Where did "Mass Effect" come from?

Posted by selbie (1847 posts) -

If this isn't a creepy coincidence given the imminent release of Mass Effect 3, then I don't know what the **** is going on here. I have always wondered about where the writers got their inspiration for the metanarrative of Mass Effect and I think I may have found something quite uncanny to say the least.

If any of you reading this have explored Frank Herbert's novels (his most famous is of course the Dune saga) you might know of or have read his novel The Dosadi Experiment.

Tonight I came across an interesting paragraph in the book which may or may not explain the original idea behind the game franchise. Of course, this could all be a total coincidence, and maybe Bioware simply came up with the same idea by chance.

Anyway, in Herbert's typical style of writing, he begins each chapter with a small preceding piece of text to shed more light on the novel's setting. This particular text is as follows:

Behavioural engineering in all of its manifestations always degenerates into merciless manipulation. It reduces all (manipulators and manipulated alike) to a deadly "mass effect". The central assumption, that manipulation of individual personalities can achieve uniform behavioural responses, has been exposed as a lie by many species but never with more telling effect than by the Gowachin on Dosadi. Here, they showed us the "Walden Fallacy" in ultimate foolishness, explaining: "Given any species which reproduces by genetic mingling such that every individual is a unique specimen, all attempts to impose a decision matrix based on assumed uniform behaviour will prove lethal". - p.95

Assuming it's not the origin of the game's name, the concept of uniform behavioural responses and manipulating people en masse has an interesting parallel with the intentions of the Reapers don't you think? To manipulate entire civilizations along a desired path toward a premeditated destination. Not to mention the premise of the gameplay which has always been to decide the fate of characters through your dialogue choices.

I, for one, am looking forward to kicking some reaper ass next week :D

#1 Posted by selbie (1847 posts) -

If this isn't a creepy coincidence given the imminent release of Mass Effect 3, then I don't know what the **** is going on here. I have always wondered about where the writers got their inspiration for the metanarrative of Mass Effect and I think I may have found something quite uncanny to say the least.

If any of you reading this have explored Frank Herbert's novels (his most famous is of course the Dune saga) you might know of or have read his novel The Dosadi Experiment.

Tonight I came across an interesting paragraph in the book which may or may not explain the original idea behind the game franchise. Of course, this could all be a total coincidence, and maybe Bioware simply came up with the same idea by chance.

Anyway, in Herbert's typical style of writing, he begins each chapter with a small preceding piece of text to shed more light on the novel's setting. This particular text is as follows:

Behavioural engineering in all of its manifestations always degenerates into merciless manipulation. It reduces all (manipulators and manipulated alike) to a deadly "mass effect". The central assumption, that manipulation of individual personalities can achieve uniform behavioural responses, has been exposed as a lie by many species but never with more telling effect than by the Gowachin on Dosadi. Here, they showed us the "Walden Fallacy" in ultimate foolishness, explaining: "Given any species which reproduces by genetic mingling such that every individual is a unique specimen, all attempts to impose a decision matrix based on assumed uniform behaviour will prove lethal". - p.95

Assuming it's not the origin of the game's name, the concept of uniform behavioural responses and manipulating people en masse has an interesting parallel with the intentions of the Reapers don't you think? To manipulate entire civilizations along a desired path toward a premeditated destination. Not to mention the premise of the gameplay which has always been to decide the fate of characters through your dialogue choices.

I, for one, am looking forward to kicking some reaper ass next week :D

#2 Edited by believer258 (11682 posts) -

Mass Effect is pretty much one gigantic love letter to classic science fiction in video game form.

So... yeah. It takes inspiration from any significant piece of science fiction from the last sixty years.

#3 Posted by Ghostiet (5229 posts) -

The name itself comes from the discovery that revolutionized space travel and combat, it's explained in the "blip" at the beginning of the first game. However, I'm pretty sure this isn't just a coincidence, the series take boatloads of inspiration out of other works.

#4 Posted by Rolyatkcinmai (2682 posts) -

Yeah in the game it is quite literally the effect on mass (FTL travel) discovered in the Prothean ruins on Mars.

#5 Posted by JustKamToo (664 posts) -

Sci-fi books TV film and gaming. From Lensman to Starwars and Halo it takes from and improves just like a good IP should do. I’ve always liked the greater universe and would like to see much more.

Online
#6 Posted by Draugen (630 posts) -
@selbie I read this somewhere on the internet, so it must be true, but isn't the phrase Mass Effect used to describe the growth of a cancerous tumor?
#7 Posted by Twinsun (468 posts) -

So you're telling me it's NOT a penis metaphor?

#8 Edited by buft (3305 posts) -

@Twinsun said:

So you're telling me it's NOT a penis metaphor?

you're thinking of Mast Erect

#9 Posted by selbie (1847 posts) -

I like where this thread is going...

@Twinsun said:

So you're telling me it's NOT a penis metaphor?

Shepard is the greatest male gigolo on the Citadel. Of course it is! :P

@Draugen said:

@selbie I read this somewhere on the internet, so it must be true, but isn't the phrase Mass Effect used to describe the growth of a cancerous tumor?

The almighty Wikipedia says yes.

@JustKamToo said:

Sci-fi books TV film and gaming. From Lensman to Starwars and Halo it takes from and improves just like a good IP should do. I’ve always liked the greater universe and would like to see much more.

I saw a statement from Bioware somewhere saying they were open to the idea of an MMO. That's probably overkill, but I agree more exploration of the universe would be a good thing, if done well.

@Rolyatkcinmai said:

Yeah in the game it is quite literally the effect on mass (FTL travel) discovered in the Prothean ruins on Mars.

Yeah, it shows how well crafted the story behind the name really is. So many different permutations of the one idea.

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