I have recently found myself making another run through the Mass Effect video game series by BioWare. This is not my first, second or third time through the initial trilogy of games, lovingly referred to as the Shepard Trilogy, in fact – I have lost count of the exact amount of times this makes, but I’ll ballpark it at around 10 times. Why do I keep coming back to this story? What is so compelling that I find myself drawn to yet another play through? The answer is simple: it is a long form science fiction epic that allows me to make all of the decisions and as such have control over the game universe and the wide variety of characters that you interact with. My favorite genre of entertainment is science fiction, and my favorite style of video game is open ended action/RPG games that allow me to make vital decisions that effect the story and the characters within the game. Essentially, Mass Effect is just about entertainment nirvana for me.
You may not know much, or anything for that matter, about Mass Effect. Here is a quick run down via the wikipedia page along with a trailer for you to view:
The original trilogy largely revolves around a soldier named Commander Shepard, whose mission is to save the galaxy from a race of powerful mechanical beings known as the Reapers and their agents, including the first game’s antagonist Saren Arterius. The first game sees Shepard investigating Saren, whom Shepard slowly comes to understand is operating under the guidance of Sovereign, a Reaper left behind in the Milky Way tens of thousands of years before, when the Reapers exterminated virtually all sentient organic life in the galaxy as part of a recurrent cycle of genocide for an unknown purpose. Sovereign’s purpose is to trigger the imminent return of the Reaper fleet hibernating in extra-galactic dark space, restarting the process of extermination. The second game takes place two years later, and sees Shepard battling the Collectors, an alien race abducting entire human colonies in a plan to help the Reapers return to the Milky Way. The final game of Shepard’s trilogy centers on the war waging against the Reapers.
Brief aside before I start my open letter, if you are in the mood for a fantastic read about the importance of Mass Effect, not only to Science Fiction but also to the way we critically think about the role of humanity in the grander scheme of things, read this excellent opinion piece by Kyle Munkittrick at PopBioethics about Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Science Fiction Universe of Our Generation. Now on to the point at hand.
Open Letter to all parties involved in the Mass Effect Film,
I, like many other gamers and Science Fiction enthusiasts, was elated to hear in 2010 that BioWare had made an agreement with Legendary Films to make a Mass Effect feature film series. With the creators of BioWare, Ray Muzyka & Greg Zeschuk onboard to produce and consult, along with the project producer of the Mass Effect series, Casey Hudson, it seemed like we were going to get a very faithful adaption of the popular gaming series on the big screen. We still may get a fabulous movie, as there has been no major indications that anything is wrong or askew with the production of the film thus far. In fact, there really hasn’t been much news on the film at all. It was originally thought that Warner Brothers would distribute the film, but then Legendary severed ties with WB. It was then reported that Universal films might distribute the film, but I have seen no final report confirming their role in the films production. Other than a handful of Hollywood producers announced and a screen writer attached to the project, we truthfully don’t know much about the film, except that it will follow the Shepard story arc in some capacity.
To all involved, please consider my advice: don’t make the Mass Effect movies. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but deals have been signed, money has been exchanged and wheels have been set in motion. I get that, which is why I have a counter proposal for you: instead of trying to squeeze the better portions of 90 game hours into three movies, which even if they were 2 and a half hours long would only amount to 7 and a half hours of film, turn your movie series into a made for cable series in the same vein as Game of Thrones or the Walking Dead. The narrative, as well as the time it would take to flesh out all of the characters would far better be served by a longer format than film. Even if you spread the trilogy into 6 13 episode long TV seasons, you would have 78 episodes to tell the whole story with the depth and nuance necessary to really draw an audience in and keep them emotionally invested, not only in the characters but in the entire universe. The Mass Effect universe is vast, with a large variety of alien beings, awesome exotic locations, a complex balance between the races, and an enemy that most of the universe doesn’t even believe exists. This is not a story that is easily told in the course of 3 films. The beauty of turning Mass Effect into a long form TV series is that by the time that you finish the “Shepard Trilogy”, you could start the next season with the new Mass Effect that will be coming out in 2017: Mass Effect Andromeda. The series could easily go on through what many assume will be a new trilogy of games as well. Much like Game of Thrones, the series could go on for quite a while.
It’s definitely food for thought, and a great way of engaging the existing fans as well as attracting new fans to the series in a meaningful way that will have infinitely more gravitas than a film series. Think of the potential! It could open the door to similar opportunities for BioWare’s Dragon Age series, as well as the new mystery IP that they are working on to be adapted to TV series as well. Please consider the idea of turning Mass Effect into a made for cable TV series, and if you need a staff writer for the series, feel free to drop me an email or DM on Twitter.
Packy – Head Llama (and a great big BioWare dork/fan)
Final aside, if you would like to know more about BioWare’s new Mass Effect game set to release in 2017, please check out their Official Site for Andromeda.