To my lovely yet crazy, possibly deranged readers… This post is a bit special in the sense that it’s not entirely my own work but rather a collaboration of 7 people more or less. This is actually an assignment for one of my University Modules so it’s very academic and stuff. I’m not allowed to use stuff. I am bad person…
I present to you. (Drum roll please…)
Mass Effect 3 Learning Principles Review
We will be reviewing Mass Effect 3 by taking into consideration (Gee, 2005) 13 learning principles for a well-designed game.
In the trilogy, there is a moral system in place. The two sides are renegade and paragon. Renegade is when you take whatever measures needed to finish the mission. Paragon is where you go out of your way to help every last soul that you can. These two aspects have a massive role in the Mass Effect universe, where it even changes who will be left alive in the end and what actions are available to you in certain situations. The game allows you to make your own choices and these choices have an effect on the story that you as a player experience. The game allows you to choose your squad, who will be fighting alongside you. You further have the choice to help these companions in personal matters; this has an effect on how well they perform throughout the game.
The game has many different ways of playing it. When you start a new game, you have the ability to choose the difficulty of the game, making it easy or very difficult. If this is not enough for you and you want to skip out on all the combat the game offers, you can choose an option that makes the game all about the interactions between characters. The second option is Role Playing, where you have a component of interacting with characters and combat. A third choice would be Action only where any interaction between characters will be done for you by the game. In the game itself, you have the ability to customize Commander Shepard as well as his squad. Commander Shepard has many classes available to him; each class presents a different style of gameplay and can change how you experience the game.
In the Mass Effect trilogy you are Commander Shepard. In Mass Effect one you had a casual conversation with a death machine and then blew the thing up while grinning at your tight knit alien team. In mass effect 2 you made more alien friends then jumped through the super-scary-it-might -kill you relay… and then continued onwards to blow up the space station on the other side. Blowing things up is kind of your thing. In Mass Effect you create your Commander Shepard and you choose the fate of the galaxy. You can either be a badass or a hero hell-bent on helping people. The choice is yours.
4. Manipulation and Distributed Knowledge
In Mass Effect you can move Commander Shepard within the boundaries of the game world, you can interact with most people and you have a gun. Not just a gun, a space gun. It shoots things. Bad guys mostly. After character creation you are immediately dumped into the action after a cut scene and from there on out, it’s your job to solve the problems of the galactic community by shooting, helping and shopping. I am not kidding; you can’t shoot things properly without a nice, new gun.
5. Well-ordered problems
In the game, mass effect, many skills are taught in tutorials in the anticipation that these skills will be implemented in more difficult problem solving later in the game. The story choice system also offers many different scenarios where dialogue and action choices provide guidance for future choices and progression usually in the role playing elements of the game. This means that the game fulfils the criteria of well-ordered problems entirely.
6. Pleasantly Frustrating
At the start of Mass Effect 3 a players skills are judged by the game and a difficulty is assigned to the player that is meant to be challenging but doable. As the game progresses a player knows which directions to take due to suggestive prompts and the story aspect of the game only progresses if a player is headed in the right direction. Bosses and all enemies in general have health bars that indicate how well a player is progressing in defeating them. This shows that Mass Effect 3 fulfils the pleasantly frustrating criteria.
7. Cycles of Expertise
In the game Mass Effect 3, the principle of “Cycle of Expertise” is applied in a very simple but elegant way that makes sense to the player. Mass Effect 3 implements the different stages of difficulty in a game similarly to many other games. The player begins the game on “starting difficulty.” This gives the player a choice to play “casual”, “normal”, or “veteran.” Once a player has played through the game once on any of the above mentioned difficulty levels, they will have unlocked the “Hardcore” difficulty. In this difficulty level, the enemy’s difficulty level is scaled up. Some enemies now have protection abilities and bosses get varying levels of immunity. Once you have played through that difficulty, you would have unlocked the “Insanity” difficulty level. This level has immense scaling for bosses. All enemies now have protection and all bosses have immunity. This is a great example of how the “cycle of expertise” principle is handled in Mass Effect 3 as we can see that once a player has mastered all skills at one level, they now have to apply those skills at a much higher level. This requires the player to acquire a lot of practice and tests their memory of their practice and shows how they apply that to the new levels and challenges presented to them.
