Friday, August 12, 2011

Mass Effect is one of the best game series out there with Mass Effect 2 being one of the best games I have ever played (3 times). The game boasts stellar visuals, amazing gameplay, engaging characters and a main protagonist that is very nearly perfect. Especially because you can make that character your own by customizing the look with a robust creation editor within the games.

The main character is named Commander Shepard and in all of my playthroughs I create a female Shepard or FemShep as the internet has called it lately. In my mind (as a man who likes looking at attractive women) I wanted to look at a female for my 30-40 hour experiences with the character. She is a phenomenal character because she is battle hardened, reacts in amazing ways to adversity and the voice acting by Jennifer Hale is spot on. My Commander Shepard kept her scars from the rebuild process in Mass Effect 2, had a fairly angular face and shoulder length dark red hair. She also wore understated lipstick and some eye makeup. My thought was that, yes she is a tough as nails commander, fights giant aliens with her bare fists (seriously), but she is also a passionate person. She pursues relationships because she has no fear of death, embraces life and wants to look and feel attractive when she can because she chooses to.

Take me for example, I am a male who takes care of himself. I try to stay in shape, wear nice clothes have well groomed hair and goatee, that is me. I will take the time to make sure I look OK before I leave for work, who is to say Commander Shepard doesn’t as well? Many people seem to have a different opinion based on the backlash after Bioware decided to have a vote for the ‘official’ look of the female Commander Shepard. See for Mass Effect 3 Bioware has decided that the Female Shepard will finally be officially promoted in commercials and on the collector’s edition box. And like any business minded company they wanted media attention so they had a vote for the look of Female Shepard. Frankly I wasn’t Keen on any of them (because they don’t look like mine!), but if I had to choose it would be these two:

Instead the unwashed Masses (harhar), chose FemShep 5 who is blonde, pretty and hated by many in the gaming world:

While I would not have chosen this model as it is not my visual ideal for Commander Shepard (where are her scars dammit!) I certainly don’t despise it for some of the reasons the internet does. ‘She looks more like someone who would do her nails instead of saving the galaxy’ ‘Being blonde there is no way she could command a team’ ‘it looks like a wind can blow her over, she looks stupid’ and many other similar thoughts echo around this decision.

Hey Internet! Just because a woman is blonde doesn’t make her stupid, Just because a woman is attractive do not assume she is not capable, and for God’s sakes assuming a female Shepard is dumb because women couldn’t save the galaxy just makes you a waste of air. The character of Commander Shepard will not change because she is represented by a pretty blonde, her voice and actions will remain the same and she will kick ass just like Ellen Ripley did many times, in fact I would place my Commander Shepard above any female heroine out there any in point see the fist fight at 5:20 and later in this video:

It is pretty fantastic that Bioware is going to feature an official Female Shepard in the media for Mass Effect 3. They tried to do it in a way that the public chooses the face of the FemShep and the Internet chose FemShep 5. Maybe it was non Mass Effect fans, maybe it was and they wanted a blonde, either way I think it is great that there will be a female line of ads. And to all the outraged kids out there who are furious that their beloved franchise will be tainted by this ‘blonde bimbo’ Shepard I have to ask why you are angry? It must be the ingrained superiority complex that the anonymity of the Internet gives to certain people because at the end of the day I am sure you will do one of three things:

1 – Import your Commander Shepard from the past two games (I will)
2 – Create your own Commander Shepard variant
3 – Use the male version of Shepard (as apparently 87% of players did) and it is a moot point cause you like generic looking male soldier characters.

So stop whining, get over it and when the kick ass ads with a possibly blond but still very determined, deadly and dangerous FemShep appear be prepared to eat your complaints.


X said...

I agree with you that the reasons you've cited for people disliking the new Shepard are infuriating (‘She looks more like someone who would do her nails instead of saving the galaxy’ ‘Being blonde there is no way she could command a team’, etc.); I also agree it's great that Bioware is finally putting a female Shepard on any promo merchandise at all.

There may be an element going unaddressed here, though, which is that the Shepard chosen (pretty, blonde, etc.) is also what you've described wanting in your own games: a Shepard that the presumed straight male audience likes looking at. A lot of the arguments, both pro and con, assume that the new FemShep should be pleasing to that audience. What I'm hearing from some women (& gay male) gamers is: "Why must she look like a Barbie doll? Why do we keep advancing the same white-privilege images over and over again? Must this American blonde-haired, blue-eyed ideal always prevail?" Personally, I'm just going to keep playing with my own custom Shep (who has no makeup at all, thankyouverymuch!), and I'll be happy to see some publicity material that doesn't star the same dude as always. The suggestion I've seen that I liked the best, though (and I can't remember where I read this, sorry) is for Bioware to produce promo materials that feature a range of different Shepards, rather than just picking a white hero for each.

Jericho said...

The Blonde, blue eyed female choice is not a surprise to me as the game is the most successful in North America (70% of sales are there for the game).

From my perspective I don't like the blonde barbie version (look at mine she is scarred and angular, but with some eye makeup :)), but I understand why the primarily male and north american audience picked her.

X said...

I understand why the primarily male and north american audience picked her.

Yeah, no one's disputing that -- I think we all understand it. The thing is that when Bioware sets up that sort of "There Can Be Only One" scenario, and then asks the web to vote, we're inevitably going to get whatever the straight (white) male audience picks. Those with alternate backgrounds and preferences are drowned out, as usual, basically making blonde, blue-eyed Shep a poster child for the larger issues facing the game industry. :) That's why multiple "canon" Shepards (both male and female) would be -- to me -- so much more inclusive. I think Bioware's moving in the right direction; I'd just like to see them shift another inch.

Jericho said...

I agree completely actually, if you look at their actual characters Bioware is very good as showing diversity and original looks for characters (that cross gender and racial boundaries), this being a mass market game the humanoids are going to be attractive but at least they show that they are not just barbie dolls. I think if they were choosing the 'official' FemShep on their own it would have been pretty close to ideal


At the same time Bioware is now owned by EA which is a massive company and wants even more mainstream people playing the games, so they had this contest. And they promoted it in places that typical players of the series do not visit, hence the publicity, the voting pattern and in the end, more attention on the title.

They got what they wanted, some of us hate it, but mostly everyone who is interested knows about it. Fir good or ill the public has spoken and given us what every sitcom seems to have, a formulaic blonde, but at least she will still have Shepards personality and not Kelly Bundy's!

Jericho said...

Reading again, I actually don't agree completely, for good or ill on the design we need one official Shepard. The goal is to have a consistent look and feel in the marketing and if there are five different looks and feels for the character in the marketing you lose that impact. While I don't like the blonde I want all the trailers and commercials to have the one consistent look. I mean as much as I hate the generic buzzcut square jaw male Shepard I recognize and identify him as Commander Shepard because he was consistent from the start.