Moral choices and Mass Effect

In my playthrough, Tali dies. She kills herself.

(In-game, it’s after Thessia that Shepard starts breaking down; for me, it was Tali.)

I could have prevented it. I could have asked Legion not to uplift the Geth; I could have let the Quarians win that war.

But it wasn’t one they should have been fighting. And if they’d withdrawn, they could have lived.

If there is a theme to the choices my Shepard makes, it’s that xenocide is not the answer. Sure, the krogan are aggressive. Maybe their population will race back up and they’ll start wars again – but you deal with that when it happens. You don’t decide you know better, and you don’t interfere with another species ability to reproduce.

Ashley killed Wrex on my playthrough, because I could not bring myself to argue on that point. My Shepard always considered curing the genophage something worth fighting for. And she did it, in the end. (And that’s why Mordin’s death felt so poetic – he was setting something right, and it was a cause worth dying for.)

And she let the Rachni queen live, twice. (Even when I thought Grunt had died and I felt awful for it.)

And she let the Geth defend themselves.

Which gutted me. Tali has always been a favourite, and I could have saved her people, but I did not. It was not a pragmatic decision, that the Geth would be the greater ally. It wasn’t anger that the Admirals had considered us reasonable losses in their war.

(And I don’t consider the Quarians reasonable losses.)

It was just, this is the right thing.

Sure, it’s only a game. But the choices I make in-game reflect my own morality (unless I am consciously trying to play against that, but even then it’s hard). They’re choices I would never have to make in real life, but they still tell me what I think.

It’s only a game, but even then, I want to be a moral person. Even when I’m pretending to be a rogue space commander or an apostate mage. And playing RPGs makes it a lot more evident what that morality is.

In the end, my Shepard chose to control the reapers. I almost backed out (until the cut scene took over), but not because I thought it was a bad choice – it was because I misinterpreted what the Catalyst said, and thought that Control was the only ending that destroyed the Mass Relays. The destruction of the Mass Relays was an awful enough idea that I considered sacrificing the Geth for it.

And if that was the choice, then maybe I would choose differently. But it wasn’t.

Fandom has depressed me a little with its Indoctrination theory and the idea that Destroy is the only correct option. Because it wasn’t the wrong decision for my Shepard. If I let the Geth have the ability to defend themselves, why would I consider them acceptable losses, just for a more decisive victory? If I consistently chose not to wipe out entire species, why would I stop now? Why, when there’s another option?

And I never thought that it was wanting to control the reapers that made the Illusive Man wrong. It was the willingness to commit atrocities in the process. If it weren’t for that (and how, by the end, he’d obviously lost it), Shepard would have been tempted.

But this, in the end, was her choice: save the galaxy by sacrificing herself, or save the galaxy by committing multiple xenocides. Wiping out a species when they’re trying to kill yours is one thing; doing it when another species is collateral damage and there is another option is another.

Defeating the reapers was never the point. Saving the galaxy – as much of it as I can – was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>