Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I made it!

I'm not inside my own mind today... and I have university to thank for that.

6 am every morning my body subconsciously stirs me from slumber. I look around, the sunight defies my internal clock and I have the inclination to shower and make breakfast. It's not until a thought that no, no, you're done Bryce... you can go back to bed. That thought sets in and then it's safe to resume sleep for another hour or two.  I am allowed to kill the urgency.

When you consider the semantics of the term, full-time study it doesn't set in at first. As a twenty-five year old re-entering the educational paradigm there was a certain feeling I couldn't quite escape. This force of reminder that I was somewhat out of place. First-year studies haven't changed in their focus too much  from when Universities were pushing me to attend them out of High School, transition is still a large focus of what they're trying to accomplish but to what end?

In the University of Manitoba, their "U1" program was what lured me to select that school over the University of Winnipeg. That and prestige, let's not beat around the bush about that. Anyway, the whole idea is that the university wants to make the first year of university as seamless as possible and as accessible and easy, etc, etc, etc. They do a very good job of achieving this but I feel it may be at the cost of the true impact of second year studies. Something I'll have to deal with next year to see if it is indeed true or not. My full-year classes that were each 6 credit hours had no mid-terms and no final, just annual exams throughout the two terms that served to equate to the two large tests. I liked this study but I feel that in subsequent years when classes are likely to have simply mid-terms and finals that I am not prepared for that... then again I didn't feel prepared to take the first year on and I handled that pretty well.

The biggest lesson I learned this year, which will help me in life and in my studies is this: You get what you put in to it. Any class, Art of Film, Philosophy, or Law and Power in Canada. I got what I put into the classes. When my papers lacked that extra hour or so of work my grades suffered. When I decided to skip that hour of study I thought about doing in the beginning of the day, my grades suffered. It was absolutely paramount, especially in the closing month, to make sure I was on top of my studies and when I wasn't I really paid the price. My GPA, with only one class yet to submit my final grade is 3.33, I got 2 B+'s and A+ and a C so I cannot complain about my grades, I passed my glasses so that's what counds in the end right? I expect I will get a high C to mid- B in Philosophy so that might take a bit of a hit but I'm happy with that. I didn't reach my goal of the Dean's Honours (3.55 GPA) but I think it is still respectable. First year, out of the educational system for over half of a decade. I am happy with this and if anyone asked me what to expect in their first year of university I would tell them this. Expect to work your ass off!

The pressures most certainly got to me with time. I want to believe that next year I can avoid the breakdown of epic proportions I experienced prior to finals. Emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted I pretty much lost control of myself and that carried through a few days of the weekend. I've never experienced such an overwhelming sensation of emotion. The stress is the thing that can be most easily managed by simply staying on top of the work that needed to be done. It's like I said, you decide "well I'll take this afternoon off" and you will pay for it. I did, it caught up to me because I got cocky and well when I saw the list of tasks stacking up beyond anything I had in front of me so far this year I kind of shut down and broke like a robot. It wasn't easy and thank god Natasha was there to keep me somewhat grounded. She said it best to me when I finally felt confident enough to tell her about my problems because I was worried that I might fail Psychology. When that became a reaslistic possibility, everything else was magnified. If I fail Psychology, what else might I fail? (Psychology was my C grade, by the way)

"What did I tell you before you began your studies this year?" She said to me.

"I don't remember..." I said honestly.

"I said, don't hate yourself if you don't get an A..."
The most important thing was something I had lost sight of. I have huge goals, I want to see this through to the end and who knows, maybe have a doctorate when it's all said and done. Isn't that why everyone goes to university? Overwhelmed by this quest of education, and my personal standard of quality that I've tried to maintain throughout the year. It was clear I was placing too much pressure on myself. I hope that's something I can keep sight of next year, and the years to come as the work loads are only going to get bigger. It's more important to stay on top of it and not only that, but to be able to accept a grade that may not be to my preference. I busted my ass on my Film paper to get an A-. That chuffed the shit out of me at first but now I like to think of it as my "George Michael Moment"

I don't get any ice cream for that :).

