You are not Shephard. You are a director.

#1 Posted by BrockNRolla (1694 posts) -

This has been a notion that has bothered me for a while about the Mass Effect series, and since it came up on the most recent Bombcast, it's as good a time as any.

Patrick, on the most recent Bombcast, and a number of duders on the forums as well, have offered up an idea about Commander Shepard that I believe is patently wrong. Patrick described Shepard as a "non-character," and that "Shepard is you." He stated that this is why people feel invested in their Shepards through the Mass Effect series. I have NEVER felt that Shepard was "me." In my mind, Shepard is a character who I influence. While I get to select his/her gender, origin story, and looks, I am not making myself. I am making a character. I am not speaking as myself with Shepard, I am indicating the direction I would like their response to follow.

I am not the actor; I am a director. I have always seen myself in the role of a director in any given scene. Shepard is my actor, and I tell him/her what they are feeling and they act accordingly, but they are not me. In fact, that's the problem I've had with ME3 a lot of times. The lines coming out of Shepard haven't always felt up to snuff and I want to yell, "Cut! Give me another read on that line." But I never think, "That's not what I would have said." I think, "That's not what Shepard would say."

So are you Shepard, or are you a director?

#2 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

Yep Shepard is a character you influence, but in 3 you do very little of that influencing overall.

#3 Posted by Funkydupe (3321 posts) -

Is that a problem you have with most video games? I press my D button and my character turns to the right. I directed him that way. Hm.

#4 Posted by Brodehouse (10132 posts) -

I'm a role player, so I completely agree. 'Roleplaying' does not mean act like yourself. Otherwise Shepard would be playing N7: Medal of Duty and be cranking it to the pretty girls on his ship.

I'm not Catherine Shepard. Playing her actually changed my opinions throughout the years. I tried to see problems through the eyes of a ruthless Spectre dedicated to saving the galaxy. I wouldn't have executed people, but she would. I wouldn't demand everyone on my ship follow protocol, but she would.

Ryan actually is generally the most positive, and he really is a director. He never does "what he would do", he does "what will be the craziest". Which actually makes sense why he loves where you act as an agent of chaos.

#5 Posted by Gabriel (4082 posts) -

A shitty director, a kind whose actors walk all over him.

#6 Posted by DefaultProphet (554 posts) -

@Sooty said:

Yep Shepard is a character you influence, but in 3 you do very little of that influencing overall.

If that motherfrakker would just stick to my script and stop improving!

#7 Posted by BrockNRolla (1694 posts) -

@Funkydupe said:

Is that a problem you have with most video games? I press my D button and my character turns to the right. I directed him that way. Hm.

You're right. I should be more specific. I mean the conversational aspects of the game. When you're in combat you're obviously in direct control, but I guess since I don't see that as a defining characteristic of the game, I don't think of that when I consider my role in the Mass Effect series. Other games deal with the issue in a drastically different manners, but in most games I don't see myself as the character, but rather controlling the character. "Directing" seems more Mass Effect specific.

#8 Posted by imooumoo (43 posts) -

I agree with the bombcast. Due to all that a player invests in their Shepard, it can be an actor or director. If you play as how you assume you would react to situations, then you are Shepard. If you play as how you would not react, or as how you think Shepard SHOULD react, then you are the director.

#9 Posted by James_Giant_Peach (751 posts) -

Agreed, there are very few games I really play and feel like I'm playing 'Me', the Elder Scrolls series being one example.

In Mass Effect, as you say, I'm deciding the fate of Shepard, I'm controlling how he acts and responds, but at no point is he really representative of me as a person. In fact that's been one of my problems with Mass Effect since day one, and the reason I never got into Dragon Age 2 all that much, because when I play a big ass RPG I like to make my character as much like me as possible and in Mass Effect, no matter what I do or say or choose, I always feel like Shepard is being a total dick and is nothing like me. The way he acts, says things, handles himself, I can't connect with any of it, and that's always been a big problem personally. So what I usually end up doing in those games is just making choices based on what I think will be the craziest to watch and make the story most exciting.

So yeah I would totally agree, I am the director, Shepard is just the man on the stage, and for once I would 100% disagree with Patrick's interpretation.

#10 Posted by eroticfishcake (7792 posts) -

I prefer to call these RPGs as "Interactive Fiction". Final Fantasy falls into this category as well.

