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Something about sex: The case of Jack

5:00 PM on 03.11.2010 // Brian Keljore

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I was all ready to jump in with my old Shepard and Mass Effect 2 for a spin. However, I was shocked to learn that my old flame was no longer really receptive to my feelings. Bioware had a new set of romantic subplots for me to choose from though. There was Miranda (who seemed to be up on her high horse a bit too often for me), Tali (who seemed honest in her feelings, but that weak immune system makes things complicated), and perhaps the most complex of the choices, Jack.

From here on, you are forewarned, we are entering spoiler country.

Upon first meeting Jack, I felt like I was not going to like her much at all. She had the exact kind of attitude that I hate; and I believe this video just about sums it up.

As I talked to her, I noticed there was something funny about the way she acted. It was like she was trying too hard to be the bad girl. Missions went by, and I learned more about Jack. The woman had a hard life. From being used for her talents or her body, being suckered into trusting people, and even a story that heavily implied that she was raped, it's hard to tell if she had one social interaction that did not end negatively. Surely this would help form her overly negative kill or be killed attitude, but it seems that underneath there is something else.

Then her loyalty mission came. She seemed anxious to confront the earliest stage of her life and erase it. Coming into the planet, I begin to see her change. She was nervous and looked like she wanted to run away, but I brought her to her object, encouraged her to find strength in what she endured, and convinced her to show mercy to another person trapped in the past. On the way out, I briefly notice a sad look on her face as she detonates the facility where she spent her earliest known years.

Briefly afterword, I went to check on Jack. At first she was thankful, but then her conditioning takes over. She demands to know what Sheppard wants, saying “You eyeing me up? Because if this is just about sex, maybe you should just fucking say so.”

This is where things get intriguing. While the subplot involving Jack is a “romance,” it feels wrong to tell her yes and just go at it. If anything, it justifies her world view, that everyone wants something and that Sheppard is no exception. Should I sleep with her here, she clams up and won't let me get closer to her, in effect causing me to fail at the romance.

So I tell her I want to know her first. This initially serves to frustrate her, and she closed up for a time. Then she told me. She wasn't always on her own. She had a partner at one point, and they were on the verge of a big score when she got caught. While her partner could have run off with the loot, he instead came back and saved her, dying in the process. This confused Jack, but the true blow was yet to come. A time sensitive message played for Jack, detailing the plans for the future he wanted to share with Jack had he survived. He was closer to her than anyone, and it hurt her. Sheppard's advances reminded her of all this, and she told me she needed time to think.

Fast forward to the climax of the game, and on my way to the Omega 4 Mass Relay, this happens:

The scene is little more than some making out and crying, but that is what makes it work. It would not make much sense to me if they did go at it right then and there. Jack finally opened up completely, admitting to Sheppard that she needs someone to care about. This would, of course, put her in an extremely fragile emotional condition. Sleeping with her here would be a bad move, and could later reinforce her previous “everyone's after something” view on life. If all Sheppard did was comfort her, then that would set the foundation for a trusting relationship. Jack's peaceful smile at the end hints to me that they opted to take it slow.

So what does this have to say about sex in gaming as a whole?

That can be looked at many ways, but to me it shows a bit of maturity in the approach. Jack's hyper sexualized appearance certainly doesn't say much, but the approach to the positive resolution to her romantic subplot shows that sometimes, you have to take it slow. Should Sheppard choose to take her up on her initial offer, the player is shown a brief, PG-13 style love scene that shows little more than the fulfilling of a momentary spark of lust. This results in nothing; however, as no lasting relationship is formed, and Jack is openly hostile towards Sheppard should he try to talk to her. If the player is more sensitive to Jack's feelings, none of that anger is present.

Sometimes it's more rewarding to take the more mature route.

This promoted blog was written for our March Monthly Musing assignment, "Write something about sex." You too could get promoted if you write something about sex in videogames over on the Community Blogs.

Brian Keljore,
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