Mar 18 2013

How the Mass Effect Series Changed My Life

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials,Journals,Video Games

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One week ago, I posted an article about my five favorite DLCs from the Mass Effect franchise to celebrate the release of the Citadel DLC. I started the piece by briefly mentioning how the series was special to me and how it’s the reason for so many significant things that has happened in my life. Paul suggested that I write about it in more detail for my next piece, and I happily agreed to do it. Growing up, I was inspired by numerous stories, movies, and video games like many other kids out there. Harry Potter inspired kids to break the boundaries of creative writing while Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones gave us dreams to venture into the depths of the unknown. Yet, it’s rare for us to actually find something that inspires and touches us so deeply that it changes the course of our lives towards a whole new direction. Sometimes people never find it at all, and we consider ourselves lucky whenever we do.

If not for Mass Effect, I would have been in another continent right now trying to walk a different path. I wouldn’t even be writing this piece right now if not for the game. Therefore, this isn’t just some fangirl piece that lauds the game itself but a story about how video games can be so much more than entertainment when it changes a young girl’s life for the better.

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Ever since I was kid, video games have been an integral part of my life. They dominated my speech, outfits, and behavior for the most part. Yet, I always considered myself a casual gamer. Sure, I would pull all nighters for video games but I never really cared about what goes on beyond the game itself. I never payed attention to the video game industry in general and I only bought what my friends or shopkeepers would recommend. Then Mass Effect 2 happened and it blew my mind. I fell in love with it. My favorite books growing up were the ‘Choose-Your-Own Adventure’ series particularly the science fiction themed ones. I also loved shooting and action oriented video games. In short, it was a combination of everything that entertained me.  It’s hard to pinpoint what astonished me exactly, because I loved every bit of the game.

I bought my first ever DLC because of that game. I didn’t even know what a DLC was before that. Back then, I lived in a tiny archipelago called the Philippines and the majority of console owners in the country played offline with just the base game. It was hard to get your own debit card there and the fastest internet speed was nothing compared to the most basic ones here. If we wanted to purchase DLC, we had to buy those gift cards which were only sold by one specific retailer in the country.

Consequently, my reaction to Mass Effect 2 prompted me to read more about it online and eventually I started to do that with the other games I played as well. I learned more about the industry and its culture. Around that time, I discovered San Diego Comic Con through the internet and it was the fuse that blew my third world mind open. In short, Mass Effect 2 made me appreciate video games more. They became more than just games. It was now an industry and culture I wanted to be a part of whether it was in the form of a developer, corporate executive, or a journalist.

Yet, I knew that was never going to happen to me considering the fact that I lived in a third world country. Luckily for me though, I had a dad that was a true geek at heart and one conversation with him changed everything. During one long heartfelt talk, he handed me a registration form for the SATs, and with a tear in his eye, he told me that the only way for me to achieve my dreams is to leave this small country. It wasn’t just about Mass Effect anymore, but it was certainly the one thing that started it all.  Next thing I know, I’m in the airport waving goodbye to my whole family less than an hour before my flight to America.

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Fast forward a year later, I was a Business student at Rutgers State University and classes started to feel more perfunctory. Macroeconomics and Accounting weren’t exactly the epitome of interesting. I figured that if I didn’t have the talent for programming, I could try my chances entering the industry with a Business degree. It was a good plan in theory, but it was a challenge to follow through. Like many other college kids, I was searching for another sign to push me in the right direction. Lo and behold, Mass Effect swoops in to save the day once more. During the spring semester of my freshman year, I finished Mass Effect 3 and I found myself with a lot of thoughts in my head. Finding a female friend in college who is an avid gamer is comparable to searching for rare treasure in an RPG. So, what am I to do with so many ideas and no one to share it with? I created a blog called Commander Bedlam.

Commander Bedlam was originally meant to be a personal online journal for all my thoughts and theories regarding the Mass Effect series. However, it gradually gained an audience and a humble following. In the last few months, I received offers to write sponsored posts and had the honor of interviewing prominent voice actress Courtenay Taylor in a podcast. At present, talking about my simple blog has helped me forge connections in the industry. Well, I can’t be specific as of yet because it’s still in the works but it has indeed opened doors for me in ways I could never have imagined.