#11 Posted by mikey87144 (1807 posts) -

@BrockNRolla: Garnett Lee has talked about that. He selects female avatars because he likes to think of himself as the director of that characters story. I'm more in the Patrick camp were if I'm given the ability to create my own character I tend to role play the character hence why my Shepard has my first name. You're not wrong, it's just that you have a different perspective on how you play western RPGs.

#12 Posted by Ventilaator (1501 posts) -

I'm pretty sure one could find a couple dozen quotes from Bioware saying how you are supposed to be Shepard in these games...

#13 Posted by Jimbo (10000 posts) -

I rarely roleplay as 'what I would do' or what I think is right. I just try to roleplay a consistent character in whichever direction I feel like, which is usually whichever direction I think would result in the most interesting story.
 
Shep certainly isn't a non-character or a blank slate, but he/she is surprisingly malleable.  You can still roleplay a surprisingly nuanced Shepard, as long as you aren't totally beholden to Paragon/Renegade points.

#14 Posted by imooumoo (43 posts) -

@mikey87144:

See, I thought the same thing, and here I realize I pick female avatars, but I am a guy. Yet I still feel like I am Shepard. I have thought about it, but have not come up with an explanation. I like to think it is because Bioware has created a franchise where player sex does not matter, and all that matter's is how you are able to interact with a character regardless of sex.

#15 Posted by Brodehouse (10132 posts) -
@mikey87144 I was going to mention that too, I often end up having the most fun when I create a character who is dissimilar to me. The first time I played Dragon Age I made a young white male with brown hair. It was fun in that way, but I didn't feel like the Warden was a great character, because I don't think of myself as a great character.
#16 Posted by ExplodeMode (852 posts) -

I'd agree that in Mass Effect games I feel more like a director than an actor, but I'd still argue that in 3 you are given less power as a director than in previous games.
 
Ex:  Playing a ruthless renegade and still being affected by the kid and the dream sequences.  Rather than caring, I am taken out of it and can only see that as a cheesy plot device leading me somewhere I don't care to go.  Under my direction, Shepard wouldn't give a shit.
 
So, I think the overall point they were making stands.

#17 Posted by Jimbo (10000 posts) -
@eroticfishcake said:

I prefer to call these RPGs as "Interactive Fiction". Final Fantasy falls into this category as well.

Crazy. Mass Effect and Final Fantasy have virtually nothing in common at all.
#18 Posted by TobbRobb (4848 posts) -

Yeah I'm almost always the director... I can't really remember roleplaying as myself in any game.

#19 Posted by BrockNRolla (1694 posts) -

@imooumoo said:

@mikey87144:

See, I thought the same thing, and here I realize I pick female avatars, but I am a guy. Yet I still feel like I am Shepard. I have thought about it, but have not come up with an explanation. I like to think it is because Bioware has created a franchise where player sex does not matter, and all that matter's is how you are able to interact with a character regardless of sex.

I'm not saying your perspective doesn't effect the way you direct your Shepard. Just as a Scorcese film is uniquely Scorcese, so too will the actions of your Shepard be unique to your perspective. I have a male Shep and a fem Shep for example, paragon and renegade respectively. But, both of them are lovers of women. Why? Because it is difficult for me to conceptualize loving a man. I can suggest attitudes these character might take in falling in love with a man, but I wouldn't know from my directorial standpoint whether or not these reactions would be appropriate, so I don't choose them. That's my personal spin on it given my lack of knowledge/experience. Everyone will have an effect on their Shepard, but that doesn't mean you are Shepard.

#20 Posted by Jimbo (10000 posts) -

Also, I feel like 'Actor' is a bad description for that 'Playing Yourself' style of play, because actors (generally) don't play themselves or get to decide how the script goes.

#21 Posted by eroticfishcake (7792 posts) -

@Jimbo: I know. It's just that when it comes to games like those two I feel more like an audience then a player when it comes to the story. I know of these characters called Cloud or Shepard but I never feel like I'm them in any way what so ever. Granted I do make choices for them but overall story which they partake on isn't that much different from someone else's Shepard (which I guess reinforces the whole Director thing the OP is on about). That doesn't make them any less enjoyable of course. A game that I would define more of an RPG (though not "true") would probably be something like Fallout New Vegas since there's more meaningful choices in the grand scheme of things.

Honestly though, defining games these days through genres is kind of meaningless since they all blend so many mechanics so it doesn't really matter what I call it. That's just my two cents on it anyway.

