Unexpected Consequences of Plot

2010, March 22nd 9:00 PM

Last night I found myself unable to stop thinking about Mass Effect 2. Not about to the gameplay, or the plotline. I just couldn't get my mind off the bizarre social effects that the universe implies.

For a bit of backstory, the critical bits of plot go like this. Humans join a galactic civilization with a bunch of alien species. One species is a bunch of blue women who sleep with other races.

Alright. First off, this is obviously only "the critical bits of plot" for the purposes of this particular blog post. I'm not arguing that. Second, the Asari aren't technically women, it's a single-sex race, but, come on:

That's female.

Now, it's reasonably clear in the game that Asari are bisexual. But humans, as far as we know, generally aren't. Humans tend to be heterosexual. I'm pulling this claim out of nowhere but I feel reasonably confident in it. So take the human race as it stands today, and then, out of goddamn nowhere, introduce an entire new race full of reasonably attractive and sexually compatible females.

What the hell does this do to gender balance? People are worried about China's gender balance, which is leaning 55% male. Even assuming the Asari population is no larger than Earth's, this leaves us with a stunning 75% female ratio. And according to the chronology, the Asari were colonizing space before the rise of the Persian Empire! Human growth rate is around 1% right now. Let's assume the Asari have a growth rate a mere tenth of that – 2500 years of growth leaves the Asari with more than twelve times the population of Earth.

(If you assume they actually have a 1% growth rate, then each male human could have literally an entire planet full of Asari women while still occupying less than 10% of the entire Asari population. Though I admit "occupy", despite the somewhat misogynistic double entendre, isn't really the right word when there are twice as many women on your planet as you'll have heartbeats in your life.)

"Oho," I hear you saying, "but why would the Asari mate with humans?" Well as of the time of Mass Effect, an Asari mating inside their species is considered a mark of shame. So basically you have a civilization of a hundred billion females who want nothing more than to breed with aliens. Now, in their defense, they're not picky about gender – but humans are, and I don't see that changing without some truly unbelievable cultural shifts. Not the kind of thing that would happen in a mere five hundred years, I feel.

"But wait! What about other species?" Yeah, sure, the Asari mate with other species too. No arguments there. It happens. There's the species of giant armor-plated killing machines that weigh a literal ton each and are infertile. There's the species of lizard men whose food is poison to most other races. There's the species of . . . well, we don't know what they are exactly under the biological containment suit, besides "humanoid", but we do know that even opening the suit for a few seconds is incredibly dangerous for them. And then there's the species that doesn't consider it "incredibly dangerous" but rather "instantly fatal".

And there's the floating luminescent jellyfish.

If you were an alien, and I showed you pictures of all the Mass Effect 2 races, and asked which were most likely to be sexually compatible, you'd pick the Drell, the Asari, and the Humans. And the Drell are nearly extinct. And they don't travel much.

Bioware, I love you guys. I really do. But did you stop to think for a second about the social consequences of this?

GDC 2010: Aftermath and New Beginnings

2010, March 14th 10:05 PM

I spent most of last week at the Game Developers Conference.

It was fantastic, because it always is – it's a solid week of jamming new game development knowledge in my head, and, y'know, there's nothing bad to be said about that. There were many good talks. Talks about game philosophy. Talks about game design. Talks about game implementation. Talks about marketing. Talks about business models. Talks about target users and monetization.

I realized, somewhere in the middle of these talks, why I was having trouble moving forward. It was because I was moving to the iPhone, not because I was excited about the iPhone, but because I was trying to sell a game. A game which – let's be honest – I wasn't really excited about either. I wasn't working on what I loved. I wasn't working on what I'd gone into this crazy industry for in the first place.

I was trying to change from an artist to a producer. And I'm not a producer. My business cards say "Director", but I'm not sure even that is accurate. I'm an artist, and games are my canvas.

When I talk about the people I respect most in the industry, I don't talk about the people making 99-cent iPhone games with three million downloads. I don't talk about thirty-million-player Facebook games, or the latest Madden game. I talk about Cactus. I talk about Johnathan Blow. I talk about Derek Yu. I talk about Jenova Chen.

I talk about the people who make the game they want to make. And, sure, they pay attention to marketing, to business, to target users. But in the end, I think these people all make games they're proud of, and they all make games that are meaningful beyond the next five minutes of our collective attention span. And that's what I want to do.

I'm still going to be doing my monthly experimental games, at least for the immediate future (and, hell, I've only got three months until I've been doing this for a year, it'd be a shame to stop now.) But I think it's time to buckle down and make something that I can be proud of, and I think it's time to start making waves and trying to wrench myself into the public eye instead of running dark.

If I'm gonna be a rock star, it's time to start acting like one.

2010 is a good date for that.