Realism and humankind in the future
Mass Effect is a franchise which examines science fiction with a sincere interest in representing how science and technology can shape culture and inform our understanding of what it means to have a successful and prosperous society in the future. Mass Effect achieves this by presenting the player with the varied challenges we as a species must face as we adapt from a terrestrial race to an intergalactic species.
A key element to making the game universe feel grounded in reality is the diplomatic efforts and power struggles of combining forces with and / or encountering different intergalactic species. Considering and executing first contact protocols, which determine how to behave when being the first of your species to interact with members of another species, has far reaching implications on how the two species move forward as either allies or enemies.
Managing the expectations of each faction within an alliance is important to resolving conflicts, whether certain people are underrepresented, or others have too much control. The trials of working not only for the benefit of one’s own species but the coexistence of multiple sentient races requires goodwill, a dedication to peace, compromise, and generosity.
Survival and travel
Before one can delve into the nuanced proceedings of intergalactic diplomacy and humanities place in the cosmos, one must accomplish survival. Mass Effect helps bridge the gap between today’s tech and future tech by building upon our current scientific understanding of the universe and extrapolating the trends of our technological advancements.
Theoretical physics concepts such as quantum entanglement, a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance, are employed to solve interstellar transmissions by manipulating these quantumly entangled particles to relay communications. Similarly cryogenic stasis pods are used to transport “arks” full of our species and those of our allies across the vast distances of empty space.
Pioneers and Frontiers
Each of these elements, humanity and its future, survival and technology, diplomacy and intergalactic culture, all help to flesh out the sci-fi universe of Mass Effect, yet the fundamental component which makes it so outstanding is its understanding that it is the stories of the people who inhabit it that make the theme feel real.
The archetypes and their roles in the world, how the player is a part of their lives, is what allows us to connect with this distant future: the politicians, the explorers, the inventors, the pioneers, the mercenaries, the conquerers, the diplomats, the leaders, the followers, the families, the scientists, the soldiers, the artists, the merchants, the revolutionaries, and the settlers.
If you liked this article be sure to return for my other sci-fi articles, Sci-fi game or Sci-fi wrapper: how many “sci-fi games” lack a sci-fi narrative, & Mass Effect: come for the sci-fi, don’t leave because of the shooting.
What do you think of Mass Effect‘s sci-fi story / theme? How does it compare to other sci-fi worlds / universes? How do you think it could be improved? What do you think they did right? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please respond to the thread for this article, or talk to me through my email or any of my social media: firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, Twitter.
Play Professor is the blog of ludologist and video game journalist Andrew Mantilla. You can check out more of his content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.
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