#22 Posted by BrockNRolla (1694 posts) -

@Jimbo said:

Also, I feel like 'Actor' is a bad description for that 'Playing Yourself' style of play, because actors (generally) don't play themselves or get to decide how the script goes.

In the sense that an "Actor" is a person making the actual actions. They are playing a character that is not themselves certainly, but they speak the words and move their body. An actor embodies the character. A director stands on the sidelines to control how things play out. I see what you mean, but I think it's as good an analogy as any. More accurately, it's probably something of a union between the actor & writer vs. the director

#23 Posted by Brodehouse (10132 posts) -
@ExplodeMode
I'd agree that in Mass Effect games I feel more like a director than an actor, but I'd still argue that in 3 you are given less power as a director than in previous games.
 
Ex:  Playing a ruthless renegade and still being affected by the kid and the dream sequences.  Rather than caring, I am taken out of it and can only see that as a cheesy plot device leading me somewhere I don't care to go.  Under my direction, Shepard wouldn't give a shit.
 
So, I think the overall point they were making stands.
Think about it this way. Your ruthless Renegade has never cared about innocents caught in the line. Still doesn't, consciously at least. And yet you can't get away from that recurring nightmare. It doesn't make sense to a renegade Shepard, but he/she just can't shake it. Furthermore, the kid easily is a metaphor for the population of Earth. Even the most hardcase Shepards are canonically against the destruction of humanity.

We can't control what we dream about, neither can Shep. I'm sure if he had a choice the Collectors wouldn't have blown him up either.
#24 Posted by BrockNRolla (1694 posts) -

@Brodehouse said:

@ExplodeMode
I'd agree that in Mass Effect games I feel more like a director than an actor, but I'd still argue that in 3 you are given less power as a director than in previous games.

Ex: Playing a ruthless renegade and still being affected by the kid and the dream sequences. Rather than caring, I am taken out of it and can only see that as a cheesy plot device leading me somewhere I don't care to go. Under my direction, Shepard wouldn't give a shit.

So, I think the overall point they were making stands.
Think about it this way. Your ruthless Renegade has never cared about innocents caught in the line. Still doesn't, consciously at least. And yet you can't get away from that recurring nightmare. It doesn't make sense to a renegade Shepard, but he/she just can't shake it. Furthermore, the kid easily is a metaphor for the population of Earth. Even the most hardcase Shepards are canonically against the destruction of humanity. We can't control what we dream about, neither can Shep. I'm sure if he had a choice the Collectors wouldn't have blown him up either.

You're right, but if you're playing a Paragon, those dream sequences seem much more natural. I found them very jarring as a Renegade. There should have been a variation on the approach. There certainly would have been had I been able to direct the scene more fully.

#25 Posted by DeF (4979 posts) -

That's the big difference with Silent Protagonist vs. Speaking Protagonist. Silent Protagonists usually are supposed to be a full on avatar for the player, the rarely have a name and function as blank slates that you imprint yourself into. Mass Effect uses a Speaking Protagonist which is not a shell the player is supposed to crawl into and call their own. This is enhanced by only providing you with a general direction or tone in the dialog choices wheres, for example, Dragon Age: Origins (Silent) shows you the full line your character is going to "say" (well ..."think" very loudly maybe).

I'm fully with the OP on this one. Shepard was never supposed to be "you". He/She couldn't.

Online
#26 Posted by Brodehouse (10132 posts) -
@BrockNRolla

@Jimbo said:

Also, I feel like 'Actor' is a bad description for that 'Playing Yourself' style of play, because actors (generally) don't play themselves or get to decide how the script goes.

In the sense that an "Actor" is a person making the actual actions. They are playing a character that is not themselves certainly, but they speak the words and move their body. An actor embodies the character. A director stands on the sidelines to control how things play out. I see what you mean, but I think it's as good an analogy as any. More accurately, it's probably something of a union between the actor & writer vs. the director

Under the common classification of tabletop RPG, people who roleplay as themselves are not roleplaying at all. The Actor is concerned with performing as their specific character to the best of their ability, the Explorer is concerned with discovering more about the fiction, and the Storyteller is kind of a blend of the two, attempting to make everything fit together in a rewarding way.