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Around the same time I started Commander Bedlam was when I met Paul Tassi through Twitter. When the hype surrounding Mass Effect 3 was at its hype, I was devouring every article as soon as it came out. I noticed that Paul was one of the few journalists who actually understood some of the sensible points disappointed fans made about the ending. Consequently, I participated in one of his live chats on Facebook and followed him on Twitter. One morning, he sent out a tweet asking for assistance accessing BSN to communicate with Mass Effect players. I gladly volunteered and I became his liaison with the BSN player community. I sent him their questions, and I posted his answers on a thread. Even after that, we kept in touch and unofficially collaborated on a few stuff here and there until he invited me to write for Unreality. From then on, it’s been such a great experience working with Paul and writing for everyone here in the site.

Quite recently, I started a video game themed fundraiser called “Gamers for Sandy Hook” in collaboration with several celebrities from the video game industry and the fan community. I made it in response to the tragic shooting that occurred last December in Connecticut. It started out as an idea to get Mark Meer (the voice of Male Commander Shepard) on board to participate in a Skype date auction promo, and it ended up bigger than what I expected. We’ve had more names from the industry participating and we surpassed our goal of $5,000 before our deadline. Truly, the passion Mass Effect reignited within me inspired me to create this fundraiser and it was extremely heartwarming to help others in their time of need. On a personal note, it was an honor working with some of the big names in the industry especially my heroes from the Mass Effect franchise who have brought me this far to begin with.

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At present, I’m extremely happy and content with where I am now. I quit the Business school, and my experience with my blog and Unreality inspired me to write and produce content I am truly passionate about. I’m now a pursuing a major in Communication and a minor in Digital Communication, Information, and Media. Classes started to become more fun and enlightening as I learned about topics I was genuinely interested and skilled in. Opportunities, awards, and offers come in from all directions, it humbles me each time. Sometimes I look outside my apartment window and I imagine seeing the busy city streets of Manila as that kid who longed for a purpose. Then, I blink my eyes and I see the snow covered streets and feel the chill caress my cheek. At that moment, I know that what I have now is real. It’s funny how a video game can change our lives, but it did. The Mass Effect franchise gave me a dream, and life has never been the same since then.





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9 responses so far

  • rosstopher

    If anything, the game opened my eyes. I realized outcomes would be the same whether or not I decided to intimidate or inspire. All I needed was a goal in mind. Goes to prove just how amazing the power of belief is, in yourself and in your actions. When I first played through, I didn’t realize this. I tried to make the wisest decision possible, whether that be renegade or paragon. Once I realized there was no wrong answer, (there are moments where tough decisions affect the game so choice does matter sometimes) I stopped imagining other people’s feeling and judgement while becoming more decisive. I have since applied this in life and have seen a dramatic increase in efficiency. With a desired outcome in mind, I could accomplish anything.

    Another unexpected outcome was how much people look to others for reassurance and validation. This works in my favor to figure out how others need to be pushed or inspired. The charisma of one person can be infectious, while the fear of disappointment and failure are excellent tools as well.

    Seriously, I matured a lot bit playing this game.

  • trashcanman

    God, I’m glad there’s someone else out there who appreciates how outstanding this series is/was. It’s become extremely in vogue to hate all things Bioware, disregard every aspect of Mass Effect and Dragon Age as crap, and shout “biodrone!” at anyone who will admit they love those series. It’s gotten real old real fast, and has even driven the founders of the company out of the industry altogether. It’s a symptom of just how toxic the gaming community has gotten that we get a series of Mass Effect quality, and one underwhelming cutscene at the end is all it takes to invoke that level of insanity. Your story is awesome, madame, and I think the fact that any work of mere fiction inspired you to better your life and chase your dreams pretty much cancels out the “opinions” of any number of howling idiots on the net.

  • http://saraclemens.com/ Sara Clemens

    This article is phenomenal.

    I’m about halfway through ME2 (for the first time) now, and I just realized last night that FemShep and Garrus is my OTP. That’s nerdy and jokey in comparison to this lovely piece, but still—I was flooded with warm fuzzies.

    Did you ever get around to playing ME1? Garrus won’t shut up in that one, but then he’s all dark and broken in the second one (for good reason, obviously). But I definitely got to the point where I was like: “STOP DOING CALIBRATIONS AND FLIRT WITH ME.”

  • Ted Zancha

    Thank you for this piece Benny. A truly wonderful look at the power of this medium. While it may be over saturated with fluff and useless games, its good to know that there are still games out there worth playing that not only tell amazing stories, but also help bring people together. Plus, who wouldn’t love to work with, talk about, and meet people from a piece of media or art that you love.