8. Information ‘On Demand’ and ‘Just in Time’
Mass Effect 3 delivers information to its players by the use of a Heads up display (HUD) system. The HUD is split up into three sections (left, right and bottom of the screen). The left and right of the screen display information about your squad’s talents and the abilities. It also allows you to issue orders by clicking on specific icons unique to those orders. The bottom of the screen provides information about your own characters abilities and talents and allows you to use them by clicking on them. In addition to these UI elements, Mass Effect 3 also provides player information while they play the game through messages and other characters. As can be seen above, Mass Effect 3 applies the “Information on Demand” in a very subtle but useful sense. Mass Effect 3 is able to provide information to the player without being obtrusive.
9. Fish Tanks
The game itself does not necessarily offer tutorials and instead puts players in the action of the game and the players are put to the test as soon as they begin. However in the beginning it is not that difficult in the first levels of the game as the player is introduced into the story, they get the idea of what is to be expected in terms of game play or and the difficulty that will come with it. Sort of a ‘Learn-as-you-go’ type game. This is the closest to a fish tank as Mass Effect 3 can get.
In terms of Sandboxes, Mass Effect 3 uses a lot of dialogue where the player can use the time to relax from any action during playing. Nothing can go wrong during the dialogue unless of course one chooses the wrong response; in the game, player has options on how to respond in dialogues which determines the rest of your game play. Should a player choose the right response, they could likely avoid any conflict in the game at all.
11. Skills as strategies and System Thinking
In the game mass effect, each character in your group has 4 skills, each with unique benefits. Often the skills of the members on your squad are very important to the success of a mission. Not having the right characters equipped and correctly levelled skills often results in mission failure, showing that critical thinking is necessary for mission success. Your squad is a system and every “component” in the system needs to be picked out carefully, working together as a team, flanking enemies and combining abilities to wipe out enemies or disable bosses is crucial.
12. System Thinking
The game consists of a class and skill system. As you level and play through the game, you can choose to unlock certain abilities. These abilities play a role in playing the game and fulfilling certain strategies. The abilities are core elements of the lore of the Mass Effect universe. As you play with these different abilities, you learn that you can combine certain abilities, meaning that over time you get a feel of the rules used in combat.
13. Meaning as Action Image
Mass Effect 3 prides itself as a game that has the player deeply experience the universe, characters, relationships, and stories through their characters. Throughout the game the player must role-play either a paragon or renegade character which defines the player experience through moral and ethical choices that the game presents to the player. These choices have a profound effect on the game, changing the outcome of certain events completely. The immersiveness of the game allows players to pick up concepts and terminology quickly by experimenting and figuring out things for themselves instead of learning definitions for example. The actions of the player allow them to learn through experience of Commander Shepard. The highly controversial ending to the game presents a philosophical question to the player that ends in three different outcomes based on what the player believes to be the correct choice depending on their experience through the game.
Gee, J.P., 2005. Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-learning. 2(1): 5-16.
Electronic Arts. 2007. Mass Effect 1. [DISC/DIGITAL] Canada: Bioware Edmonton.
Electronic Arts. 2010. Mass Effect 2. [DISC/DIGITAL] Canada: Bioware Edmonton.
Electronic Arts. 2012. Mass Effect 3. [DISC/DIGITAL] Canada: Bioware Edmonton.
If there is one thing I’ve learned it is not to take life too seriously. It can kill you… Like grab a fork and tickle you, kill you. Like seriously. There is nothing more dangerous than a fork and peanut butter falling on your head when you open the cupboard in the kitchen. I should totally write a post on how to wash peanut butter out of one’s hair. Because it happens. Shit happens my dear readers and it’s often peanut butter in your hair. How bloody poetic.
Peanut butter infested hair aside, let’s get down to business.
Cue University, the main reason why this blasted blog of mine is so quiet. But I repent; I do honestly try to make an effort… I promise no wait I don’t. Screw you all.
As pleasant as the thought of chasing a three legged cat down the street in my underwear sounds, I do believe I’ll pass. What? You had not suggested something so absurd? Well excuse me for assuming you’re interesting.
