Home > Video Games, Weekend Feature > Mass Effect 3 statistics revealed: gamers still love being good guys

Mass Effect 3 statistics revealed: gamers still love being good guys

Mass Effect 3 Commander Shepard

Last week, BioWare used the PAX East gaming convention to unveil the collected statistics for some of the key decisions players made in Mass Effect 3, the choice-driven space opera that has drawn much praise for its morality-based storyline.

Based on the infographic, the results are more shocking and uplifting than you might expect.

PAX East BioWare Mass Effect 3 infographic

In a game structured around Paragon (good) and Renegade (bad) decisions, it turns out that, when given the choice, 64.5% of gamers still want to do the right thing – even when given the opportunity to misbehave.

It’s a somewhat unexpected revelation, and one that flies in the face of the constant hue and cry from the out-of-touch moral arbiters of society who use video games as scapegoat for random outbursts of gun violence.

Open world sandbox games like the Grand Theft Auto series and multiplayer shooters like Call of Duty have long been targets for anti-video game activists, but Mass Effect has also come under fire for offering gamers the chance to be cruel, underhanded, and ruthless in a variety of difficult moral situations.

Mass Effect, for those unfamiliar, allows you to take control of Commander Shepard, a character entirely of your own design and guided by your own moral compass. You must stop the ancient alien Reapers from wiping out sentient life in the galaxy; how you do it is up to you. Whether life-saving champion or self-serving S.O.B., both paths will let you get the job done.

Mass Effect 3, the conclusion to Commander Shepard’s epic story, offers players the chance to betray, sterilize, sacrifice and destroy entire alien races. You can sell out old friends and create all kinds of problems for the galaxy going forward, all in the name of stopping the immediate Reaper threat.

So why did so many players choose to be good, even when presented with a game with so much opportunity to be bad?

The difference between Mass Effect and GTA or typical shooters is that being bad isn’t built into the gameplay.

To succeed at Grand Theft Auto, you’re going to have to mug some people, steal some cars, and run over some innocents, because that comes with the territory.

By the same token, Call of Duty is a soldier simulation game: 100% of the gameplay involves guiding a pair of hands holding a gun. It’s a video game concept as old as Duck Hunt, and the only choice is to kill or lose.

Mass Effect is a third-person shooter with extensive dialogue choices and cinematic scenes that fill a huge chunk of the actual gameplay. One can go hours without firing a bullet, and yet still save lives or cause deaths. That’s because Mass Effect makes you consider the consequences of your decisions in a way the other hot button “immoral” games don’t.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas Killing Prostitute

Unless the decision is “how will you kill your hooker today?”

With Mass Effect, it doesn’t help the player to be a good person, and it doesn’t necessarily hurt to be a bad one. The differences are more specific and nuanced, and they play out more in the story you’re told than in the challenges you face.

The Mass Effect trilogy strives to establish emotional connections between you and the characters. When you kill someone, you see the effect it has on the rest of the people around you. Conversely, when you save someone, you receive the accolades of a choice well-made.

When someone is put in danger, you truly feel the weight of your decision. In Mass Effect 2, for example, you stand to lose any or all members of your team, meaning they will not appear in Mass Effect 3.

“You’re more Paragon if you’re actually getting the opportunity to be a Renegade,” said lead designer Preston Watamaniuk.

Clearly that’s true, as gamers have proven they are, deep down, far more Paragon than Renegade.

The infographic makes it obvious by highlighting some of the key decisions from Mass Effect 3.

For instance, one of the key moments in the game involves choosing whether to cure a species-wide sterilization virus that prevents the militant Krogan from breeding. Mordin Solus, a squad member from Mass Effect 2 and one of the doctors behind the sterilization, is the only one capable of curing it.

You can either help him cure it, or you can deliberately sabotage it – forcing you to stop Mordin by whatever means you have available.

Only 3.8% of people were coldhearted enough to shoot Mordin in the back to stop him, but 8% were comfortable with keeping the Krogan sterilized.

That’s maybe the hands down easiest black or white choice in the game, and people overwhelmingly chose the good path.

It’s far more difficult when confronted with the decision on Rannoch, the Quarian homeworld, and that’s where the statistics get really interesting.

The Quarians created the hive-minded Geth as labourers and treated them like slaves. When the Geth began to develop artificial intelligence, the Quarians started eliminating them. The Geth eventually rebelled and drove the Quarians off planet, banishing them to a nomadic, spacefaring existence.

In Mass Effect 3, you’re faced with a nearly impossible decision: you can either allow the Geth to become truly sentient beings – at the cost of squadmate Tali and her whole Quarian race – or you can snuff out the Geth flame the moment they become truly alive.

37% of people sacrificed the living Quarians for the machine race of Geth. Only 27% saved Tali and sided with the Quarians. The remaining 36% achieved the more difficult alliance result, thereby creating a peace between the two longtime foes.

Mass Effect 2 Tali versus Legion geth

Quarians versus Geth: think Israel versus Palestine in space.

That’s a decision where two of the three outcomes results in complete genocide, and yet of the 64% who were forced to choose one or the other, more chose the race of robots over a squadmate who appeared in all three Mass Effect games.

Legion, your Geth former squadmate, dies no matter your choice.

Mass Effect 3 Tali and Female Shepard on Rannoch

37% of players let Tali and her entire species die.

Based on the stats, most Commander Shepards are male, Paragon, have a soft spot for Garrus, and can’t stand Kaidan Alenko.

But the fact that there are other paths to take is what makes this game so great, and so infinitely replayable.

As an adept (8.1%) Renegade (35.5%) female Shepard (18%) with an Insanity clear under my belt (4%), I can say I’ve taken some of the less-trodden paths and come out absolutely loving the results.

The only glaringly absent stat is the split on the highly controversial divergent endings, and how that might have changed after the release of the apologetic Extended Cut.

ME3 Mass Effect 3 shooting the starchild endingHow many people just shot the star child?

While they may not be eager to reveal the spread on that ultimate decision, BioWare had two other big tidbits for PAX East 2013.

One, the rumoured Mass Effect movie is still very much in the works.

Two, we’re far from done with the Mass Effect world, as executive producer Casey Hudson and company say they are actively developing a fresh approach to the franchise that does not involve Shepard.

Here’s hoping for more impossible decisions in the years to come.

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  1. March 30, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Fascinating. I have a weird arrested development with video games (big surprise, I know!) I still haven’t moved on from franchises like MARIO, MEGAMAN or POKEMON. But I love the bigger scope a lot of today’s console games seem to have. Really interesting article, I love how you always have your point of view so strongly along with factual information.

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