I am a 100% believer in video game addiction. I mean, just look at the hours/weeks/years people, honest, hardworking people (and some not so much) put into World of Warcraft and other video games. We’ve read stories about how games like WoW can take over people’s lives. The same is certainly true of many other games. Final Fantasy, Call of Duty, White Knight Chronicles, Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario Galaxy, and the like all offer pretty immersive gameplay that, let’s face it, can be much more fun than playing real life. A great game can be a joy, an escape. When played to the extreme, a great game can also destroy relationships, home lives, and careers. Now, I get that some may see video gaming as a kids or teens only activity, and that it’s okay if they whittle their lives away on gaming because they have so much time left on this earth to do good. (It was kinda hard to not type that sarcastically.) But you and I both know that most hardcore gamers are not teens, but people with enough competency to find and keep employment in the real world. Yet, for any number of reasons, they would rather spend days plundering virtual worlds alone or with their guilds, bringing down electronic armies of terrorists, exploring decent facsimiles of the known and unknown universes all from the comfort of their homes. Some days, that’s all I want too. Some days….not all days, but, yes, some.
Have I ever been addicted to gaming? Noooooo…of course, not. I mean, well…uh…there was this one game you may have heard of, Mass Effect, and I was, um…I had a hard time not playing it for awhile. It didn’t really screw up my normal life as some addictions are known to do, but it’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to the darker side of gaming.
We got Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 back in 2007. The mid-2000s were valley in my video game life – I played something every now and then, and was particularly fond of our new, shiny Wii, but gaming was really a very occasional thing. My fiancé played Mass Effect first, and I watched, intrigued but not overly interested. I think the last shooter played before Mass Effect was…………. Yeah, I never really intended to play Mass Effect. Isn’t that how all semi-addictions start? Nobody really intends to start smoking crack, for example; but one day you just find yourself with nothing better to do and the crack is there, sitting on your shelf, and you think: well, what the hell.
Actually, what really happened is that my fiancé lost interest in the game as many other great games had been released around the same time. I remember watching him attempt a particular battle scene several times, and I thought, it doesn’t look that hard. I mean, if you planned your cover right, ordered your AI teammates to suitable positions, and made sure to have the handgun at ready, it should be easy enough to take out all the thugs. Once he let the game go, I picked it up.
And I found salvation. Please cue the choir of angels.
Haha, ha, not really.
Beyond being an action/adventure third-person shooter, Mass Effect allowed players to customize their main character (a male or female soldier, “Shepard,” with several classes and backgrounds from which to choose) and follow different story lines for that character (good, bad, and neutral). These aspects were really what got me hooked. (I don’t have the wherewithal to fully describe the massiveness of this game , but here’s a pretty great summary.)
I enjoyed the game well enough the first time round and felt quite pleased upon completing it. But then I wanted to go back and play it again to see how playing a different storyline with a different character affected the outcome. During this second time I took a lot more time with the game, planned out the game play based on what I had learned, and played through the many side quests. Once I got to this point, with my brain slightly broken, I pretty much wanted to play Mass Effect all the time. I didn’t. I still went to work. But most of my free time was devoted to the game. In retrospect, that was not so good.
It also wasn’t a good sign was that I kept copious notes about the game and especially counted the side quests to make sure I covered them all. During my lunch breaks at work, I’d plan out my strategies for particular quests. And then, when I finished the game the second time, I played again, and…it sounds awful just typing this…I started a fourth game…and then, eep…a fifth. In my defense, I never finished the last two. I created the fourth character to play through the full “bad” path, but realized early on that I didn’t like being hated by everyone. Sad. And I never completed the fifth game because by then Mass Effect 2 had come out. (You should be happy to know that I’ve only played through that game once. Okay so, yessss, I started a second game but I haven’t finished it. And by the time I get around to finishing it Mass Effect 3 will probably be out, so there’s that.)
I put a whole lotta time into Mass Effect, and I certainly don’t regret a single hour; but I know that I probably didn’t need to play multiple times. Frankly, the different storylines all led to generally the same place. Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, eventually the story just has to end. Thus, I hereby close this chapter on Mass Effect.
But lordy, I so cannot wait for Mass Effect 3!!