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Some minor early game story-related spoilers for Mass Effect: Andromeda

Butch:

MAN these initial “getting to know you” conversations take a while.

So…what did I do? Finished chatting up Vetra, chatted up Liam, had some beers, flirted just cuz, even though he’s not my type, chatted up Gil, flirted just cuz and learned I’m not HIS type, ran out of people to chat up.

On that, I’m getting the sense the game WANTS me to end up with Liam. He was one of the first dudes we met, that cutscene with the beers was certainly the most relaxed, “hey, we like each other” kind of scene. Were this a movie, he’d so be the guy.

But it isn’t and they gave me Suvi. So there.

Then I scanned a bunch of planets for old time’s sake and went to the Nexus. They sure did clean up the place in the amount of time I was on Eos!

And one thing they added was THEME because the only thing I did on the Nexus was the Cultural center.

Let’s talk about the Cultural Center, shall we?

So the first thing they build, and the first thing you’d see docking, is complete and utter sugar coated bullshit. It’s not even GOOD sugarcoated bullshit. It’s CHEESY sugarcoated bullshit.

(And the second thing you see is merchants, but I digress, though that’s also themey.)

Now…what I was pondering (and it sure is nice to ponder something other than who I want to bang) is who, exactly, is this cheesy sugarcoated bullshit aimed at. Is it REALLY aimed at new visitors? Or is it aimed at the citizens of the AI itself? “Hey everyone…we get along…we are friends…really…” Bringing home the bullshit is that the first little hexagon, the first “Hey, wanna do a quest?” icon is Drack’s. We have this bullshit display on one side, and a quest about racism and a de facto racial purge on the other.

The whole thing sorta reminded me of riding the moving sidewalk as you go from the terminal to the parking at Logan. You have Marty Walsh and Charlie Baker talking to you in voice over, and they kinda blur together like the voice overs on the Nexus. They’re saying all sorts of syrupy shit about Boston and Massachusetts in voices that are half soothing, have bored. They’re blathering on about how diverse and prosperous Boston and Massachusetts are. And they aim it at EVERYONE! “Welcome, and, if you’re returning home, welcome back to the BEST FUCKING PLACE ON EARTH!” (I paraphrased.) It’s to people who have never been here, and at people who live here!

Another fascinating thing about the Cultural Exchange was that it had in it inherent racism. The humans were all “We came from a diverse world with oceans and jungles and snowy peaks and deserts! We celebrated our diversity! Etc. etc. etc.” The humans were great! The Krogan display? When you ask about their home world: “It was an ugly rock. Etc. Etc. Etc. We sure glad to be here, because everything about where we were sure did suck.”

It was kinda like old displays in old fashioned “Natural History” museums that purported to show the diverse peoples of the world that always showed Europeans as surrounded by art and culture and laboratories and all, and showed “African people” around fires, wearing furs with bones in their noses. Allegedly showing diversity, but really showing racism.

And, if you take that it was aimed at the Initiative and not new visitors…hmm.

Good place to start. I knew we’d find some theme somewhere.

Feminina:

Yeah, talking takes time all right. That’s why we do it later! After we play first! Ha.

The cultural center was very interesting and kind of weird. Such sugary propaganda, and, as you say, not even very good or convincing sugary propaganda.

And yeah, it definitely seems, for the moment at least, to be aimed at reminding the current inhabitants of the Nexus of why they came (glorious peaceful adventure!) and that they all get along REALLY GREAT, but presumably at some point they hope to also convince other species of this (I like to imagine the kett wandering around checking out the exhibits…”now see, this is why we had to instantly try to wipe these people out…just terrible, terrible production values here, you can’t let that kind of thing get a foothold in a galaxy or it spreads like a weed”).

Did you let them use you as the model for the Pathfinder exhibit? I did. I couldn’t help myself, I’m vain and crave outside affirmation. Just like all great leaders.

The krogan definitely keep getting the bottom of the barrel in terms of respect and appreciation, don’t they? But we definitely won’t talk about that in the cultural center!

Butch:

Instantly recognizable sugary propaganda. But, then, ‘propaganda’ is loaded. Is it propaganda? Or is it the same ham handed attempt at “reality” that the Natural History museums did? They were aiming for “accurate,” but they were affected by the bias and lack of sensitivity of their day. “Propaganda” implies an intent of sorts. Maybe the cultural center really is trying to portray things “as they are,” but they’ve been affected by their own biases and lack of sensitivity.

They SAY they will at some point serve Andromeda visitors. We said before we started this that a game about imperialism probably wouldn’t fly in 2017, but we meant a game where you, the player, was actively being imperial. Ryder has been rather swept up in all this. She doesn’t know what she is doing, and, thus, neither does the player. The initiative may well be terribly racist imperialist pigs. All of this sugary bullshit may well be there to convince the masses that “no no, this is GOOD, we’re the GOOD GUYS” when the leaders really, really aren’t.

Did you catch the dude in the Eos outpost? The teacher? He was saying that the powers that be didn’t want him teaching Milky Way history? That it had no bearing on the future?

