Sunday, April 1, 2012

Beneath a Steel Sky

Some of us have to wait for games to drop their price before we enjoy a new adventure. In this particular case, however, the opportunity opens up to analyze the social phenomenon surrounding Bioware's Mass Effect 3. Having played the demo in addition to the previous installments, I consider myself as much of a fan as any other. But the fact remains that the game is quite good, do not take my word for it; notoriously antagonistic sites have granted it at least an 8.5 score.

I firmly contend that the fan outrage at the endings and other aspects of the game can only be understood as a sign of how game worlds are starting to rival real life. Bioware, truth be told, doesn't make games, they make something in the vicinity of life simulations, a company working at the highest levels, firmly in the pantheon with the best of them, and with innovation strongly in mind.

In a time when there are addictive and sensuous online worlds and communities, it can be seen that, steadily, since the advent of the information age, reality itself can be interacted with like a videogame, as we sort personal matters with a keyboard and mouse setup, in front of an LCD screen. Bioware adds the icing on the cake by providing virtual love interests with detailed exotic personalities, not just mundane cuteness. Mass Effect, it can be argued, is of considerable cultural relevance.
But it's a marvelous moment for gaming since, while temples are being burnt down, so to speak, we witness something that can only yield a boost for the story-telling medium games always were, but are becoming more obviously so, to wit; RPGs make headlines in the west, and visual technology has caught up with narrative; this is positive for the industry, certainly for those developers who stay away from cookie-cutter creations.
If the Technological Singularity ever wanted something from us, then certainly it is that we develop emotional investments towards a game disc. Of course, the same can be said for a book, yet the repercussions will be much different. If Bioware can simply acquire enough time to develop games, it will continue to be perhaps the best developer in gaming history.
When the dust settles, perhaps the Mass Effect series will be seen as a turning point in our past, when games began not just to amuse, but like Heavy Rain, to touch us, to dare us, to become part of our very lives. And in that future, nothing will ever be the same again. Bioware, and the ghastly clutches of EA, are leading and shaping our interactive future. Gaming demographics are now all over the map, there is a tremendously high number of casual gamers, male and female. Rest assured, for better or for worse, their children will be born beneath a steel sky.