodes tied up with a fantastic two hour series finale that pulled it all together. The third game will always hold a place in my heart for a stupid reason... I finally got to have my silver hair! I don't know why, but since my own hair has gone quite gray, I've taken to putting silver hair on all my female characters and I really like the look and for some reason the character feels more like "me". After hearing all the rumours of the bad ending, I had some trepidation going into the third game, but the "extended cut" ending possibly made things more clear because I had absolutely no issues with the ending I got (particularly the "synthesis" ending).
Note my glorious silver hair!
I also enjoyed the Femshep options within the series. She could be more feminine and choose a more nurturing, kindly role more consistent with traditional female qualities, but alternatively she could be more executive and badass in making decisions for the greater good that disregarded more individual emotions. I haven't played the game as a male, but if the conversational options are the same, then it once again goes to my point about how non-gendered video gaming is and we have the freedom to not have to conform to any gendered stereotypes. In some ways the paragon/renegade dichotomy is loosely reflective of traditional gender roles where women tend towards conversation, people-pleasing and "kinder, gentler" non-violent problem resolutions, and males tend towards more facts, quicker decision making that is more oriented towards the end goal, and more use of violent resolutions. A quick search showed that interestingly, most people chose the paragon route, yet only 18% chose Femshep... so there were a lot of males that chose a role more traditionally "feminine" in play style.
I think it's rather sad that feminists got all riled up by the Femshep blonde hair issue, but seemed to have mostly overlooked the fact that in the game itself, gender was rather fluid and multiple representations of feminist thought were also present in the game.
While it seems that many feminists took issue with female looking Asari, and saw this as yet another example of "sexism in video games" , it was overlooked that the Asari also be seen to be representative of sex-positive feminism
The Asari were sexually liberated and yet still powerful, while remaining distinctly female. The "Consort" was even a powerful and respected individual who essentially worked in the sex industry and these sex positive feminists tend toward believing that "real" feminists can actually work in tge sex industry. Rather than viewing the Asari as sexist because they pander to men with their mix of innocence and sexuality, one could actually view them as being celebratory of everything that is distinctly female and even somewhat representational of several lines of feminist philosophy. The Asari being an all-female matriarchal race that can procreate with other species (regardless of gender), while retaining their own DNA structure might be said to be somewhat representational of the Separatist/Lesbian Separatist Feminist
movements, which sometimes advocates that women should form a separate matriarchal societal structure away from men. Additionally Lipstick Feminism
(which rationalizes self-objectification as social power over men) was touched on by the fact that yes, they were all attractive. Intersectionality
was even broached by the fact that not all Asari are considered equal, but that there is discrimination against those who breed with other Asari. Overall, the Asari race were fairly interesting in their representation of women and represented several viewpoints about sexuality, power and matriarchy.
The Krogan's too might at first glance seem to represent traditional values of the aggressive male provider and the protected female childbearer and be the antithesis of modern radical feminism (particularly as the veiling is reminiscent of the burqa, which covers a woman from head to toe in many Islamic Countries)... however the Krogans align with the current "mommy wars" where women that choose to opt out of a career and stay at home to raise children seem to be wanting to find a feminist identity and have their cultural equality recognized. This form of feminism is sometimes aligned with New Feminism
where women are equal to, but very different from men. The female Krogan was rescued, protected and escorted because of her elevated and revered status as "childbearer" (and the male Krogans were quite disposable), but when push came to shove, the female Krogan was also able to defend herself. While reverence for the female childbearer can quickly slide into oppression in some cultures, there is a renewed western interest in finding alternate feminist philosophies that support women as childbearer and in supporting issues such as maternity leave.
The Human race in the game was actually fairly representative of the current human race in the western world... where women can be engineers or ship captains... where women are treated the same as men, and given the same respect, but where women apparently have still not broken through the glass ceiling to the higher echelons of power such as the Earth representative to the Council or Shepard's Commanding Officer. Very little of the human condition was actually shown in the game except that there was a broader acceptance of homosexuality than probably exists in some parts of the current western world (with the exception of Canada... where we don't care who you marry, as long as you both like hockey!).
There was also the Hunar... a completely non-sexualized, non-gendered race... though I don't know that this actually represents any feminist philosophy! LOL!
I've not personally gotten into bed with any specific feminist philosophy... which brings me full cycle and back to the game Mass Effect and the TV series Babylon 5. I like gray. I like looking at various viewpoints and exploring them all. For me, video games represent a freeing of gender... where a gamer can play as their own gender or a different gender, but can also choose a more aggressive "male" play style... or they can choose a more traditionally regarded "female" role of being a caretaker, concerned with the emotional well being of those around them. I could choose to use guns or could choose powers. I could choose to negotiate, or could often choose a more violent resolution. I could have chosen to continue my romance with Kaiden... but instead I chose Garrus! I loved the game Mass Effect, it made me think - not just about the choices I made in the game, but also about parallels to real life and a greater acceptance of different philosophies and ideas. Sometimes there is no black and white... kill the bad guys or control the bad guys... sometimes I guess there is "synthesis" and the creation of something new... and I explored many new ideas in thinking about this game... but mostly I finally got the new experience of a satisfying virtual romance, so the game will always hold a special place in my heart for that alone. :)
(and if you managed to actually make it through this huge ramble of a dissociative mess of a blog... then you too hold a special place in my heart!)