Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Let's Talk About Commander Shepard

Let's just take a moment to talk about Commander Shepard, shall we? I have already filled the first four pages of my brand new journal with thoughts about Shepard, because I'm a terrible person who writes about fictional characters in her journal at the age of 28. But I'm not done thinking about Shepard, and I'm not done writing about her. So because my blog has already devolved into an empty, echoing place where I very occasionally yell into the ether about my love for Loki or a video game or whatever, I may as well just carry on in that vein and shriek about Commander Shepard for a while.

Commander Shepard is the protagonist, and the character you play, in the Mass Effect trilogy. From the very beginning you shape her, from her face to her first name to her personality and her moral compass. She is your baby. And she can even be male if you want, which is 100% the wrong choice, but fine if you wanna listen to that guy's derpy voice for 240+ hours I guess.

But Shepard isn't just my baby, the lens through which I saw the world in Mass Effect. She's my hero. She's a hero, yeah, but she's also mine. Not just because I created her, in the limited way that one can in a video game like this. Not just because it's up to her to unite the galaxy and lead a rag-tag band of badasses to save the day. But also because she never understood why she should be the one to do it. Because she has a group of friends and allies who love her, who would kill and die for her, and because she would do the same for them. Because she's scared she'll fuck up. And because she does fuck up sometimes, and can be an ass sometimes, and punches reporters in the face sometimes. But she's also kind and risks her life for strangers and sucks at dancing and doesn't have time for your shit. She's real and complex and I love her.

I can't think of another female character in a game, in anything, who has come to life so fully and won me over so quickly and completely. Shepard is written to be gender neutral, which rescues her from the typical gender-specific tropes that writers fall into so often with video game characters. And because you have full control over her dialogue, her reactions, and her decisions, she comes to life in subtle and complex ways that I haven't seen before in a female character.

Shepard is mine, an extension of me, a woman who is my idol but isn't free of fault. She's made tough choices and has broken hearts. And as much as she accomplishes, she still doesn't understand why she's the one who's expected to save the galaxy. She's just a marine who happened to be at the right place and the right time when shit hit the fan. She's no chosen one and she's no hero -- at least not at first. But she's my hero. And I love her so much.

I would follow Shepard anywhere, do anything for her, and trust her unequivocally. I know she's a character in a video game, and I know that everything she does is guided by me, and maybe that's why I love her so much -- because she is me, in a sense. But I've cried for her, shrieked like an idiot when she fell in love, laughed with her, felt rage at those who wronged her, fought with her. All of those emotions were real. And while the game itself is just a game, what I've taken away from it is true and genuine. I experienced a story that was so visceral I spent the entire last hour of the game sobbing brokenly. (And I still cry when I listen to the music from the sad parts because I'm the worst.)

Those hours and hours I spent with Shepard mean so much to me. That experience means so much to me. I'll write later about the game beyond my Shepard-related feels, but she is at the crux of my all-out adoration of Mass Effect. I cannot say enough how important she is to me, or how important she is to gaming and the future of female characters.

But I'll shut up now, as I'm sure you're all like, "Wow Meg you are horrible stop blogging about things we don't care about." Well I'm sorry! Not I'm not. Now go play Mass Effect if you haven't, for the love of all things good in this world. Go. Get the fuck out. Go now. Right now.

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