    Again, thanks for the great article.

  • Gabriel

    After finishing ME3 last year my desire to play anything else is pretty much gone due to me feeling like everything else is “Just never going to be as good” as the Mass Effect Trilogy.

  • http://commanderbedlam.com Benny Bedlam

    @rosstopher

    That’s so nice to hear! I definitely understand the whole idea that there’s no wrong answer. When I played the game, my Shepard was mostly a mix of paragon and renegade. I guess that applied in my life as well. The whole concept that there is a grey area in morality. I don’t know… is it wrong for me to say that I loved the Illusive Man and Cerberus? Even in Mass Effect 3, I know he went overboard but I definitely saw where he was coming from. He’s like a futuristic Machiavelli (I loved The Prince btw). I could actually do a character study of the Illusive Man.

    @trashcanman

    Hey man! I appreciate your comments as always. Yeah, I hate how some fans take their hate too far. I mean yeah, the ending may not be what most expected but 98% of the trilogy is freakin’ awesome. One of the missions I keep replaying all the time in ME2 is the Suicide Mission. Playing that part of the game just inspires me to go out there and be a hero! haha

    Also, thank you for reading and thoughtfully commenting on my posts regularly!

    @Sara Clemens

    Thanks Sara! I really appreciate it :) Yeah, I actually played ME1. I bought it right after I finished ME2 along with all the other DLCs. Yes, that’s how much I was blown away by it. I love Garrus!! I think he’s a better romance than Kaidan actually. I get what you mean though, Miranda couldn’t stop being so gloomy in ME3 and I was like “STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT CHIP AND ORIANA.” hahaha

    @Ted Zancha

    Yes, it’s amazing how much awesome people I’ve met because of this game. While other kids had Harry Potter, I had Mass Effect. Thank you for reading this!! Means a lot to me.

    @Gabriel

    True, I was also telling my friends that “I had nothing else to look forward to” haha. Obviously, there are other games out there that’s cool but nothing in the same league as the Mass Effect trilogy. Can’t wait for the next ME trilogy!

  • http://obiruskenobi.wordpress.com Obi-Rus Kenobi

    Great article! I Became a fan at ME1 but by the end of ME2, dare I say it Mass Effect had surpassed Star Wars as my favorite fandom. Although most of my friends usually fall in the COD type of games I’ve converted most of them to Mass Effect and we’ve spent countless hours “geeking” out about the choices we made and the differences in our outcomes. My fiance became a fan at ME2. Originally an xmas gift from her and not a big gamer herself, she enjoyed watching me play and the choices I made (she still doesn’t agree with my Miranda decision lol) and then taking the reigns and playing through with her own FemShep. I also wear my N7 t-shirt proudly and enjoy the subtle nods and conversations started by strangers who actually know what N7 means. Creatively, the series has inspired be me to do express myself. I went through a spell where I was doing fan-art mashups that were all very Mass Effect centric just for fun.

    Now that i’ve finished Citadel I feel a huge void until the next. I’m not sure what to expect with the next ME series, especially since it won’t feature “my” Shepard, but at this point i’ll take anything to satisfy the itch. Thanks for sharing your experience as it made want to share mine.

  • http://geekwisdom.wordpress.com I Am Fiefo

    Love the article Benny! I also love the Mass Effect series and it’s actually the only game where I actively pursued getting all of the DLC that was available. Mainly because I didn’t want the game to end.

    However, what really struck me was the fact that the picture of DataBlitz (I think it’s the one in MegaMall) which I recognized since I’m in the Philippines myself. I found your story very inspirational that, by doing something you love and not letting anything hold you back, you were able to accomplish a lot.

    Thanks for the article and hope to read more from you!

  • http://commanderbedlam.com Benny Bedlam

    @Obi-Rus Kenobi

    Thanks for sharing that! I can definitely relate. I bought an N7 wallet a few months ago, and I always feel a bit of pride whenever I take it out of my pocket. Forget about Gucci or Chanel, the only accessories that can make me swoon are Mass Effect merchandise. What Miranda decision?? Did you romance her or…. kill her? (I’m hoping it’s the first)

    @I Am Fiefo

    Thanks dude! Yeah man, Datablitz was my turf. My friends and I wished we worked there when we were kids! I’m glad you enjoyed the read, it really means a lot to me :)

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