It Came From Mass Effect
It had me at “Alien Strip Club.” A shallow reason to dig into a franchise, but, nonetheless, the prospect of how this could exist in a video game intrigued me. It was still a little while until I actually saw it for myself (I got a free copy of the second installation when I bought Dragon Age II, which is another story altogether), but in retrospect, and in the words of a character in the game “it was totally worth it.”
Admittedly, I felt a bit spoiled by this point, the games I’d really dove deeply into were RPGs where the world was my oyster and I could literally escape what was going on around me (which at the time was a series of increasingly stressful jobs on an ill-fated quest to find my “dream job.”) Mass Effect was no different – Myrrick Shepard looked a little like me, came close to the same witty banter that I executed with slowly waning skill as life dictated I ‘be more professional’ in order to get ahead. And indeed, anyone else could do the same thing, either follow the path they’d choose in real life, or go the complete opposite way, if for no other reason than it provided an emotional release that wouldn’t get them jail time. (For example, kicking the Eclipse mercenary through a window during the Assassin recruitment mission in ME2. You know you did it too, don’t lie.)
Aside from actual gameplay, there were social benefits long before multiplayer became a thing. While conveying my disappointment that the first Mass Effect was continually crashing my computer on Facebook (eventually assigning the game the loving nickname of “Crash Effect”), a couple of ‘friends’ offered tech support through the post. Eventually we ended up talking more, and instead of them being just some guys that I had befriended back in college, ended up being pretty real friendships that led to us talking about real life stuff, and yes, Mass Effect.
But mostly Mass Effect.
Not to mention the random conversations, having to explain references to family members, and the eventual naming of my cats (Tali’Zorah Vas Yarnbin and her sister Maya). But so long as no one stages an intervention before the next installment of the franchise, I’ll keep enjoying the ride and meeting new people along the way.