You Reaper What You Sower

I continue to fight the Reapers in Mass Effect 3. The game has an odd relationship to the Reapers in that every given alien species is kind of obsessed with “saving” its own home world (not least of all the humans and Earth) as if that’s somehow a relevant concern in the face of the idea that the Reapers are designed to take out everything in the universe. It’s kind of a serious language problem, only ever addressed with grim raspy statements to the effect that “if we don’t stop them now, it won’t matter what you blah blah blah”. The Reapers are a giant galactic Roomba that has come to tidy up.

The game itself is very human, then, in that its raison d’etre seems to be the notion that although the Repears are some weird cosmic (game) mechanic for resetting the universe, this time they will be stopped. Why? Because it’s us this time and We Are Amazing unlike all that have gone before us! Nobody ever asks whether the Reapers should be stopped or whether it make sense that they should be stopped. I suppose that would be fatalistic (and not very exciting to play through), but it’d be nice to see at least some small group of people being more like “well, this is the way the universe runs and we were unlucky to be at the tail end of it”.

After all, the Reapers don’t claim to be ending the universe once and for all, they’re just there to sweep up all organic lifeforms. The assumption I have been making is that then organic lifeforms will evolve again and ta-da, the Circle of Life. The Reapers aren’t even especially being dicks about it in their rhetoric – it’s all just “this is the end! Resistance is futile!” That said, their techniques for erasing all life in the universe are pretty crass and unnecessarily “ant-under-a-magnifying-glass-under-the-sun”.

Anyway, I’m missing a voice in the game that is more accepting of a larger universal cycle. As I see different races being extinguished (we said farewell to the Quarians in my previous play session, for instance) I feel like “well, I guess if it’s your time to go…” Part of that is the cynicism of playing these epic games that not-so-secretly revolve around a good deal of face-shooting and dialog-treeing, but it’s also true that if you’re going to represent such a large scale (universal!) look at the striving and living and dying of creatures (all of whom speak English!) you should have a bit more of a wide-angle lens available.

Maybe it’s okay that the universe is empty. I, for one, welcome our new Roomba overlords.

25 April 2012
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