So as school transitions into the summer work period, I have to wait until June to declare as an 'arts major' and then at some point in the summer I will find out my registration time. Hoping my GPA helps me get a better selection period than my high school GPA did. I know that the studies I'm considering are very competitive. If I could go back, I would much rather have taken that night class 7-10 PM Tuesday nights and toughed that out instead of doing the online component Psychology class. It's so much material, that proper lectures would've really helped me. Then again, I know myself, and I know the temptation to say "fuck it..." and not go to the 7pm lecture, or to leave the lecture early, would have been too great.

Those kinds of sacrifices could be the difference between me staying on top of my shit or having an episode like Margot Kidder...

So yeah, that's the summary thoughts of first year. I can breath again, I don't need to worry about "Oh... I should be studying right now." during every single moment of my life.

At least... not until September.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Half Way There

I'm not inside my own mind today... Yesterday I had my first and only (this semester) university final which means it's officially Christmas Holiday for me. Not to rub it in or anything like that....

It's been an experience for sure and I'm looking forward to adapting my study habits with the rest of the year so that I can do myself some flavors and avoid having to write a paper in two days or study for an exam in only a few days. Lets just say they stress 'time management' in the orientations for a reason though their efforts to hammer that home clearly fell deaf to my ego as I am always firmly in the belief that I'm in control of whatever circumstances that befall upon me.

University of Manitoba is interesting, it's a smaller school obviously but it's a neat campus, they try to rally the troops and get the school spirit going, a lot of students wear  U of M sweaters and t-shirts and hoodies so they're certainly selling the product. They had these baby blue sweaters (the school's colours are brown and yellow, by the way) that I liked but they didn't have them when I had the money to buy one. Alas...

All of my classes are interesting. Philosophy is interesting in particular. I'm wondering what I will get on my paper, regardless, things have kind of shifted gears. The year started out with Logic which was rather mathematical in essence and then to transition from that to full on philosophy was kind of jarring at first. It's a challenging class in regard to thinking about what you really believe in and what you stand for and assessing the moral and ethical parameters of that is kind of fun.

Psychology was as I predicted a struggle only because of the online component. It was take the partial lecture / partial online class or take the three hour night class. I picked what I felt was the lesser of two evils as I knew although I could be more focused with the night class, a three hour lecture after 6pm is not ideal. Its making the time to listen to the lectures online (I can listen to them on my iPhone, I recently learned...) has been challenging. Once I get home, I want to chill. Of course, this class as a priority I've been diligent but I need to be more-so.

Sociology is fun. My professor is a self-professed "tree hugging" marxist who has some pretty strong feelings toward the oil and gas industry and toward consumerism too. He isn't radical but he isn't shy about his opinions either and he's very conscious to differentiate the two. I think I've learned the most from this class about a lot of different things. It's been a lot of fun.

Lastly, Film Studies. I got an A- on my final paper. I know how George Michael feels now. It was a fun class and it was the class I had the final for. It was a great opportunity to see some films I would never have watched otherwise and even watch a couple of my favorite movies, Punch Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. It's morphed the way I watch movies now, I don't care if that sounds corny (it does) but I do have a new appreciation of movies that I didn't have before. I am still pretentious with my movie tastes, I don't see that changing.

I have politics in the coming semester, it will be interesting. It's a class about Canadian politics in particular so I'm looking to hopefully learn some things in that class. I've always felt strong about my political opinions but also kind of ignorant as well. I feel like I'm in the perfect position to finish the year strong and my goal of Honors is in sight. I know it's kind of nerdy but I got honors in high school regardless of the fact that pretty much everyone got honors in my grad class, I just want to keep that train rolling.

I'm looking forward to the holiday, to a little relaxation, and who knows, with the 21st approaching maybe this will be my last entry. I'm sure I'll break the laws of life and death and find a way to blog from beyond the grave...

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Legend Ended In IMAX

I'm not inside my own mind today... You can thank Christopher Nolan and company for that.

Last Night I saw The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX.




It felt like I was witnessing something special. In my heart, I'm skeptical that a filmmaker with the imagination, and the cinematic prowess that Christopher Nolan has will ever make a superhero film again, much less a Batman movie. This trilogy was bigger than Star Wars for me. The Dark Knight was like Empire Strikes Back, as far as the Star Wars metaphor was concerned. It had the big moments, and it set the tone for what was to come in Return of The Jedi

The Dark Knight Rises was everything it needed to be and more.

