By John Walker on July 20th, 2011 at 10:36 am.
As if I needed any further proof that other people are wrong, BioWare have revealed to VG247 that only 18% of Mass Effect players pick the lady Shepard. With the obviously better choice finally getting recognised by the game’s marketing, that less than a fifth of gamers pick the Jennifer Hale-voiced heroine genuinely surprises me. Because, well, girls are best.
It does raise the matter of who plays who. There are so many different arguments and rationales for which style of character you choose to be in a game. Clearly it makes sense that if games are opportunities to live out fantasies, then why not play the giant, muscley hero man? But, I would whimper in response, such an unsophisticated stereotype offers nothing of interest to me – generally the only option to avoid steroid-induced hulkiness in a game is to pick the girl. That way at least I have the option of both strength and some threads of humanity. Then I look at the success of Gears Of War and realise that I’m not exactly in the majority.
Although if I’m honest, my motivations aren’t exclusively pure. The other big factor is: whose bum do I want to stare at for 30 hours? The MMO I spent the most time with – City Of Heroes – was in the pleasant company of Nitefall’s curvy purple bottom. Whereas Jim only ever saw Andov’s robot-bot. Again, this clearly isn’t a prominent factor in most players’ decision making. I am clearly an over-sensitive pervert.
Of course Mass Effect is a little different. If you want to play a sensitive male Shepard, that’s an option. Just as you can be hard-angry LadyShep. And in light of finding out 82% of players pick the boy, it finally makes sense that he’s all you’ve ever seen in the advertising. Or is it because he’s all you see that people think he’s the more “correct” choice? Oh, I don’t know! I do know, however, that it’s been extremely strange as a FemShepper to have watched the trailers and promotional material for Mass Effect 2 and 3 featuring a central character I absolutely don’t recognise.
Interestingly, the VG247 article reports that this huge favouring of the ManShep is not because people just go with the default character. They report that… well, they report some rather odd maths so I’m not quite sure which figure is correct:
“But Silverman revealed that only 13 percent of Mass Effect players use the default Commander Shepard: the remaining 83 percent customise their hero, changing class, abilities, appearance – and gender.”
Perhaps 4% of players just can’t cope with the choice and never get past the character creator? Anyhow, it means that people are deliberately designing their own Shepard, but in the massive majority not taking away his penis.
It does leave me with one appeal. Jennifer Hale does the most wonderful job voicing the Shepardess (she was also Bastila in KotOR), and it saddens me greatly that four-fifths of players are never hearing her performance. Clearly if you played Mass Effects 1 and 2 with a boy, you’re going to carry that boy over into the third. But perhaps just roll a female character to give it a listen. Then you can kick yourselves for what you’ve been missing out on. (It’s probably important to note at this point that the exact same can be said right back to me, since I’ve no experience at all of Mark Meer’s performance.)