The guy playing who doesn't respond to his character's name, if it even has one, doesn't act appropriate to the fiction or setting is just playing the game, not role playing.
#27 Posted by yoshimitz707 (2453 posts) -

I was Shepard but they took out too many dialog choices in ME3 and yeah, I feel more like a director now.

#28 Posted by JeanLuc (3608 posts) -

I create Shepard to be the person I wish I could be, not the person I am. If Shepard was like me he would sit on his lazy ass and never get a single romance.

Its more wish fulfillment then imprinting myself on the character. I don't want Shepard to be like me, I want to be like Shepard.

#29 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3116 posts) -

The way I see it is this: I'd never do the things my Shepard does in the games. My Shepard is the kind of lady who, when faced with the option to non-lethally incapacitate and later cure an entire colony full of hapless mind-controlled servants, instead leads her team to the doors and double checks to make sure everyone is using incendiary ammunition because she's not going to take chances. Also, she had just gotten a skill that turned her shotgun into a god-damned rocket launcher and hadn't had a good chance to try that out yet. She's also the kind of Shepard who, throughout the entirety of Mass Effect 2, is carefully plotting things out so that she and Jack can laugh their assess off when Miranda bites it on the suicide mission. My Shepard is a pretty reprehensible gal, all things considered. I'd never pull half the crap that she does for kicks.

In ME3, though, she's suddenly going to feel bad about a dead kid? She's already known for sending people recklessly to their deaths in war, murdering an entire mostly-harmless biotic cult led by her old commander- even though there was a peaceful option, she thought it'd be too good a chance to pass up to traumatize him even further- and generally spends a good portion of her time abusing her power while still playing nice with the Citadel and coming out of things looking like a Hero. She's a goddamned monster, probably even worse morally than half the people she's sent after. And if I imported her into ME3, all that characterization gets ruined because suddenly she's the kind of person to weep over some dumb kid she doesn't even know. It's ridiculous, it doesn't fit, and I refuse to put my Shepard through that. Morally Bankrupt FemShep deserves better than to have to be put through Mass Effect 3.

#30 Posted by JeanLuc (3608 posts) -

@Make_Me_Mad said:

The way I see it is this: I'd never do the things my Shepard does in the games. My Shepard is the kind of lady who, when faced with the option to non-lethally incapacitate and later cure an entire colony full of hapless mind-controlled servants, instead leads her team to the doors and double checks to make sure everyone is using incendiary ammunition because she's not going to take chances. Also, she had just gotten a skill that turned her shotgun into a god-damned rocket launcher and hadn't had a good chance to try that out yet. She's also the kind of Shepard who, throughout the entirety of Mass Effect 2, is carefully plotting things out so that she and Jack can laugh their assess off when Miranda bites it on the suicide mission. My Shepard is a pretty reprehensible gal, all things considered. I'd never pull half the crap that she does for kicks.

In ME3, though, she's suddenly going to feel bad about a dead kid? She's already known for sending people recklessly to their deaths in war, murdering an entire mostly-harmless biotic cult led by her old commander- even though there was a peaceful option, she thought it'd be too good a chance to pass up to traumatize him even further- and generally spends a good portion of her time abusing her power while still playing nice with the Citadel and coming out of things looking like a Hero. She's a goddamned monster, probably even worse morally than half the people she's sent after. And if I imported her into ME3, all that characterization gets ruined because suddenly she's the kind of person to weep over some dumb kid she doesn't even know. It's ridiculous, it doesn't fit, and I refuse to put my Shepard through that. Morally Bankrupt FemShep deserves better than to have to be put through Mass Effect 3.

I agree with you but you have to agree some of the renegade choices in ME3 are horrible and morally bankrupt as fuck.

#31 Posted by Metal_Mills (3048 posts) -

It's why I loved Dragon Age: Origins. I was that character.

#32 Posted by LaserLambert (172 posts) -

Shephard is the player...

that's why there is a character creator...

#33 Edited by Yummylee (22575 posts) -

I was The Director for ME1 & ME2. Though for ME3, my Directing budget apparently got cut in half.

#34 Posted by Grixxel (772 posts) -

Lies! If I was a director, this would be a goofy 70's sci-fi porno. >:|

#35 Posted by The_Ruiner (1140 posts) -

The problem isn't the lack of influence. It's the fact they've taken influence away after years of having more. After spending years crafting a certain behavior for Shepard...the fact they've thrown all this other behavior in that is in direct conflict with the previous is jarring and disconnecting. To fit your analogy; it's as if another director shot most of your sequel before you were ever asked to step in. The Shepard they've crafted in ME 3 is nothing like the Shepard I've made over 2 games and that's something that breaks the experience for me.

