Hello! Aside from a couple images that are from the very end of Mass Effect 3, I will not be discussing spoilers in the text for anything. Just the images!
The 7th generation of consoles introduced something that hadn't really existed for mainstream audiences in the past; capturing screenshots and footage. Early on I recognized that the Share button on the DualShock 4 was going to be important in the coming years, but I never expected it to become important to me and my time playing games. That cataloging my time with certain titles could be incredibly rewarding, that it would transform the experiences I had.
My first forays into using capture tools were simply playing games on Steam and hitting F12 at certain moments, and then uploading the ones I was fond of along with silly, dumb captions that a 14 year-old would think was funny. Time progressed, and then we see me uploading matches that I had in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. That system was incredibly limited, because you could only upload from the game itself, and it had to be shorter than a certain length, so I often chose to do highlights so that a longer match would make the cut. It was crude and had no real creative input or control from me as a player. Those highlights often skipped the moments I loved most in those matches, but that was I all I could do as a teen with no way of recording a console (and not really willing to invest in the tech to do so).
Overwatch is sorta where things really change.
I got really into Overwatch. Like, "1500 hours of playing as just D.Va, sometimes top 500 on PS4" level. I am good at playing the gay mech pilot. The PlayStation 4's Share functionality that I could save footage of all my great D.Va bombs, and the system's ShareFactory app meant that I later ended up making montages of those bombs. I've made maybe three dozen D.Va montages? And then there are a couple offshoots, like Hanzo, and I ended up loving Wrecking Ball so much last summer that I started a series of making ones for him too. Making those montages meant I was combing through hours of footage looking for those sweet moments where Deevs yelled "I'm on FIRE!", and thus that I relived a fair amount of my time with that game. It helped reinforce those memories, and while I've (finally) fallen off the game recently, I can recall a lot of moments both because the game is great and because I got to watch them again and again.
But that's a multiplayer game. For single-player titles, it feels like it took until 2018 for me to really try and capture good moments. I did take a fair number in Fallout 4 in 2015, but that was still using Steam's clunky architecture. The first real story-focused game that I spent time taking some nice photos in was Assassin's Creed: Origins, partially because that game actually had a photo mode for me to use. This carried over to Odyssey, a game I decided to keep my thoughts on contained to a Twitter thread. I'd certainly done short threads about a number of games before Odyssey, but having one that I returned to over multiple weeks helped with a number of things; it felt like I was easily able to revisit my memories and also share them with others, something I had been doing with Smash, Overwatch, and other games before, but never in a way that worked super well. I could share moments from Odyssey, but the ones I did were usually vista shots; capturing dialogue was harder on a console with the way the PS4's functionality was built, so the small bits of story that ended up in my feed either had no accompanying image or were from my phone's camera.
I haven't even mentioned that (like Origins before it) Odyssey is one of the most gorgeous worlds I've ever explored. pic.twitter.com/3Vc4UchL1p— rhode evil 2 remake (@RhodeZeroX) October 30, 2018
About a month after finishing Odyssey, I decided to replay Mass Effect 1, which launched an obsession that I've been unable to shake. I didn't really record my thoughts on 1 or 2 in any special way like I did Odyssey, but 3 was a different beast.
If you read the piece I wrote about Commander Shepard in December, you saw that I utilized a few personal captures from that first run I did of Mass Effect 3. The only reason I can recall that I started taking them at all was because ME3 was actually pretty damn good looking still, while the first two entries were a bit...eh. I started taking them a couple hours into the game proper, when I arrived at the Citadel for the first time. The ones I took were mostly random; even though I adored the Sur'Kesh mission, I didn't end up taking any pictures during it, and my capture rate only really ramped up when I started the Citadel DLC and played that and the final two missions in one sitting. That ended up being about 500 files, which at the time felt like a lot.