WAS it better than The Dark Knight? No... but it certainly wasn't far off.

To compare Dark Knight Rises to The Dark Knight is almost like directly comparing Return of The Jedi to Empire Strikes Back. It's almost un-fair to do so, you have to look at the movies for what they are and go from there.

For the sake of secrecy, I'm going to try my damnedest to refrain from spoilers here. I just have so much on my mind, I guess... I barely slept last night. All I could do was think about this movie. I had to accept that expectations are objective and they ruin movies. Leaving the theater, I was a bit chided boecause a couple of my predictions of the plot came true. They didn't come to be in a linear fashion, for that I thank Christopher Nolan, and in the context of the movie, the way it was pulled off was perfect I thought. It still happened and Christopher Nolan has always seemed to subvert my expectations with his imagination.

Don't get me wrong. That still happened, and it was glorious. I guess I've never predicted a Christopher Nolan movie, and I didn't predict what happened in DKR, just a couple plot points, so I needed time to get over myself in that regard. Here's some things

The Plot, the plot was great, an excellent send off to the Trilogy, and really gives the entire story a sense of closure, as a true third part to a trilogy should. I think it was a bit melodramatic at points, but it had to be to truly sell the scope of what was happening. I think, if there's anything to criticize its that there wasn't enough Batman. There's got to be a 2:1 ratio of scenes involving Bruce Wayne to scenes involving Batman. That's cool, but it's the only thing I have a real beef with. Some spotty CGI in parts doubled with a few moments where you really have to suspend your disbelief. It's a compelling tale that brings real drama to a Superhero world that deserves it.

Most comic book films are shallow explorations of the title characters, and excuse for explosions and action. Christopher Nolan brought depth and drama to a world that had never really got its due. You never saw that level of depth from Tim Burton, and especially not from Schumacher. Their films were about the spectacle of the Bat, more so than anything else. I think that's why I'm drawn to Nolan's trilogy as much as I am. It's a deep world for a fanboy like me to get lost into.

It's far from a perfect film, I think that honestly it might be the most flawed of any of the 3 movies but as a send-off to their story it did what it had to do. It had the over-the-top villain it required. Bruce Wayne learned to cope with loss, and learned to love again. There was character growth that you don't see from superhero movies very often unless its Iron Man learning to build a suit with temperature resistance.

The Dark Knight rose, indeed he did. I loved it, and I'm going to see it again in a couple of days. I need to think about it some more. I want to write a bigger blog about comparing the Dark Knight Trilogy to the Star Wars Trilogy (There's only one to true Star Wars fans...) In the end, I was very satisfied.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Canadian Youth Unemployment Rate of 14.8% is BULLSHIT

I'm not inside my own mind today... Thank the Globe and Mail for that.

After reading a recent article about Canada's 14.8% Youth Unemployment Rate... It got me to thinking, WHY could this be such an issue? I'm a youth, I'm turning 25, I've never had a problem finding a job and I'm even going to start attending university in September. Why are so many youth's having difficulties?

Could it be that they're lazy, unmotivated products of the Soccer Mom Generation that's coddled them to this point? Now that they're released unto the world that will NOT pat their bottoms and bend to their every whim like mommy did, they're finally getting a much needed reality check.

Could it be that the youth lack the drive, work ethic and attitude that employers want to see in potential employees? That they will turn to "mature" workers that they know will work for the money they're earning as opposed to a youth who doesn't even value the job they're trying to get?

The article in question centers around what it refers to as NEET's, Youth that are not in education, employment or training. It's actually kind of coincidental to me that this very angle the Globe is using to paint this sympathetic view of today's youth is the same angle I am using to show that Canada's youth today are lazy, unmotivated, and apathetic at large. As a youth who formerly, had no interest in going to university, it's a completely valid argument. High School destroys the drive to be educated in many teenagers (an entirely different argument all together) and it's hard to acknowledge that post-secondary education by and large is an entirely different beast. Training for jobs? You usually have to pay for that... so why bother?

The dangerous paradigm this creates is that, obviously, not ALL youth fall into this category. It's the gym class theory of one student ruining it for the entire class. We've all been there, working with someone in their late teen's or early twenties who simply coasts along. Let me rifle off some quotes and tell me if you've heard any of these ones before?