Another little life lesson that have been adequately forced down my throat would be not to hit morons over the head with my water bottle. You see I’m in that awkward position of choosing to study a degree equivalent to an engineering degree. Some might argue that I’m talking a cluster of crap; nothing in the world is more challenging than an engineering degree… I beg to differ. You try spending everyday getting up at half past 5, working for hours upon hours having barely enough time to pee and then going home, eating, bathing – that is to say if I even remember…(if you remember, there is reason I have dead windowsill fly collection. They seem to love me by the time I reach Wednesday and end up dead by Friday. Could be me… Could be the bug spray or perhaps Katherine carrying an aerosol can filled with au de stinky toes.)
Okay I’m lying; I’d eat my own ear before I got to bed smelly. I have no idea how I’m going to accomplish that but I will, hear me out, I will non-believer. (Here is a dirty little secret… I shower naked.) Anyway… where was I? Oh right, I was at the part of repeating the entire damn process over and over again until you eventually reach that point where you’re willing to lick a wall just because you can. Well that’s just me; I don’t know what the rest of you people do when under a lot of pressure. Me?
I lick walls and hunt carpets in the middle of the night.
Now the reason as to why the urge to use my water bottle as a weapon of mass destruction had risen in the first place is because I was in the unfortunate position of being stuck behind some two girls chattering like banshees and walking really… really… really slowly. I was irritated, irrational, female and hungry. I couldn’t help overhearing one complain to the other over the absolute atrocity of her having to sit through three hours of class before having a blessed break. Cue eye twitch. I’m lucky if I even have a bloody break. You my dear, are probably studying something like BA arts, I have nothing against any BA degrees what I do though have a problem with is people complaining about absolutely nothing. Shame you have class until half past 3? Well that’s cute; I have class till half past 6 sometimes but never mind me. Oh no, you have to get up at 7 to make class… Oh dear, what absolute train wreck, your life is ending because you can’t go out with your friends tonight because you have this foreign thing called homework. I’m lucky to even have social contact with people for 5 min a day. What the hell am I talking about anyway? I don’t know what her life is about.
Perhaps I’m too hard on this individual whose name I do not know, but when you reach the point of finding late night activities like hunting carpets entertaining… You know you are losing your mind or perhaps a pillow and finding any kind of sympathy is asking a bit too much.
That is all.
What is more horrifying than your cell phone inexplicably dying on you?
It’s not the boogeyman picking his nose or the daunting task of finding something to watch on television… Oh no, it’s something much worse.
A power failure.
Dum dum duuuuuuuuuuuuum.
There is nothing more horrifying than the knowledge that for a unknown finite amount of time you will be sitting at home with no electricity meaning no way to charge your dead cell phone, no video games, no hot water, no television and food that might as well be still alive since the means to cook it is… is so primitive (forgive me I had a horrible flashback. It involved burned grilled cheese, the horror! I know for a fact that my wonderful oven wouldn’t have inflicted such monstrosities on that poor sandwich.)
Not to mention no lights, eternal darkness, an increased threat of boogeyman dancing, spiders (I’m not kidding, they seem to thrive on the no electricity front. Something about crawling out from underneath the rug while you try to pee strait and not fall off the toilet in the middle night with a flashlight barely making a dent in the black abyss of your bathroom. You sit there (or stand…) minding your own damn business and then bam! OH SHIT! Need I elaborate? We’ve all been there.) and of course it’s the middle of dead winter. So no electric blankets, no heaters, did I mention the no hot water?
But what gets me the most of this big mess is nothing else than the soul sucking boredom of it all. What the hell am I suppose to do with myself the entire day? What do people do when they have no technology to entertain them? In my defense I realize that there are people out there that deal with this on a daily basis and to them I say: “Well done. I applaud thee.” But that is simply not the point. I am a spoiled child with access to technology on a daily basis and my question is: “How does one entertain oneself when technology has inexplicably bit you in the butt?”
Things to do without technology:
- Write a story… with your bare hands. That’s right, look for a pen, it’s a tangible, long, thing object that is usually about 20 cm long more or less that when you scratch on a piece of paper (a thin white sheet, you need this as well.) it makes a mark. Magic! Now go, be the next Stephanie Meyer.
