Geekheart Guidance: The "right way" to replay video games

It's no secret that I'm a HUGE fan of the Mass Effect video games. Still, I was surprised when someone e-mailed me for game-related counsel. Wow! I've secretly always wanted an advice column. Welcome to "Geekheart Guidance." <3

The issue at hand is the replay value of massive, open world video games with lots of choices. Titles like Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Fallout can be huge investments of time. I think the below struggle comes up for many gamers. So, with permission, I'm sharing the query (and it's answer, of course:)

"Ever since you did your article on the galaxy's favorite Salarian, I've wanted to play through the Mass Effect trilogy again. It's one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had. But my question is... how? Games like Mass Effect leave you so entrenched in making the story yourself, I feel like I'd end up making all the same choices again, just so I'd tell the story 'right.' How do you recommend approaching something like that, so I can still have fun and not feel like the story is being told 'wrong?'

Sleepless on the Citadel"

Thanks for writing. I'm honored that you would consider me an expert on what I think might be the greatest video game trilogy of all time. ...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

As far as I see it, you have two options- and neither is "Don't play the games again."

Option 1: Roleplaying. My first Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Fallout playthroughs all saw me acting as myself. I tried to make realistic choices that I would make in real life. It seems you did, too, as you've created a "right" Mass Effect story in your mind.

Remember, though, that many people consider these games roleplaying games. No, they don't have turn-based combat like classic Final Fantasy titles. They do, however, put you into fantastic worlds with incredible characters. You're playing a fictional character. This fictional character can be nice and heroic, or totally evil ("renegade," in Mass Effect's case.)

You can look at Mass Effect (or any game) as a theatrical exercise. This allows you to build a character intensely different from you. Decide ahead of time what biases they have. Maybe they hate aliens, are scared of the Rachni, or are particularly attracted to redheads (Hellooooo Kelly Chambers!) Write these details down.

As you play, remember the characteristics you've decided upon. Make THOSE choices. You won't be telling your first Shepard's story, but you'll be telling the "right" story for this other, newly-minted Shepard. It may even be cathartic!

Option 2: Enthusiastically make your exact same choices. I understand your concern- I really do. With so many conversations and outcomes you probably haven't seen in Mass Effect, it may feel like a waste to play it the same way again. It isn't.

We want to play games over because we LOVE them. You loved your experience with Mass Effect. There's no shame in duplicating that positive time.

We watch the same movies and listen to the same songs over and over. We don't expect those things to change, no matter how many replays we engage in. Video games- even ones with choices- can also be treated this way. If one kind of Mass Effect brings you joy, feel free to ride the ride again.

...and you can always watch parts you missed on YouTube.


If you liked this, I'm totally up for more questions! Write to geekgirlchicago(at)gmail(dot)com. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and with an e-mail subsription. Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

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