I've been thinking about this article for a very long time. Whether or not my fan-boyish squeeing would fall upon ears that just don't understand. Then something wonderful happened. In my Bromance post, user Clarketta brought up Dom and Marcus, one of modern gaming's more legendary bromances. And I knew it would be worth a shot.
Now, some of you might already be gamers, and if that's the case please feel free to share so in the comments. However, this article is directed to the romance fan out there that maybe has a significant other or child that plays games and they might be curious about it but have yet to take the plunge. I start with this, you should. Not only because it's incredibly fun, but gaming has come a long way since Mario saved the Princess, there are publishers out there that have focused entirely upon story-based gaming, and the best at this is the company known as Bioware, with one of their more popular titles being Mass Effect.
Set in a sci-fi setting, the Mass Effect trilogy is a role-playing game where the player takes on the role of elite marine, galactic super-spy/commando, and all-around bad-ass Commander Shepherd. As a player you have complete control of Shepherd. Want the good Commander to be a man with blond hair and a square jaw, done. Want a female commander sporting a pixie cut and blue eyes? Double done. You choose all of his/hers choices as she goes about saving all life in the universe from the technological horror known as The Reapers, helping a people doomed to wander the stars for their sins, befriending a barbarian race of aliens that knows little more than killing and destruction, and most importantly, who to develop a lasting, meaningful relationship with.
For the purposes of this article I'm going to focus on that last part, and most importantly my personal favorite romances from the options available to the player. There are plenty of ships out there to set sail on in the Mass Effect Fandom, and I encourage you to share yours, but here are my favorites.
For Male-Shep, or Sheploo as he is known in the community, I always go with Liara T'Soni. Liara is a member of the race of aliens known as the Asari, a mono-gendered species of very long-lived women that enjoy peace, art, and the pursuit of knowledge. Every Asari is a kind of psychic and has access to a bit of space magic that involves the manipulation of things known as mass effect fields. Shepherd first meets Liara while tracking down the rogue agent Saren. Unkown to her at the time, Liara's mother has sided with Saren and is working to pave the way for the Reaper invasion of our galaxy. Shepherd finds Liara on a planet where she is studying the ancient, galaxy-spanning civilization called The Prothean. Turns out that Saren had sent his soldiers to kill Liara, as bad guys do, and just like any super-spy would do, Shep saves the girl.
The relationship that emerges is similar to that of Spock and Kirk. You have the alien that values knowledge and peace over all else, and depending on your Shepherd, you have the soldier that trusts his gut. And just like Kirk and Spock, the two become very close and rely constantly upon one another. As Liara grows beyond the innocent scientist, she comes to know the darker parts of the galaxy, parts that Shepherd is unable to keep at bay, for certain reasons. Does Liara wilt like some weak, waiting-to-be-saved Princess? Hell no! She toughens up and takes on the world. She becomes essential to Shepherd's efforts against the Reapers, and like any other heroine worthy of being compared to Leia, she works constantly to make sure her Hero has what he needs to do his job.
Which then brings us to Fem-Shep. Fem-Shep is a bad-ass. Plain and simple. The voice actor who did the work for the female Commander Shepherd is amazing. And a girl who kicks as much alien tail needs an equally tough and awesome partner. Enter one Garrus Vakaryian. Garrus is a Turian, a race of aliens that will put the needs of the many before the individual no matter who that individual is. Military service is compulsory and a part of life.
Garrus, however, is not your typical Turian. Garrus is a former cop that thinks that the bad guys in the galaxy should be punished, plain and simple. If that means putting them in the ground before they go through pesky things like “trials” and “due process”, so be it. As can be expected, this leads to some problems with his people, and family. Garrus has a falling out with his police chief, after pursuing an investigation of the believed innocent rouge agent Saren. It is during this investigation that Garrus meets Shepherd.
Garrus remains loyal to Shepherd in a way that is rarely if ever matched. You just simply can't have Vakraian without Shepherd. Even when Garrus has a falling out with his family, who think he committed one of the worst sins a Turian can, putting the individual before the community. Garrus never lashes back at his family; he constantly sacrifices for the greater good, putting the whole galaxy before himself, never leaving the side of the good Commander. If Garrus isn't the perfect romance hero, I just don't know who would be. The man is even disfigured in the line of duty!
Now the beauty of the Mass Effect series is that it consciously puts story and character before any other part of a game. The team behind the game put so much effort into world-building that you come to know and care for each and everyone of the chatacters. These are just two of the 10+ relationships open to Shepherd, whether you play a man or woman, a hard-ass soldier, or an emotional diplomat, the choices are all yours. And your Shep might not be my Shep, and that is ok.
So if you have time to kill, try out the game. If you aren't tearing up by the time you find out why someone else would have gotten it wrong, I will print this article and eat it. I will forewarn you though, as a certain video-game playing mom has put it, those writers at Bioware are all emotional hooligans.