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[Gamer Diary] Mass Effect 3: Presenting a fairer image?

2012 March 26

As is no secret, the final instalment in the Mass Effect trilogy was released on 9th March after months of buildup and anticipation. People weren’t just excited to see what would happen – Bioware & EA also caused a bit of a stir with their marketing this time around. Here I’m going to look at trailers and the game’s packaging to see whether the good-fuss about their efforts to make a more gender-balanced campaign is well-deserved.

Meet the Shepards

The Trailers

You may remember that when I first burst onto the pages of BadRep I was talking about RPG advertising and the distinct lack of women in these trailers, despite the games’ built-in capability for you to play as a female protagonist. I mentioned Mass Effect advertisements, and no sooner had I criticised them than they announced they’d make a ‘FemShep’ trailer and let the fans vote on what she’d look like. So I thought it’d only be right to address the marketing of ME3 before I tell you all about the game itself.

The first glimpses we saw of Mass Effect 3 didn’t show a female Shepard; actually, they barely showed a male Shepard either (but he was still there) – we were simply teased with the knowledge that the war was coming to Earth. Notably, the voiceover doesn’t say “if he doesn’t bring help” but just says “Shepard” to avoid any issue of gender. But then you see male Shepard… so, er, kinda redundant there.

When they first showed everyone FemShep, to me, the trailer didn’t have the same production quality that it could have had, but they made this up with later offerings, such as those below.

Next we have the Take Earth Back pair of trailers; one male and one female. These two did good. They’re the same, just with a different version of Shepard in each. There’s no making one look cooler, or more badass, than the other, and that’s great. The pity is, though, that TV channels didn’t really seem to pick up FemShep’s version – I only ever saw the male version being broadcast.

Then we get to launch day and they start pushing the ‘Launch Trailer’, and as far as I can discover, there’s only one version: Male Shepard (or BroShep)’s version. This might not be too bad; there’s a lot of female characters shown – Ashley, Liara, Jack, Miranda etc – and that’s more than a lot of games can say at the moment. The thing that ruins it, though, is the (totally unnecessary) sex snapshot of Shepard bedding Ashley, who is the woman fighting beside you in the T.E.B. trailers I linked above.

Of course, it could be argued that having that in the trailer shows how you can romance your team-mates if you so desire and that it’s an all-inclusive RPG experience. But it really isn’t necessary and is completely discordant with the rest of the trailer.

The Packaging

Here I can only talk about my box when it arrived, so there may have been people receiving differently presented games. When my game arrived the sleeve insert (that paper thing that slips under the plastic on the box) was displaying a proud BroShep on the front and back. I was a bit disappointed as I’ve never really thought much about Template BroShep’s appearance as part of my gaming experience.

It wasn’t until I had to insert Disc 2 while loading the game that I discovered FemShep hiding underneath the disc! The cover is reversible, so you can have FemShep on the front and on the back (though the screenshot inserts are still BroShep) if you take the insert out and flip it around. Obviously, I did this immediately so I didn’t have to look at his smug face anymore. The reversibility is great, but you have to realise it’s available and then you have to do it yourself.

Have they done well, then?

I think they have, but there’s a bit of improving yet to do – not for Mass Effect, as the trilogy is now complete, but for other titles following in its footsteps.

The male interpretation of an either/or, binary choice, RPG protagonist is still the default in marketing, it seems. There may well be more male gamers buying these titles, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to see all a game can offer.

I’m really very pleased that the marketing strategy has improved – at least for this game – and I’m hoping it’ll continue to do so for other releases this year and in the future. It is a real treat to see FemShep kicking some bottoms in that Take Earth Back trailer, and I hope we’ll see lots more awesome female protagonists to come.

As a side note: for those of you waiting to see a review, it’s coming – I’m just being extra thorough. And yes, I will talk about that ending and the ensuing furore.

One Response leave one →
  1. March 29, 2012

    Just as a point of information. It was heavily in the marketing and press coming out of bioware/EA that femshep was going to be on the cover of the game (albeit on the reverse of the default male shep). I subscribed to way too many youtube/rss feeds on gaming news just to hear about ME3. I found the lesson from playing ME2 and ME3 is that you get treated differently on the basis of your gender (i.e. Garrus doesn’t fancy my broshep :( )

    I know your review is coming up soon, but I do want to share that i am looking forward to enkindling my gay relationship with Kaidan in my second play. It’s so cool to have a game embrace male homosexuality. Shame about the ending…

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