Dedication. I am dedicated to video games. When I was young and my father suggested I go outside, I said NO, I would rather finish playing Battletoads. When my mother asked if I would like to get some of the hottest new releases from the local video store, I said NO, I would rather hire Super Mario Bros 3 for the 19th weekend straight, because I know I can get past that stupid ice world this time. When my friends asked me to come over to hang out with them, I said NO, you should all come sit on my couch and watch me play all of Eternal Darkness. And please bring your own snacks, I am not a charity.
Through the years I, like many others, have played a lot of games on a lot of different machines. I thought that Iíd peaked, that I had become as obsessive and anti-social as I possibly could, short of hooking living human babies to my TV as a power source. And then there was Mass Effect 2.
Iíd played the original Mass Effect to death, of course. The whole idea of trumpeting through space as an armour-plated badass was so far up my alley I almost expected it to buy me dinner. See, if they finally discovered a way to colonise other planets and travel through space in any meaningful, entry level way, Iíd be the first person clawing for a seat. I grew up on Star Trek of all shapes and sizes (Voyager is the best, thatís a fact) as well as all the other science fiction TV, movies, books, comics and video games you can think up, meaning I not only wish society could send me to space, I demand it. So then Mass Effect comes along and thereís spaceships and aliens and the chance to make out with a hot racist lady and saving the galaxy and committing genocide while making life and death decisions and trying to see blue side-boob.
So yeah, it was pretty cool. I wasnít blown away, but it was a highlight in my virtual life. A few years pass, filled with gaming and non-gaming events, until January 2010. Mass Effect 2 comes out. Obviously, I get the special edition, complete with art book and super-keen fancy metal case. The Xbox is primed. The disc is inside. My body is ready.
Before we go on, I should mention this. I get migraines. If you also get migraines, you know exactly what Iím talking about. If you donít get migraines then fuck you. Hereís how it goes for me. It starts with a strange feeling, like you really canít look at things properly. Then a small, sparkling dot appears somewhere in your vision, growing until it is a giant shining puddle in your line of sight. You peripheral vision vanishes and the blot gets bigger until you are completely blind. Except youíre not blind, you can see a thousand exploding suns. If you close your eyes it will just get brighter. You were feeling fine 10 minutes ago, but now you want to barf up the world. Suddenly, your vision comes back, although it still hurts to look at things. And WHAM. Enjoy your brain-splitting headache, sucker. Deep, throbbing pain from the depths of hell is clawing out of your skull with tiny pickaxes. The best news is that this will all be over in a mere four to eight hours.
Keep this in mind as I begin playing Mass Effect 2. In the past. I turn the game on and MY PRECIOUS SPACESHIP EXPLODES. I DIE. Iím now dead, floating in space. Now Iím not dead, but Iím horribly scarred and have become the cyborg property of intergalactic terrorists. No time to care about that! Iím too busy swooping around the universe, solving peopleís problems, getting drunk, making moral decisions and exploding every damn thing I can. Giant wasps are stealing babies - according to Martin Sheen - and to get them back I have to collect the baddest asses in the whole galaxy. Vampire aliens are poisoning the air system of an asteroid where the economy runs on sex shows. Glowing yellow bugs possessed by giant robot squids are calling my mother a whore. I have to pilot a ship through a black hole before my secretary melts!
A full day into the insane ride through the stars, I realised it was getting quite late in the day. Well into the night portion of the day, in fact. But my eyes and fingers wouldnít tear themselves away, even if I did have work in the morning. Even if my wife was trying to sleep. Even if I could barely tell what was going on anymore because my brain was already in bed. I knew I just needed more explosions. More hilarious dialogue choices. More god damn adventure. Just stick the explosions straight in my veins. But then another problem crops up. I can see a tiny dot on my vision. And now my peripherals are all blurry. Yep, Iím getting a migraine.
If I stop playing now and go to sleep I should be okay, but Iím playing Mass Effect 2, I canít stop. My brain does a quickfire calculation, weighing up the risks and rewards of playing a video game for so long that I go blind. The game wins of course. And now Iím half-disabled, squinting at my tiny television as I fire orbs of psychic ass-kicking into the brain pans of defective clones and colour-coded gang members. My head starts pounding so hard it actually puts me off balance. Mass Effect 2 is now actually making me physically ill and I donít care. Imaginary spiders with sledgehammer feet are scaling the back of my skull and my eyeballs are being sexually assaulted in a crowded nightclub. I could vomit at any point.
But I saved the galaxy. Iím the hero. I managed to beat the most difficult and explosive missions, save (most of) the citizens and spit on the graves of my enemies. I got to have sex with a Quarian. Eventually I collapse into bed, often rising during the night - although it is already 4:00am - to vomit and writhe around on the bathroom floor. The next day I canít get up at all, so I sit quietly in a dark room muttering about launching probes. It was totally worth it. Mass Effect 2 is interactive cocaine.
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