Now, that’s all they said, but then, we can infer that part of “Milky Way history” is imperialism and slavery and awfulness. The kind of thing we CERTAINLY aren’t doing here so there’s NO NEED AT ALL to mention it. At all.

I did let them use me as a model. And was amused that it was so not like me. It was even British.

But I also picked “exploration,” not “first contact.”

We won’t talk about krogan in the cultural center. But I have a feeling we’re going to be talking about it a lot here. I smell theme.

Feminina:

It’s true, we don’t really know much about the Initiative other than what people tell us, which is that it’s this big idealistic exploration project. And the people we talk to about joining it mostly seem motivated by this idealistic urge to explore, to see new things and go places no one has ever been, etc.

But we do know that the whole Initiative was paid for essentially by one person, who is now dead, and what her actual agenda was, we can’t say. Peaceful exploration of another galaxy for the love of exploration?

Sure, could be. People do like to explore the unknown.

Dream of founding a new civilization controlled by her and designed to her specifications so that she could be its godlike empress?

Could be, could be. Vastly wealthy people may have very expensive dreams.

And since she’s dead, we may never know for sure, but it seems entirely possible that at some point we’ll investigate something to do with the Founder and will learn some interesting things about the Initiative, and its fundamental ideas and interests, and those interests may well vary depending on the species. We shall see.

Butch:

We shall. Though, to be honest, I don’t particularly like any of the leaders. The lady’s a controlling weirdo, the Salarian is a pain, they’ve already effectively done a racial purge (true, they didn’t actually eject the Krogan, but they sure made it unfriendly for them at the Nexus), even dear old dad is not entirely sympathetic. I didn’t like him that much. Shit, even Ryder doesn’t seem to be all gooshy over him. Sure, the crew and all joined for good reasons, but the leaders? I’m not at all convinced.

Feminina:

Agreed. Ryder seems to have very mixed feelings about ol’ dad.

And the current leadership is definitely full of flawed characters with dysfunctional working relationships. I like that the games does address by noting that most of the original leadership was killed by the scourge so most of these people were never meant to BE leadership, which ties in interestingly with the fact that Ryder, too, was never meant to be in the position she’s in.

We’ll all just untrained understudies fumbling around trying to do the best we can with limited practical skills and, probably, limited information about what the real goal was meant to be. It’s a recipe for disaster! It’s a wonder the krogan are the only ones who’ve bailed so far.

Butch:

Though (and I’m earlier than you) I get the sense that the Krogan bailed not so much because they thought “well, this is nice, but we can do better,” but because the Nexus made it so unpleasant that they bailed. Like, “we’re not going to fire you, but we’ll make your life miserable until you quit.”

I’m (probably) going to hit Drack’s quest very soon, so I’ll know more.

Though right now I’m standing outside the Vortex. I’m curious as to what’s in it. Man, I hope there’s dancing.

(Should I make sure the kids are asleep? This game, unlike prior games, does say “nudity” on the back.)

Feminina:

No, there’s no nudity in the Vortex. Yet. There may be some later, I don’t know, but I haven’t seen any yet. Head on in!

I agree, there’s a strong sense that the krogan had a bad deal there…and an interesting suggestion that they may have been scapegoated in a way, and/or turned into an ‘other’–WE can all get along and work together as a harmonious group, but those krogan just don’t fit in, or something. The salerian director is pretty straightforward about it, and you wonder if everyone else just kind of went along with it because it was helpful to have a group to focus people’s frustrations on…?

As you say, themey.

Butch:

Dancing? There better be dancing.

Pair the prior issues with the fact that krogan were portrayed badly in the Cultural Center. They’ve gotten a bum deal all along. And, like people who have gotten bum deals in America, people always say they deserve it, they brought it on themselves. “They nuked their home world.” “They’re so warlike.” “They are savage.” It’s the same crap that has been used against African Americans, immigrants of all sorts, up to today. “Well, we treat them bad because they are more likely to be criminals. They aren’t as educated. They kill each other all the time! So of COURSE we’re better!” Look at the Salarians, the “smart” ones, who think that gives them to right to fuck with the Krogan.

Racism. We export it to Andromeda.

Feminina:

Indeed.

“It’s their own fault! We’re just responding rationally to their dangerous behavior. We can’t help it if they won’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps and work nicely with the rest of us more civilized folk.”

Although, again with interesting echos, we, like other civilized species, may be happy to take advantage of krogans’ ‘inherently more violent’ nature when it involves fighting our enemies.

Shut up and go shoot things, essentially.

Butch:

Which is why they were thawed out in the first place.

I’m interested in Drack. Sure, he puts up the whole “I live to shoot things” facade, but I’m not sure he really IS that guy. He’ll growl “Of course I live to shoot, I’m a KROGAN” but then, the way he feels about his family belies that. He DOES have a heart. And I have a feeling he’s gonna play prominently in all this theme.

The themes took a long time to come around in this game, but I think we’re here now. Finally talking about something other than who to bang.

I mean, we’ll talk about that, cuz priorities, but this was a productive Tuesday.