"I'm tired, I can't wait to go home..." - after they just got to work.

"Yeah I still live with my parents."

"I don't really plan on going to school" - even I was guilty of this for a long time.

Or a personal favorite "I'm going to get so stoned after work..."

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for an after work buzz on but I guess it depends on your priorities. When you get to work and all you think about is going home and getting high, there's an obvious lack of work ethic, or desire to work.

Could this percentage of Canadians (youth) who have been out of work for a year or longer be driven by the fact that they don't HAVE to work? That they still live in their parent's houses and they don't even need to pay rent? Could it be driven by the fact that many youth today simply don't show any drive to WANT to work? How are employers going to be anxious to hire a young person today when they see the younger people coming (and going) and barely working for their wages?

What about youth who barely persist to find a job? It surprises me the amount of people who have this to say about job hunting, "Well... nobody ever calls me."

OF COURSE THEY'RE NOT GOING TO CALL YOU! They want you to call them! Employers want to see that a potential employee WANTS to work. The article of course makes no attempt to even justify that youth ARE trying to find work and failing, just that they simply can't find work and they use one Winnipeg citizen as an example of a youth struggling at large to find work without any kind of justification to show HOW he's in the boat he's in. Granted, I should be pissed at shitty journalism over shitty youth but that's, again, a different argument for a different blog entry.

I was fortunate to get called up, and hired in the same day for a job ad I responded to on Kijiji. They saw I had a lot of cooking experience and coincidentally they needed a cook. On the side of that, I was courting (yeah I am using that term) three other potential employers for work. That's an example of my drive to work, and find work. Other than when I was living in Stellarton/New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, (which has a terrible economic state by the way) I've never had a problem finding work.

I'm sure anyone could think off the top of their head of a youth they work with, or have worked with who exemplifies a lack of values in work ethic. It's not rocket science at all. The youth aren't finding jobs because they don't WANT to. There are other factors, again, not all youth are at fault, but it's the ones that simply don't give a fuck that are ruining it for the ones that are trying to build their futures outside of their parent's basements. The 14.8% Youth Unemployment is a skewed statistic that lacks any kind of analysis but then again, I shouldn't be surprised coming from The Globe and Mail.

Until next time,


Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Crossroads

I'm not inside my own mind today... and hell, who is?

Today is Mother's Day so I'll take a moment to say Happy Mother's Day to everyone who endured having a tiny fetus in their belly for 9-ish months (unless you're Lucille Bluth) and raised a child. Congratulations are in order, today is a day to celebrate you but like every other day contrived to smother a certain someone with gratitude, you should always be thankful for your parents. You've only got the parents you've got for better or worse. I'm happy with mine.

My mom was always there for me, she still is. She never tried to make me be something that I never wanted to be, and that's the thing I love the most about my mom. Mom respected my independence, and not only that, she helped it flourish. This, among other things, is why I love my mom. She did what she had to do, and she always treated me like I was an adult. It didn't matter if I was 15, or 25...

Happy Mother's Day.

How do you top that, am I right?

Well, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. A lot of soul-searching, and a lot of thinking (yeah, I already said that.)

Nova Scotia has been an experiment, this is to be true. Like every experiment I've undergone in life, the hypothesis was proven futile. This was okay, in the end, I've met a lot of great people here and I think I've learned a lot about people, about Canada, and about the world.

What's next?

I want to go to University... Yeah that's fucking weird isn't it?

I made a pact with myself to get my shit together at 25... well, that's now fast approaching. What do I want to do? Hell, I don't really know. I think I want to get into Psychology. I've always been curious about the Human Mind. It's something really interesting, and as weird as it sounds, I may not "like" people in the traditional sense but I do like to help people, and I like to listen to people. Understanding the mind and how it works would improve my ability to understand and to help people. It's not what I imagined myself doing 10 years ago when they start to hammer home the point that "you need to think about your future!" in High School but that's kind of how it always goes, isn't it?

We will see... there is so much in the air, and as much as I would like to get started in the fall semesters I am not sure that's a realistic possibility at this time. I can't allow myself to get caught up in self-doubt. This is the first time in my life I've actually felt motivated to go to school. I need to capitalize on this and go while I want to.

