Mass Effect, or Why Video Games Mean Something (To Me)

My deepest, darkest shame, is that I didn’t play Mass Effect until 2013, but in one hundred and fifty hours my life changed in the most bizarre, and magical ways. While most of that could be that I found myself attracted to a blue, bird-like alien, it was more about my perception of the world, and of myself. In 2013 I had hit the lowest of points in terms of my mental health; I had been forced to move away from the people I loved to live secluded in regional Victoria, with nothing but my Xbox 360, and a series of games I knew very little about, other than I got to explore space.

I entered this incredible world not knowing to expect, and while video games have always been a way of escaping for me, it was nothing quite like this. Depression is hard, and anxiety is hard, I wasn’t medicated, I was alone with nothing but awful thoughts and a hatred of everything my life had become, till I became Commander Shepard. For what felt like the first time in my life I had some kind of control. I got to be this flawed human, that despite their mistakes, was still strong, and brave, and didn’t let anything get in their way. I wasn’t allowed to hate myself, because I was Commander Shepard, and I was needed to save the universe from the impending threat of destruction. When I would pick up that controller, I became someone I admired, and that admiration of Shepard slowly leaked into my every day life. The way that I would handle my issues changed; I strived every single day to be someone that could bear the name Shepard, and I know that it may sound ridiculous, but it helped. Shepard wouldn’t cry because she dropped her mug, she wouldn’t cry because she was faced with a task she didn’t want to do. Being Commander Shepard gave me the strength to step outside of my comfort zone and to stop holding myself back from my potential. Shepard was needed, and I was needed, because without me, this universe would end, these characters that I had made impossibly deep connections to needed me.

Mass Effect was the biggest factor into getting my life back on track; Commander Shepard pushed me to take the steps I needed to take, and to do what needed be done to help my mental health. Every day I am grateful to this series, and that it helped me long enough that I get to see Mass Effect: Andromeda. I get to explore space once again. Video Games are an incredibly powerful form of media, that gives us such a vast variety of ways to experience stories, and have made an impact on more lives than just mine. Not everyone plays games to escape to a new reality, and that isn’t required for them to have an impact on your life, but what Mass Effect did for me is something I’ve struggled to put into words. As players, we get to experience lives that we could never have expected to live, and it’s magical.

I’m not sure if I’ve been successful in conveying what video games mean to me, but I can only hope that you understand. Regardless of opinions on endings (which I enjoyed), the Mass Effect universe, this story, these characters, the romances, made such an impact on my life in a way I could never have expected, and I’m eternally grateful for that. Before Mass Effect, there were stories that I loved, games that I loved, but I didn’t know games could make me feel the way that I did. Games are important, they can be amazingly immersive, interactive stories that give us the ability to do otherwise impossible things, and that’s why video games mean something to me. This post was intended for N7 Day 2016, but here we are a few months later. This is my Mass Effect story, what’s yours?

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