Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Love/Hate: A plea to play as a female Shepard

6:20 PM on 12.16.2009 // Andrew Kauz

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs.]

I played the original Mass Effect more times than any person reasonably should; in fact, I could spend ages writing about my love and hate relationship with that game, but luckily, it is one that ended up being mostly about love. For me, it was a fantastic game that rose above its many faults.

Well, this is true of all of my playthroughs except for one -- the one where I played as a male Shepard.

See, I began my first playthrough as Penelope Shepard, a stunning girl with auburn hair and green eyes, and a stern but fair personality. In our journey together to a seemingly endless galaxy full of the same three buildings, I grew closer to this character than nearly any other videogame had allowed me to do prior.

Then, for my second playthrough, I started with a male Shepard. And you know what? I hated the game. I never finished this playthrough. Instead, I started yet another female Shepard, and proceeded to finish the game three more times.

So, what is it about the female Shepard that essentially represented what I loved about Mass Effect, and why did I hate the male Shepard so much? Read on to see why an experience with a female Shepard is clearly superior -- and, please, heed these words and remember them for the series’ next installment. 

Let’s start off in the most obvious manner possible: breasts. That’s not specifically what I want to talk about, but there are some general differences between males and females -- the greatest of which being the fact that we very rarely get the option to play as a female in a videogame in a way that feels natural.

Hell, even Bioware’s own Dragon Age: Origins provides an awkward experience as a female. I’m reminded of the origin story for the Casteless Dwarf; I chose a female out of curiosity and was immediately taken out of the experience when everyone seemed to be treating her like a male. It was enough to make me give up on that character and start a human male.

Never once in Mass Effect did I encounter this. Though promotional materials of the game very obviously pushed the male Shepard on us, the game itself feels like it is made for a female as you play through it. I think this is simply a result of good writing. There are no subtle lines that seem more appropriately directed toward males than females. Therefore, you’re able to feel as if a female truly does fit into this story. Compared to many other games, this is actually quite an achievement.

Furthermore, the simple novelty of playing as a well-crafted female is reason enough to try it out. Honestly, what is the ratio of male to female lead characters in videogames? 200:1? It’s even farther apart when we consider only good female characters.

Let’s face it -- overall, Shepard doesn’t stand out as having the most original or most interesting personality in games, despite whether you play as a male or a female. But how many female characters can you point to that aren’t just ridiculous caricatures of real females? Lara Croft? Let’s not even go there. I’d take someone who feels real though a little boring over someone like Lara Croft any day.

Luckily, there’s one very distinguishing feature that helps the female Shepard rise above her male counterpart: voice acting. What seems minor at first actually ends up being a definitive advantage, truly making the two experiences feel like night and day.

Let’s start with the male Shepard, voiced by Mark Meer. Now, I’m not going to tell you that his voice acting is poor -- it isn’t. But absolutely nothing about his voice acting does anything to craft his character, which leaves the creation of a personality up to both the dialogue and the player exclusively.

Jennifer Hale’s voice acting stands leagues above Meer’s. Hale has long been a popular choice for games; you’ll know her also as Naomi Hunter from the Metal Gear Solid series. However, the ways that Hale approaches the characters are completely disparate in that, if you’re not paying attention, you could easily miss the fact that they’re voiced by the same person. Not even Nolan North pulls this off.

Most importantly, when you hear a line of dialogue from Jennifer Hale’s version of Commander Shepard, you feel like it’s coming from a commander. Not a big-breasted RPG character, tomb-raider, or a leather-clad gun expert who is edgy for the sake of being edgy, or even a female that some developers just threw in so that they could say they offer the option to create female characters.

No, Hale’s Shepard is a character created by a developer and perfected by a talented voice actress. She’s a woman who doesn’t stand out because she’s a woman, but because she’s the epitome of a commander. I apologize to Mark Meer, but his acting just doesn’t cut it.