I'm sick of working shitty minimum-wage jobs, I'm sick of "the grind", and I am especially sick of being on the low end of the economic food chain, so to speak. That's one thing that's really stuck out here in Nova Scotia and that's helped my plight in regards to motivation. Living in Nova Scotia has helped motivate me to want to have a better life, because holy shit. So many people here are clawing and battling through day-to-day, trying to get to the next paycheck, that next grocery order, that next case of beer in some instances. It's a depressing place in that regard, and it's especially depressing to be caught up in the middle of it.

I'm mostly sick of busting my ass, and getting nothing out of it. At least the job I have now, I feel like I'm valued as an employee.

Let me digress momentarily.

I work at Swiss Chalet now, yeah, it's glamorous. It's not like Boston Pizza or White Spot, the restaurant jobs I had out west. Well it IS, but maybe being out of the kitchen for a couple years helped change my perspective.

The weirdest thing was being told "Good Job Bryce..."

Good Job?

To go from The Verge, where all you hear about is what you're doing wrong, what you're not doing, or what you could do better (the king of negative reinforcement, no wonder everyone there is miserable as shit.) to something like that.... I literally did not know how to take a compliment. To be told "Good Job." It's something I hadn't experienced in a long time. It's weird, not going to lie.

I've been there just over a month, and I still feel like I'm holding the kitchen back at times but I've only been there a month, so I'm still in the midst of the learning curve. I thought I would be more equipped to get "up to speed" in the kitchen because of my experience but I am used to working day shifts, so really, except for White Spot (which was YEARS ago now) I never really got to stand in the heart of the volcano, so to speak. It's been a big adjustment. I think if anything it's much less stressful than it could be because of my experience. The hours and pay aren't the greatest but hey, it's a job. At least I'm not unemployed.

So yes, I'm at a genuine crossroads of life. I'm engaged, about to be a married man in less than a year. I want to get on the path to building my career because as much as I like to daydream about being a Writer, it's hard when you're not writing. I also know there's not a large probability of success, or money. I always joked that I wanted to be a "Master of Journalism" ....

Well on this path I could become a Master of Psychology, and then some!


Friday, March 30, 2012

Mass Effect: Anticipation... (Part 3)

I'm not inside my own mind today... I recently completed Mass Effect 3 and it's like when LOST ended. Now its kind of like something's missing now that I have finished Mass Effect 3 and I know that there's not going to be more to the story. I got what I got.

If you want to know what I thought of the first two games, check out Parts 1 and 2... This will be for my thoughts on Mass Effect 3.

Again... SPOILER ALERT: I may discuss some details that some people would consider a spoiler. I will not ruin any parts of the game specifically however I may reveal important plot details that you would otherwise have to play the game to learn for yourself.
Now... Mass Effect 3 was tough because for the first time in the trilogy, I actually had to really WAIT to get my hands on it. I remember when the first teaser trailers went up, and right away it was like the excitement level was at 200%.

As I reference in part two, speculation made the wait for Mass Effect 3 borderline unbearable. I wanted to pre-order the collectors edition over a year before the game was even due out. I didn't pre-order the game, probably the best that I didn't. The anticipation was overwhelming. I was ready to finish the fight and save the galaxy.

Mass Effect 2 did not get a demo... Mass Effect 3 did. I played it, I was too eager not to. Like the game itself, the Demo took you through a brief character creation process and then thrust you into the first mission of the game. Then the game let you play parts of a mission that takes place quite a bit later in the game. This portion of the demo lets you play at a higher level in the mid 20's so you get to use your powers and your allies powers and get a better feel for the subtle changes they made in the combat of ME3.

The game came out and I was there on the front lines. The game doesn't pull any punches. Like the demo, the game begins with Reaper Forces invading Earth. You're fleeing Future Vancouver as the reapers are invading. You try to save this little boy, he's scared. You don't save him. This little boy serves as a beacon of... feelings... for the rest of the game. One of the vague sub-plots of psychological exploration that this battle and all the losses are starting to take a toll on Shepard.

Mass Effect 3 was, by and large, everything I wanted it to be. Did I get to unite the galaxy in a last ditch effort to save it? Yep! Do I get to see some old faces and make new friends along the way? Yep! Do I get to finish the fight! Yep!

