Commander Shepard can be anyone, even your Mom

Mass Effect is an amazing achievement because it provides so many distinct narrative experiences. I played the trilogy as a Paragon (good) and a solitary playthrough of Mass Effect 2 as a Renegade (bad). The major components of the game are unchanged by your decisions, but the nuance of each playstyle has the ability to make them feel as though they are incredibly different. My impression of Shepard and my appreciation or dislike of other squad members was connected to how Shepard interacted with the world (based on the choices I made for her), but also how I approached the narrative (as a good or evil player). I haven’t even played the game as a man. I can’t imagine how my impression of the crew or squad would change if Kaiden Alenko was no longer the one that got away. The small dynamics in narrative and the ability to control them takes your understanding and your projections of the game and spits them back out at you for an amazing feedback loop.

Daniel Starkey writes about modeling Shepard after his mother:

When given the option, I chose to give her a rebellious streak, one marred with “bad” decisions while recalling tales of my mom’s alleged party prowess.  I thought an altruistic background would also be a good fit given my mom’s nature. I made her an Adept class, because I think if asked the quintessential late-night nerd question regarding what super power she would pick, she’d opt for whatever got her closest to being a Jedi. 

And here is the result of his projections:

My mom tried to never show weakness. She tried to suppress her own humanity so that she could be an unflinching symbol of perfection. I didn’t figure this out until I was past 20. I didn’t understand how little of herself she still had until I tried to live that life—however briefly – and burned myself out in a matter of months.

Shepard was burning out too. She’d been resolute and she’d been unyielding, but you can only wear that mask for so long. The game was drawing to a close, and I knew how it was going to end. I knew what was going to happen.

Static narrative presents a character and has us draw on similarities from our own lives. An interactive and dynamic narrative allows us to shape the characters to similarities in our own lives. This is one of those incredible abilities of videogames and one that makes the medium so distinct.