Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wow. Spoilers, etc.

1.  Before I get to the spoilers.  Look.  I usually leave this kind of thing alone, because I read so many other people who are better at this than I am.  But, seriously, world.  You do realize that your logic when you say, "There is a [person from an underprivileged population] who is [position of status/authority], therefore we have solved all our historical systems of oppression," is logic that could be used to prove the lack of sexism in the 1400s because of Joan of Arc.  Right?

2.  SPOILERS.  I knew, going into the Landsmeet, that the wrong decision might cost me Alistair.  I had no idea what that wrong decision would be, or how easy it would be to make it.  And so I invalidated the one thing that meant anything in his world, pissed on his dead, father-figure, hero, and broke his heart.  It was horrible.  I had picked up, partly from my guessing, and partly from spoilers, who the last possible character was.  I had no inkling that it was an either/or kind of choice.  I can have him or Alistair.  There is no compromise. 

There was no question, really.  Once I realized that the course I'd started meant losing Alistair, I replayed it.  I even had non-crush-related reasons, because I know that there will be at least one or two more important plot points where having Alistair in the party, specifically as the love interest, will make a difference.  But this is twice, now, that I've gone back and changed my decision because of Alistair's reaction.

I've mentioned before, the Big Decision in Mass Effect 1, where one of your party members dies on the Big Bad Planet, and you are the one who decides who is going to die.  There is no time to talk about it, no time to think about it, it's the middle of the battle, and you have to send someone you care about on a mission they know they won't come back from.  It's been, for me, the pinnacle of game design.  So much of game choices are clunky good vs. evil.  Or selfless vs. selfish, or idealistic vs. pragmatic.  This is just Ashley vs. Kaiden.  And there is no good answer.  And since the Mass Effect trilogy extends your decisions through all three games, there are long-term consequences.  Your team member isn't just dead for the duration of one final battle, they're dead for two more games.

And yet, despite the terrible consequences of that decision, there is at least the comfort in knowing that you had to make it.  The fate of the galaxy, y'know, hangs in the balance.  If you don't send one of your party members to die, then all of you will die and then the galaxy will be wiped out by evil robots.  Both of your party members volunteer, knowing the consequences, willing to accept them for the greater good.  It is a terrible, but necessary, consequence.

When Alistair walks away, there is no comfort in necessity.  He didn't have to leave.  He didn't have to make you choose between party members.  And you didn't have to choose to hurt him, to send him away.  The alternative is not only acceptable, but understandable and possibly the right decision.  I don't know.  (Given that the alternative party member is possibly paranoid and insane, I'm not sure that bringing him along is smart, but finding some use for him sounds better than killing him.)  In Mass Effect, I can blame the evil robots for the loss of my party member.  In Dragon Age, I can only blame all of us: Alistair, Logain, the queen, me. 

(I'm okay with reading spoilers about alternate outcomes once I've actually made a decision and watched it through.  So I looked up Landsmeet outcomes.  And it turns out that, while Alistair would have stayed with the party, he would have ended our relationship if I had made him king.  Because I'd loved and encouraged his sense of duty over self, he would sacrifice his relationship with me to do his duty as king.  That might have been even worse, to do everything right by him, to not break his dreams, and still lose him.)

3.  I want to talk about storytelling.  About how I've played over a hundred hours (a conservative estimate) of Skyrim, but how different my engagement has been, compared to Dragon Age.  (But also, how much my engagement with the game is related to my lack of other dating-blog-posts.  If I had real relationships to examine, would I spend so much time on this one?)

But then I checked the internets, and there are THINGS, real things that matter, that are amazing and terrible and have heroes and villains and I am horrified and joyful and I can't even.  My country has empowered hate on a Tuesday and love on a Wednesday, and I have all the feels.  I can't even. 

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