Overall, and saying this without getting too personal, Mass Effect 3 accomplished what it needed to and was in no way a disappointment. That being said, it had its fair share of disappointments.

I can only speculate on production and all that. The game was delayed a good, what, six months? They took a lot of steps of fan service on this game and that is what I would like to speculate about.

To say Mass Effect Fans and BioWare have a "relationship" is almost not the best way to put it. Bottom line, Fans speak on BioWare's forum and they listen. They try their best and I think there is plenty of evidence in Mass Effect 3 that says the developers listened and tried to encorporate as many elements of fan service as they could. The best example of this is the relationship between Joker, the Normandy's pilot, and EDI, the Artificial Intelligence of the Normandy that gets its own body in Mass Effect 3 (she's one of the playable characters and one of the more interesting additions to the Cast). This relationship simply would not exist if the fans did not express their desire to see it happen. A lot of fans thought it would be a "cool" thing, and it happened. Something that belonged in the most obscure fan fiction became a reality in Mass Effect 3...

Anyway, my belief is that this relationship did more harm to Mass Effect 3 than good. I think BioWare was always aware of the huge expectations that this game had. They went to inordinate lengths to please the fans and in the wake of what I will call the EndingGate Scandal... I wouldn't be surprised if they went to more lengths to further please the fans in the wake of what I will refer to as ... moderate disdain from thee fan base over the ending of the game.

Now... again I can only speculate. I think that they had a list (maybe more figurative than literal) of moments or things they wanted to have happen to make sure you saw as many familiar faces as possible. This lead to some pretty random encounters which you can shrug off early on.

Now... I did a Lost comparison earlier. Lost, after season 4, kind of takes a turn that will lead it down the path it takes to the end of the show. I can't really explain that in more detail without writing an entire blog about LOST and... bla bla. How it relates is that Mass Effect 3's plot takes a similar path. The game starts out, like the show, rather open. Of course, the goal of "save the galaxy" is always there (this is where the lost parallel goes out the window) anyway. ME3 takes a turn toward the end of the game that steers the plot down a definite path.

Like Lost, the ending of Mass Effect 3 could not have played out without the foundation laid before it. I won't go into personal feelings or even spoil aspects of the ending because I think everyone should experience it for themselves. I think the ending of Mass Effect played out the way it did in part because they perhaps "wrote themselves into a corner" as it were with the game's plot or maybe unbeknownst to me, the plot meant to go that way. All I really want to say is that Mass Effect 1 and 2 had very meticulous plots and it was very clear how thought out those plots were. Mass Effect 3, as far as storytelling is concerned, lacks that, especially at the end of the game when it's most crucial.

For what it was, I liked the ending. It was a bit contrived, and it was certainly worth the backlash. I was about midway through the game when buzz of the ending became deafening. I took an impromptu break from the game. Partially because (due to re-playing ME 1 and 2 again) I had been on a months long Mass Effect spree and needed to play something else and partially because I didn't want my journey to end. I had no hang ups about the possibility of the ending not meeting my expectations but I was certainly hung up that my journey as Commander Shepard was coming to an end.

There was a particular part of the game that I had to re-play because the result of a choice I made was so horrific, to me at least, that I had to re-play an entire mission. A good hour of gameplay, just to make sure I got the result I wanted. That's how this story, and the characters in this game, have become so much to me that I would knowingly re-play a part of the game to have an outcome I find more pleasing rather than (knowing I can just re-play the game later) going with what outcome I was given. That's the only point in the 3 games I had to go back and do something over.

The choices you make in Mass Effect 3 are big. Galaxy saving big. It's only natural the game with the highest stakes would have some of the biggest choices for your Shepard to make.

The character development and character work of Mass Effect 3 is another thing that makes me question development because really, there's very little if not any character development outside Shepard himself (and maybe, The Illusive Man, EDI, and a couple other characters) the character impact is not nearly as prevalent in ME3 as it is in the first two games and that's not a big deal because Mass Effect 3 doesn't have to be character driven, it's been clear from the get go that this is where we fight the fight, and save the galaxy. There ARE the token character moments so it's not like the game is completely void of character growth, it's just that it takes a back seat.

Another thing that takes a backseat, unfortunately, are THE CHOICES YOU'VE ALREADY MADE... a lot of things just seemingly "happen" in Mass Effect 3 and given the games precedent for cause and effect, the gaffe of simply setting a course of action seems like a huge oversight...