A couple weeks after that, in the twilight days of 2018, I finally succumbed to keep playing the series and returned to Mass Effect 1. That game has cool art and design in a number of places, but the obviously dated graphics kept me from going a bit crazy, so that folder ended with 300 screenshots. A lot, but way less than my first time with 3. Upon restarting 2, I found myself taking many more, both because 2 was still the game I was least familiar with (when I played 2 last year, I ran through it in two days, and missed a fair amount of content. I also didn't have the DLC at the time, so that added some interest), which ran up to 850 captures. That's a lot; more than double 1, and 1.5x my first run of 3.
Then I return to Mass Effect 3.
By the time I leave Earth, there are eighty pictures in the folder. That number will double before I reach the Citadel. I keep taking more and more, and eventually there are 6GB worth of images sitting in that thing. My run ended up being about 36 hours or so, which means I was taking around 97 an hour...more than one a minute. When my left hand wasn't in the typical WASD position, it moved to have Windows + Print Screen ready for any instance that I deemed worthy of saving for later. What made those instances worthy? Pretty much any time that Shepard was on the screen either saying a cool line or doing something neat.
If I could, I would go for getting one during those very short bits between the camera cuts between characters, where there would be no subtitles (I could have just turned them off, but subtitles are nice and also good for some captures). So sometimes I was taking three within five seconds or so, trying to get a good shot, without awkward lighting or facial expressions. That's led to this folder with 3000 pictures in it (I have actually whittled it down to 3306 so far, but 3436 is what I ended the game at) and...it's kinda surreal. Taking them became a reflex at some point, pressing away. If I ever accidentally hit just the Windows key and exited out of the game, I would quit out and load a save to make sure I could keep taking shots (exiting out of a program stops your from taking screens of it). I wanted to capture as much as possible.
I already took 40 pics before you even get to properly control Shepard— rhode evil 2 remake (@RhodeZeroX) January 7, 2019
I'm so in love with this series pic.twitter.com/haWDohPiXl
Like Odyssey, I ended up having a thread dedicated to the Mass Effect games, but unlike Odyssey most of the tweets in them contained at least one (if not four) captures, because I had the ability to yoink ones from any bit of the game easily. I took so many of them, and for every one I didn't like there were three or four that were acceptable, if not really rad. I constantly wanted to share what I was feeling, and when I did manage to restrain myself from just posting a dozen screens at once, I could just check out the files and reminisce.
I can't say there's a real pattern or progression with how I've experienced and share my time with games, based on all this. Sure, it's gotten more open and at times more...extensive? It's hard to point at my attempt to capture every frame of Mass Effect 3 as being this new step because I played that on PC, where I always had the ability to take good, clean, uninterrupted screens. I guess it took me figuring out about using Windows and Print Screen to actually go the distance (and I only looked that up because Origin didn't have one that I could find!), but there is something with how I've spent more and more of my game time devoted to this over the years.
There are actually quite a few moments in the game where my grabs from my first run ended up being better than the ones in my second. Even though this is a bummer for when I scroll through, they still exist as reminders of what Mass Effect is to me and are extremely evocative. When I eventually return to the series at some point, I know I'll have to take lots of pictures again, even though I've done so before. It's become a part of the experience; despite the fact that my first and second run of Mass Effect 3 involved making almost all of the same decisions (the only difference being the Ashley/Kaidan choice from 1), I want to keep those playthroughs preserved in some way. It feels...right, for Mass Effect. Or maybe just Commander Shepard; maybe I've done all this for Shepard. She is in almost every screenshot I take, after all.
Am I going to catalog every game I play in the future? Of course not. In fact for most games I play (especially on PC) I don't anticipate capturing nearly as many images as I did with the Mass Effect series. But I cannot deny how nice it has been to be able to share the ones I took of Riley Shepard in her fight against the Reapers, and how wonderful it is to scroll through the now thousands of ones I hold, seeing the story progress and remembering the small, heartwarming sequences that are in that trilogy. It's a series that's held my attention for weeks now, and I just want to spend more time thinking about it.
To close this out, I do feel like I should include some of my favorite grabs from my second run of Mass Effect 3. <3