#36 Edited by The_Ruiner (1140 posts) -

@ExplodeMode said:

I'd agree that in Mass Effect games I feel more like a director than an actor, but I'd still argue that in 3 you are given less power as a director than in previous games. Ex: Playing a ruthless renegade and still being affected by the kid and the dream sequences. Rather than caring, I am taken out of it and can only see that as a cheesy plot device leading me somewhere I don't care to go. Under my direction, Shepard wouldn't give a shit. So, I think the overall point they were making stands.

Itotally agree...my renegade Shepard would simply be angry. It would be more likely he'd let his anger get the better of him and go too far in some of the missions.

I feel like if you pick a "Ruthless" Shepard, they should have altered his dialog to fit his ruthless nature. Likewise for War hero and etc. I can totally see a Sole Survivor Shepard having nightmares about the kid since the survivor's guilt would have some context.

#37 Posted by SirPsychoSexy (1331 posts) -

I try to put myself in Shepard's shoes

#38 Posted by brownsfantb (401 posts) -

For whatever reason, when it's a game when you create the look of your character, I try to make them look as much like me as possible. When I do that, I tend to want to make the decisions that I personally would make in that situation. One example I can think of was in ME2, I romanced Miranda before going on the suicide mission. But, the more I thought about that decision, I started to feel like crap. I, personally, would probably never date someone like Miranda. Her personality wouldn't go well with mine. And the flirty dialogue between Shep and her was pretty awful. I felt much more of a connection with Tali. I actually went back after finishing the game and romanced Tali because it literally was making me sick when I would think about it.

But, when I'm playing games with pre-made characters, I tend to play as female characters. Like in Gears multiplayer, I use Anya or Sam more than I use any of the guys.

#39 Posted by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -

"SHEPARD DO IT AGAIN, BUT THIS TIME FASTER, MORE INTENSE!"

#40 Posted by Tennmuerti (8174 posts) -

Yep i feel the same way as the OP.
I never though of Shepard as an avatar for my actions in game.
As a he/she doing/saying all those things.
Not as me doing them.
 
So i guess you could put me down for director in that sense.

#41 Posted by FluxWaveZ (19388 posts) -

I'm my own Shepard. I usually play as myself in games that give you the ability to do so.

#42 Posted by Pinworm45 (4088 posts) -

I feel more like a director than Shepard. Shepard, at least in this game more than the others, is his own characters, you just get to make a few choices for him.

#43 Posted by Zithe (1040 posts) -

@Tennmuerti said:

Yep i feel the same way as the OP.
I never though of Shepard as an avatar for my actions in game.
As a he/she doing/saying all those things.
Not as me doing them. So i guess you could put me down for director in that sense.

I realize we ended our previous conversation about what constitutes an RPG, but I just wanted to let you know that this is kinda what I was getting at when I was talking about being in control of my character.

#44 Posted by SonicBoyster (362 posts) -

I thought it was pretty apparent from the first game when you weren't actually allowed to select the dialog that you were the director and not the character. Sheperd says what he wants to, you just decide when he speaks up and with what tone. Yeah, there's more to it than that, but I've never felt like *I* was that dude, though I did enjoy making his story a complex and personal one.

#45 Posted by KatyGaGa (327 posts) -

The comments on the bombast were strange. YOU are not Shepard. Shepard is a real guy that has his own agenda to save the galaxy. YOU just make decisions throughout his journey but at the core of Shepard, he is still a guy who wants to save the galaxy. If you truly were Shepard, then why isn't their an option to just not care about the galaxy and do your own thing and let everyone die? I never understood what their issue was with the little boy. No matter how evil Shepard is, he is still someone that ultimately wants to do the good thing, maybe in a utilitarian sense but still, it makes sense that all the death he's been around has finally caught up with him. The little boy also plays kind of pivotal role at the end, so I'm not sure even if Shepard sympathizing with the dead or if its something else. Either way, it makes sense with the character. Just because you think you control Shepard (which is ultimately wrong), doesn't mean you control the situation he is in.

#46 Posted by wsowen02 (325 posts) -

Well, he sure did and said a lot of things without my direction in this one.

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