Thematically, "fate" is kind of a big plot element of Mass Effect as a whole, maybe things play out the way they do because they needed to. Maybe it was fan service prioritized over something as simple as remembering who I chose to be the Human Councillor at the end of the first Mass Efffect game and oh... making sure that change is still reflected in the 3rd game just as it was in the 2nd? That's my biggest gripe and the only direct spoiler I will include. I hate how they retconned that, and there's a couple other little things too but anyway.

Mass Effect 3 was not perfect. As part of the series, I think it's the weak link just on basis of the way the game ends alone. As it stands, Mass Effect 3 was a very good video game, and had many points that define the entire series not just itself to stand apart from the other two.

The reason I started this 3 part "saga" out with mentioning Final Fantasy VII is because that the Mass Effect games evoked emotions in me that I haven't felt since playing that game, and frankly, emotions that I thought a video game would never evoke again. I developed a closeness to the characters that to see a character death is an utmost tragedy. Highs that  come with battle are emotional high's playing the game and the points where the stakes are highest are some of the most emotional points of the mass effect games. I felt the entire spectrum playing this game, and really what more could you ask from a video game experience?

If you're in to Science Fiction, or Video Games, or if you like Shooters, or hell, if you just like a good story, any and all of these are great reasons to start your own adventure as Commander Shepard and get a copy of the Mass Effect games for yourself. You won't be disappointed! Don't listen to the hype, or anti-hype, just play it and experience it for yourself. Coming to your own conclusions is infinitely more rewarding than not doing so because you read something that turned you off of the game. Mass Effect is literally a one of a kind video game and will likely go down as BioWare's defining accomplishment as Game Developers and that is as huge a compliment as I can think to give!

Mass Effect: Cause And ...Effect (Part Two)

I'm not inside my own mind today... This is part two of a, PROBABLY, three part blog on Mass Effect. Yeah it's going to take me a few blogs just to talk about ONE series of video games. I just completed Mass Effect 3, there's lots of buzz about that game so I'll just say to get the gist of part one, read it. I am kind of just taking off where I left off as this is part two.

WARNING: I will be discussing VAGUE plot elements. I will NOT be ruining any key moments of the game itself but I will be ruining points of the game per-se that you would otherwise have to play to find out about. General plot stuff, nothing too "WHY DID YOU RUIN THAT" okay? I promise!

SO... I just stopped Saren right? I'm Commander Shepard, on top of the world. Following the first game, you could say I was on a bit of a high. The game did a great job of making you feel like your efforts in the end of the game were really balls to the walls and that everything depended on what you did in those final moments. The drama, tension, it was perfect and really at that time was probably one of the best endings to a video game I had played, and since then, it stands as one of the best endings to a video game period in my opinion.

There was also a eagerness because now that I had finally experienced Mass Effect, played it through, I had something big to look forward to. Mass Effect 2 was coming!

Mass Effect 2 was big because you got to import your character from the first game and those big important choices you had to make would shape and affect the game as you played through Mass Effect 2. They eventually made a DLC interactive comic so that, if you wanted, you didn't HAVE to play through the first game to make those important choices, you could make them in the comic and then the game would reflect those choices. You, to my knowledge, didn't get the in-game perks that you would typically get with importing a Mass Effect 1 character.

There was no demo, which at the time made me kind of sad. I was playing BioWare's current release at the time, a fantasy game called Dragon Age: Origins which was a decent game in it's own right, it wasn't quite filling my Mass Effect cravings...

Mass Effect 2 starts out with a bang, we'll say. You're shot out of the sky, presumably dead, and brought back to life by Cerberus, an organization that you learn in the first game is somewhere in the realm between "Outside The Box" and "Extremist". You're introduced to a man named The Illusive Man, voiced by Martin Sheen, who is the "leader" of Cerberus. He wants you to help him learn about these beings called The Collectors who are abducting Human Colonies. Sure, sounds reasonable. He brought you back to life, you like humanity, so you the enemy of your enemy is your friend right?