- Write a song. It’s like writing a story only the difference is that this can be used to inflict mass horror on people by singing it. So if you ever feel like being hunted by pitchforks and the power happens to be out, this is your means to a very painful end… and possibly finding out what the definition of “Run Like Hell” is.
- Wash a car. Time to get down and dirty… like with mud and shit. Get your head of the gutter honestly what do you take me for? A llama-llama? I think not. Washing a car is an entire process on its own and will be elaborated on a later date. For now take it as an excuse to stalk that super hot neighbour of yours and ask him/her for help on washing your car or someone else’s car or the cat’s car. Whatever floats your boat?
- Stand on your head and try to lick your toes. It’s harder than it sounds, trusts me. This should waste a few hours, for added effect you could invite over your cute neighbour and try to light your farts on fire but this should only be done in the clutches of pure, undiluted stupidity.
- If you have a sibling (like me) that is even more useless than you are during a horrifying crisis like this, play a board game. Something likes chess. If not really your thing or your brain-cells struggle to understand the concepts of intellectual pwning, you can always tie your sibling to a tree and throw them with the board pieces…
- Take a nap. Also commonly referred to as a horizontal life pause. Even the most simple minded of beings understand this concept and should I not have to elaborate on the art of napping.
- Get a hammer, some wood and some nails… and make something. What the hell did you think I was going to say? Go after your arch-nemesis and have a tea party of death involving a hammer and a lot of screaming? Noooo, bad murdered in the making. We do not kill people. We help them into the afterlife.
- Light a candle and fry marshmallows. Ignore the strange colour your marshmallow takes on. I’m still alive so I can say with certainty that it will not kill you. I think. I might be dead already but I’m not sure.
- Watch a movie. Ha ha… ha ha ha… ha ha ha ha. I’m sorry I had to.
- Read a book. My brother absolutely hates reading but when desperate times call for desperate measures you’d be surprised as to what you discover you can and cannot do. Like reading a book. After spending some time ignoring him flat while he wandered around the house listlessly I held out a book to him and urged him to read it. He actually liked it. So shut up you “I hate reading morons”, the revolution will get you!!
Last but not least…
If all else fails, eat a peanut.
This is awkward. Not really, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about since the probability of you ever returning here once you have seen this obscurity that is my non-existent-existent blog is zero to none. So welcome Random Stranger to my blog. Yes, yes I know. I’ve already done the whole introduction thing of hello world, this is me and my blog which I am convinced will be the most awesomest thing ever (as is every other aspiring blogger out there)… like a year ago. You can keep hitting that previous posts button until you find it if you’re ever curious enough. But your laziness is apparent and I’ll spare you the pain… so don’t do it. That’s right, don’t hit that button, don’t you dare. There is nothing of interest. I am starting anew. I haven’t been on this site in months because I’m a horrible person and a damn lazy one.
But I have a valid excuse this time.
Yes I do.
Your eyes are going to fall out if you keep rolling them around like that. I swear one moment you’ll be doing that whatever whoever you are and your random ass blog I so accidentally stumbled on and the next moment… BAM! No more eyes for you, you must look really odd staring up at yourself. Watch out for the eye eating budgies while you gape like a goldfish at yourself. You should probably go the hospital though; I hear randomly losing one’s eyeballs is bad for your health. What? I caused this? Nonsense, I was just here minding my own business and contemplating whether I should make a valuable contribution to society by writing something meaningful… Which I’m like totally doing now for your information. FYI.
Right… where was I? Ohhh, that’s right. I have this perfectly valid excuse for staying away so long. What was it again…? Oh yes… It’s a little thing called I have no life anymore a.k.aUniversity. That’s right, I’m one of the big kids now, see my awesome My Little Pony backpack and shaky legs. I’m totally owning this. No? You don’t believe me? Pffft, who needs you anyway, Random Stranger, you don’t know me or my dead windowsill flies. That’s right, I’m awesome and I collect dead flies.
Ok, ok, I’ll stop now. I came here for a reason.
Dear Random Stranger and any non-existent returning guests.
I sincerely apologize for staying away so long yet I cannot promise you, my adoring Random Stranger, any regular posts but I’ll certainly try, while wearing my undies upsidedownupdownleftright. They have pink toads on them… or is it llamas? I can never decide.
Just a bit of useless information and an excuse.