Your Rice Option

When the Mass Effect 3 rage about the ending surfaced, I didn’t worried too much, as I didn’t play the game and didn’t see the ending.

When people came with the argument of “Mass Effect is about choices and the end has nothing to do with choices”, I started backing up those guys, ’cause at least they provided a good argument to their complains.

But this weekend, after completing the first Mass Effect, I’m wondering if that argument is true, in the first place. Sure, things may have changed heaps since the first interaction, but still gives the impression that people think picking a type of rice is related to choices.

Yeah, you’re now confused on what the hell I’m talking about rice. Well, that’s one thing I realized when playing Mass Effect (I had the same feeling when playing Skyrim, but I think the idea just crystallized on this game): You enter a restaurant; you can pick one of three choices: Hydroponic rice, Australian rice or European rice. What option do you pick? Either is fine, ’cause you are still eating fucking rice!

Really, if a game is truly based on your choices, the story would flow like this:

But what we have currently is a lot like this:

Let me repick Mass Effect on this (and I’ll spoil part of the story, but since the game was released 5 years ago, I’ll do it shamelessly): There is the part where you have to pick one teammate to die. Ohh, big choice here, this will surely change everything from now on. Actually, it doesn’t. It’s a nice dressing for a rice option: One guy/gal dies, everybody says his/her name, how sad it’s that he/she is not there anymore, but story flows without change! Oh, big choice there, mate.

And, in case you’re wondering, I killed that xenophobic, religious nut called Ashley. And I’d kill her any time again. Not regrets — which is another point: You can’t show no remorse to your team. You can’t trash-talk her now that she’s not there anymore. You can’t bring the phrase “good riddance” to any conversation where her name appears. Why? Because it’s a damn rice option!

Again, things may have changed in the next two installments of the series but I now have to back up my “people claiming the game ignored their choices” defense and say that, although the game really offers options, none of them really matter.

The word you’re probably looking right now (well, that’s the word that popped in my head just seconds before I clicked the “Publish” button) is “consequences”. Your choices have to have consequences, otherwise they are rice options. I can understand why they turned everything in “rice options”: How do you make your players happy if they are not sure if they picked the right option? Was killing Ashley or Kaidan the right option? How much harm I’ll do with my gameplay if I kill one of those? Since they don’t want to make players wonder how much they are harming themselves instead of actually picking options, they turn everything into rice options.

My experience with the first Mass Effect is that it’s rice, all the way down.