Long story short, you learn the Collectors are in cahoots with The Reapers (They're baaaack!) so you're thrust once again into the forefront of a battle to keep the Galaxy safe from the Reaper Threat. The Illusive Man isn't going to leave you hanging though, he's given you a number of dossiers of potential allies to recruit for your Suicide Mission against the Collectors. You run into some old friends too from Mass Effect 1 along the way.

Now, Mass Effect 2, as a game, I think it's the best of the 3. It gets some flak for its step back from RPG elements in favor for making the game a more forward shooter but that doesn't mean that Mass Effect 2 isn't, on it's own, one of the best RPG's that have been made in this century, if not among the all time great RPG Video Games.

The way the game keeps its RPG-ness alive is probably more in the background. The squad-mate combat is refined. You can tell your AI teammates to actually position themselves in different locations. You couldn't do this in ME1 which made things frustrating at times but in 2, you could be strategic, and use flanks and combat tactics to your advantage. Leveling up yourself and your squadmates was also simplified but the game had more than double the squadmates of ME1 so this made sense to me. To me, combat seemed easier because the squad mates seemed more effective than in Mass Effect 1.

Of course, Mass Effect just wouldn't be Mass Effect without making huge choices and they up the ante big time in Mass Effect 2. You're forced to make choices that effect entire alien races, choices that will gain you new friends or new enemies and of course, the weight of your choices could mean life itself.

The end of the game? Well they didn't slouch there either. The Suicide Mission was probably better than the end of Mass Effect 1 simply because it was as do-or-die as it gets. This was also one of the more RPG-centric parts of the game as well. Using your squad-mates strengths and weaknesses, you assign your allies to different important tasks of the suicide mission. Their performance in their assignment, as well as yours, affects who lives or dies in the mission itself (so potentially, who will or will not  be there for Mass Effect 3.) It was a great way to end the game and Mass Effect 2 ended on a strong note.

Now the game ended with a bang, maybe... depending on what choice you made... and what followed the end of Mass Effect 2 was just a perfect storm of speculation.

With Mass Effect 3 forthcoming, everything was analyzed. Where could the choices you made lead you in the third game? Fan speculation was awesome, I loved reading the ideas people had and the theories that fans came up with. Their in-game evidence and their own speculations in regards to what that could lead to in the third game.

My personal favorite has to be the "Worst Possible Playthrough" (Can be read here (contains numerous spoilers)) In which one such fan took it upon themselves to make all the worst choices they could through the first two games to ensure they had the greatest potential to fail in the third game. All I can say in this regard, thanks to the power of retrospect, is that it's a complete shame this didn't play out as well as it could have (and I will get to that in Part Three.) but the fact that the theme of choice in the game of course can inspire the worst in people is something I love to see in video games.

The thing that sets the Mass Effect games apart from the rest is that things like this CAN happen. You can try to do the WORST job you can to ensure a specific result. How many games can you really do that with outside of the Bethesda games (Morrowind/Fallout 3) and I'm not sure about those because I haven't played them.

Due to the nature of duality in the game (Renegade/Paragon choices) I've always tried to play through each game twice. Because of this, I've beat the Mass Effect games (The first two) more times than any other game I can think of. I've beat Mass Effect 1, 4 times and I've beaten Mass Effect 2, 3 times. The reason I've beaten Mass Effect 1 one extra time is that part-way through my initial Playthrough of Mass Effect 2, I realized that my lackadaisical nature toward this duality (I had casually picked both renegade and paragon choices in ME1) had impacted my character and limited my potential off the start.. Because of this I re-beat the first game to import my "pure paragon" Shepard into the game for all the perks. I know... I know...

Mass Effect 2 did everything Mass Effect did well, BETTER. Especially character work! All your favorite characters make a return appearance in one way or another in Mass Effect 2, some are even squad mates. These rich characters like Garrus, Tali and Wrex continue to grow in Mass Effect 2 while you meet some new interesting faces like Thane, Mordin and Grunt. Just as with the first game, you find yourself attached to these characters and it helps shape your own Mass Effect journey as you learn about these new characters and learn things about characters like Garrus and Tali you never knew. It helps continue to flesh out the world without making it feel like a forced sequel, it's like a natural extension of the first game.

Mass Effect 2 was an absolute triumph... and it made what followed difficult for a lot of people. How did it make me feel? Well... you'll have to read Part Three for my thoughts on Mass Effect 3!