Mass Effect 3 Potpourri

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm
Mass Effect 3 potpourri -- an epic and fragrant mix of emotions and tidbits.

I've written previously about the idea of quantifying exactly how excited one is about new game releases using the Nintendo 64 Kid as a sort of emotional measuring tape. The unit of measurement is "N64Ks," a single N64K indicating an amount of borderline insane excitement equal to that of Nintendo 64 Kid as he unwraps that magnificent present and feels every synapse in the pleasure center of his brain explode.

I don't know about you, but I live my life at a level of about 0.03 N64Ks usually. As I've gotten  back into modern gaming over the past several months, there have been new releases that have kicked this number up. Foremost among these was Skyrim, which had me at a legitimate 0.85 N64Ks. I have the main theme, with the manly chorus bellowing shit about the Dovahkiin, on my mp3 player, and there have been times recently when I've actually had strangers catch me saying "Fuuuus... RO DAH" out loud and giggling to myself on the streets of Manhattan.

But nothing in recent memory has moved me on such a basic gamer level like the release of Mass Effect 3. A true 1.0 N64K moment.

I'm nowhere near done with ME3, so this isn't in any way a review; we'll have a proper write-up of the game in the coming days. But I kept starting articles on other stuff, or "Top Five" lists on unrelated subjects, and I couldn't do it. I want to live in this moment, I want to feel the rush of a full-on 1.0 N64K experience.

So, I've put together a little blend of initial reactions, meditations on the series and stupid jokes for the Mass Effect fans out there. It's not very cohesive, but I think it's an appropriate homage to the hype of release day.

Unreasonable Expectations I Had Before Getting the Game

- That multiplayer would include character creation on par with the single-player campaign, so that I could not only play as a turian, but decide exactly how wide his alien cheekbones would go and what color his intense lizard eyes would be.

- That the opening would include twenty to twenty-five straight minutes of Shepard on Earth doing pull-ups and talking to everyone he meets about how the end is coming like some kind of lunatic just to set the mood. No joke, I was hoping this would happen.

- That there would be ten times as many renegade interrupt opportunities as Mass Effect 2, so that it's possible to stop even mundane conversations in-game by pushing the person you're talking to into a turbine of some kind or kneeing them in the nuts or telling them they're still a big, stupid jellyfish.

Midnight in the Garden of Paragon and Renegade

Midnight releases -- I will forgo sleep to give you my money.
Mass Effect 3 marked my first ever participation in a midnight release. Myself, two friends and a group of fifty or sixty others loitered about in a line waiting for the clock to reach midnight. What an interesting atmosphere! Everyone there regarded one another with both an air of mild hostility and a sense of unspoken camaraderie. Have any of you felt this before at a gamer event like this?

It's hard for me to place the uneasiness with which we regarded each other... perhaps it was a subconscious way of distancing ourselves emotionally from the other people in the store in case there was a shortage and we were forced to battle over a single copy?

This was embodied by a young employee who seemed personally offended that I wasn't going to purchase a code for the DLC. He kept asking me the question in different ways. "So you're not gonna buy the DLC?" "So you don't want the extra squad-mate?" "So you're not interested at all in a whole new storyline? You're sure about this, man?" After I confirmed that I was going to go without it, he gave me the same look that a parent would give a child who had hit another kid in the head with a rock.

I think the hostility (and, yes, it's only a trace amount) may have something to do with that sense of community, actually. People want you to prove that you are a true fan, like they are. They feel, to some extent, like protectors of the game, warding away anyone who doesn't want it enough by projecting a hint of aggression. I actually like the amount of investment on the part of the fans that this implies, even though it comes through in a strange way.

Dumb Mass Effect Jokes Overheard (or Uttered) at Launch


"A lot of new features in this one. You guys heard about the four-player co-op gay turian sex mini-game, right?"
- Spoken deadpan, loudly, in line

"I hope it's for element zero."
- Customer, as a raffle occurs

"I don't see why Liara would be mad. I figured when I was dead for two years that meant we were on a break."
- Man, justifying his decision to sleep with Miranda in ME2

- Raffle loser

I Guess I Care About This

Not Pictured: my Shepard, who is forty to fifty times radder-looking than this one.  PS: haha check out that chinstrap beard.
When I got home from the store, I immediately popped ME3 into the Xbox and fired it up. I was all the more excited to get started because I'd timed my play-throughs of ME1 and ME2 perfectly, so that I had just completed both games with a single character in time for 3's release.

I had never had such a lengthy experience with a user-generated character. The appearance that I chose for my Shepard had become the visual representation of all the choices I made as a player, and just by seeing the face I was reminded of the personal effort I'd put into the universe. I selected the "Import ME2 character" option and waited for the character to load.



Mass Effect 3
informs me that it "cannot successfully determine the custom face code" associated with the save file, and that I've got to make a new face for my guy.

Now, this isn't the end of the world. All my decisions from the first two games are intact, it's just the cosmetic stuff that's lost. All the continuity of the series, except for my Shepard's face, is still absolutely there.

But, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, and maybe it's just because I've spent so much time recently involved in this particular story, but... I feel sad about this. Sadder than I should feel, as an adult playing a game. Sad like I felt when I was a kid and I accidentally broke a Lego spaceship I'd worked for hours to complete... it was that same feeling of loss, the loss of something that, yes, was a toy, but that I had put myself into and was proud of. It weakened the magic of pretend back then, and I felt the same thing happen to me last night, twenty years later.

As shitty an introduction to the game as this glitch was, I recognized what my sadness over something as simple as a character's face meant: I care about this series.

Happy ME3 day everybody!

Aaron Matteson writes a weekly column for Joystick Division called Dangerous Physical Appliances 2000. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronMatteson if you want.

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