It’s not a favor. It’s for Paragon points.

Need help? My default setting is “yes,” a real curse when I’ve promised myself yet again to avoid extra chores and folks under the gun asking for “just one more favor, pretty please?”

Maybe it’s a nurtured impulse to always, fucking always, do the right thing, or maybe it’s just an ego-driven need to be needed. Nothing pretty about desperation, and I suppose I should be the one to help them out. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.

And while saving the world one favor at a time fills up my Google Calendar and oft times pushes my own work and priorities to the, well, not even back burner… the microwave, it’s made me a naturally obsessed Mass Effect player.

What’s this? Yet another side mission from someone I just met? Sign my ass up. You need me to take out a Krogan merc? I can kill mercs. +2 Renegade Points.

Points for Renegade choices and its other, more noble half Paragon… this was the genesis of the lens I look through nowadays.

Play enough of a game, and it’ll follow you around. Remember that month you spent on GTA: Vice City and then you almost broke into every car you saw and got (even more) nervous around cops until you were a clip outside their radar? Reluctantly, me too.

And now, like in Mass Effect, I immediately see every conversation as a many branched path that can – if I wish to be a Paragon – end with the blue colored choice of agreeing to help someone, inspiring them, or simply being compassionate. Or the red Renegade option of being a total dick with pithy comebacks and more violent cut scenes. Or neither option. The dialogue wheel also gives me the choice of non-commitment, nice enough, or polite refusal.

This has been my major attraction to the game: “good” and “bad” ain’t no sliding scale like in such games as in Knights of the New Republic, but are recognized on separate recordings – being a bad ass in one situation doesn’t take away from the kindness you exhibit in another. Simultaneous sinner and saint. An Xbox generated Augustine of Hippo.

But every choice I make in that world creates a new universe of possibilities, unexpected happy and sad outcomes, alliances and enemies. Choosing to download a piece of research data in game 2 – the Renegade choice, ironically – is the only thing that let’s you save the life of a great leader in game 3. Performing a loyalty task for one character gives you the option of later dancing like an idiot with them at a night club.

Constantly thinking, “how could this seemingly tiny choice completely change my character’s future?” makes me view my own life as endless series of structured choices and possible end results. A good chess-master view of interacting with others. Trying to see seven steps ahead before you respond.

If I’ve been playing Mass Effect long enough in a day, I can almost see a dialogue wheel pop up on the edge of my vision when someone engages me.

“Hey! I just met you via this random introduction from a mutual friend, but I really need your help saving this project! I can’t pay you, but it’s a cool thing we’re doing.”

Let me pause here for a moment and reflect what could happen.

If I say yes, six months from now they could offer to pay me for a project of my dreams. Or in a year they could be the connection to a great venue. Or they could just assume I’ll bend over backwards for them, continually bug me with more requests, disrespect my efforts because they’re not paying for them, and generally be twats.

+8 Paragon is a good enough reason I suppose. Now where’s that extra paramour scene?

Cartoon credit

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