It’s Monday and time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: Are you a Mass Effect Paragon or Renegade?
I play Paragon. I do this for one reason: I don’t enjoy being mean. Most people don’t, based on the overwhelming number of them who pick “good” options when playing games with moral choices. I recognize that the Paragon/Renegade divide is not strictly a good vs evil thing, but picking Renegade basically means you believe the ends justify the means no matter what, and hey, most people who think like that are assholes!
That said, at this point, I generally feel like Paragon and Renegade choices haven’t really aged well. Many feel contrived, like they were designed to fit into a binary system rather than to force players into truly tricky moral territory. If we’re talking choice in games, I’m a much bigger fan of the more modern approach—no meters, just choices—or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, which included a black and white morality system, but pointedly coated its story in shades of gray.
It’s very rare that I’ll do multiple playthroughs of an RPG, and though I feel like a weenie admitting this, I gotta confess I always choose the goodie-two-shoes path of light, justice, and overly simplistic moral clarity.
The question then raised is if I did a second playthrough, would I stray from that path? First of all, damn you for asking. Second, maybe? Ugh...probably. The only reason I’d replay an RPG I’m not super into—and I’m not super into Mass Effect, having only played part of the first—is to get a noticeably different experience. Beyond class and companion choices, a key way you accomplish that in a Mass Effect is by bein’ rude and edgy instead of affable and supportive.
Playin’ that Renegade role really doesn’t suit my real-life persona though, and in RPGs I tend not to role-play characters that fall far outside of my real personality. I guess I take the approach that that is “me” in the game, and less some fictional avatar with their own personality, foibles, and potential dark side. I can definitely be something of a people pleaser, sometimes to my chagrin. I really need Liara to like me, okay?
No questions asked, I’m a goodie-goodie in Mass Effect. This isn’t surprising to folks who know me or who read my answer in a previous Ask Kotaku. I’ve tried to be evil in Mass Effect (and other games) but always feel weird, gross, and shitty. So I tend to stop playing and either restart as good or load an old save and try to rehab my character’s bad behavior as best as possible.
Something interesting, the Mass Effect series was one of the few games that could, from time to time, tempt me away from my good side. Being able to hang up on the council or punch someone who was annoying or mean was often too hard to resist. So I never finished a Mass Effect run purely good. I always had a few bad points. But nobody’s perfect, right?
I’ve never been a big Mass Effect person, but that doesn’t matter because the answer is the same regardless of the game. Paragon all the way. Every time a game sets up choices for me whether it’s in a Mass Effect Paragon vs. Renegade option, a Fallout karma-based system, the tree of choices presented in a David Cage joint, or even the reputation system of The Sims, I have trouble playing the bad guy.
I always set up my first run-through playing as myself, or as close to that as possible, and I like to think I’m a pretty good person! This leaves me in solid Paragon territory. Inevitably, I hype myself up to do an evil playthrough, the rugged, don’t-care attitude all the way. And then shortly after I’ve started, I begin to feel bad. And my character softens, and I’m a Paragon again.
Ugh, Paragon but I wish I weren’t. In real life, I am clinically too nice, which is often a problem for me, and as much as video games should give me an outlet to shake that off, I just can’t stand being rude, even if it’s as a digital avatar to a bunch of other ones and zeroes. One day!
Like most of my colleagues here, I, too, am a Paragon. But I’m finding myself slowly adopting Renegade tendencies against my will. What frustrates me most about the morality system in these games is that the dialogue wheel isn’t always a good representation of what comes out of Shepard’s mouth. I could choose a response that sounds totally even-keeled and come out looking like either a massive dick or a boot-licking tool.
For example, when talking to the intractable Council after a mission there might be an option to disagree with their assessment of a situation. The dialogue choice will read something like, “I disagree,” but Shepard will actually say something like, “Get fucked you shit-eating ass heads.” The result has been my Paragon Shepard unwittingly accruing Renegade points.
However, those unintentional points are not to be confused with the totally intentional Renegade choices I’ll make like pushing a mercenary out of the window or exploding the gas tank under a monologuing krogan—those are just too fun to pass up.
Kotaku’s revealed itself as a staff of goody-two-shoe weenies, but are you? Do you revel in the role-play? Let us know! We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!