The end result is that playing through the game feels entirely different based on the gender that you choose before the game begins. One story is about an unlikely female ship commander who proves that she’s a badass not through the fact that she’s a female, but through the fantastic portrayal of a realistic character. The other story is about the same uninteresting male character that you have played a million times.

It’s a very powerful disparity here -- one that seems unlikely based on the fact that, in essence, the differences boil down to a reskin, a different voice, and some pronoun swaps. But, for me, the true experience of Mass Effect and, soon, Mass Effect 2, involves a female character. It means the difference between loving and hating those games.

So, I offer a plea: when Mass Effect 2 is in your eager hands, start a female character. You may want to continue with your male character from Mass Effect, but even in the face of this I stand by my plea. If you play with a male character, you’re missing out on the best experience of the game and one of the best experiences with a female lead character that I’ve ever had.

If your experience isn’t improved by the selection of a female Shepard, you can feel free to castrate me.

Andrew Kauz,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: With all the controversy surrounding review scores, what do you personally consider a "bad" score versus a "good" score? Is there a game in particular that was panned by critics that you nevertheless enjoyed? Or vice versa?
TheVeganGamer avatarTheVeganGamer
Finally got around to playing Diablo 3 with some friends, holy smokes! That game is rad!
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Public service announcement: Marry an orphan. It makes the holidays so much easier when you don't have to deal with pain in the ass in-laws.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
So... how long is it until we get the inevitable Colonial Marines or Ride to Hell: Retribution PS4/Xbox One re-releases?
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Screw Bloodborne. I finally managed to overcome not tearing up while listening to the entirety of Never More. Git gud! [youtube][/youtube]
NYCpunk avatarNYCpunk
you know what's not okay? scalpers with 10 copies of fire emblem fates SE on ebay for $200+. and no one is saying anything.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Fallout 4 wouldn't be Fallout with ridiculous glitches and shenanigans. Here are a few I've run into - [youtube][/youtube]
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I've never earnestly went drinking before so it's cool to know I'm the slow, sleepy, impaired type.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Got to admit I didn't expect to find a mewtwo amiibo at my bookstore of all places...
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
My cousin found out I slept with his girlfriend and is pissed. Understandable. I am totally sick of the angry phone calls though. It reminds me so much of playing Call of Duty online. The screaming 11 year olds suck on there too.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Huh. Apparently even Japan has a Black Friday sale going on on PSN right now.
Lawman avatarLawman
Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I know that somebody has 2,625 more medallions than me. No, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I don't really care.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
This fucking Bloodborne DLC, jesus. I'm on new game+, about level 90, and shit just tears my dick off. I don't know if I want to start another guy just to avoid NG+ and level him up, etc. sigh....
Shinta avatarShinta
Wii U, top selling black friday item on Take that you anti-Wii U people.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I am pretty hyped for when I get a laptop because I'll be able to have a good enough connection to stream XbOne/soon PS4 games to it along with natively rendered Steam games. Hype!
Avoclefo avatarAvoclefo
Got a PS4 that came with SW Battlefront this week, and planning on picking up the FFX/X-2 remake. Hype is through the roof, especially for FFX. If I were to get one other game, what should it be?
Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
Did a google maps search around my parents house for bars and there isn't one in like 25 miles, so I picked up an Intel compute stick and South Park: Stick of Truth on Steam. That's more or less the drunken screaming I'm in the mood for at about the cost.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Do you ever have that moment of clarity when talking to someone and suddenly realising: You're just a skull, and they're just a skull, with fucking eyeballs and a sac of skin being the only comparative difference between you visually? ..just me then?
Nathan D avatarNathan D
After quitting for two days out of frustration, I beat Ludwig on my first try of the night. I'm on cloud fucking nine right now.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
When I did my retail shift today, we were moving more Smash/Splat Wii U bundles and the Gears/Rare Replay/Ori XB1 bundles than Uncharted and Battlefront PS4s. I think Nintendo and MS have better value on their side this holiday. Sony got lazy.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -