I've been having some conversations with my PhD supervisor about the finer points of one of my chapters as I near completion, and some interesting angles for further writing have come up. In some ways my thesis is setting myself up for a whole lot of more specific research questions later, which I guess is a good thing. This topic is one of them.
I'm becoming more and more interested in Mass Effect as time goes on. I haven't even managed to play the third one yet, but its now on its way to me from everyone's favorite importer, OzGameShop. I've already wandered into the territory I'm going to discuss here, though, before the whole fiasco with the ending to Mass Effect 3 transpired (and continues to). My thesis, generally, doesn't deal with people at large, but more with individual players as much as possible. Yet, increasingly, it is becoming apparent that to work out some of my interesting problems, I'll have to bring in "people at large" in a pretty big way. In trying to erect a useful framework for analyzing games, both in their ludological interactivity and dramatic narrativism, I've gotten into interpretations of canon.
In another in a series of pieces discussing largely unanswerable questions, this piece will examine the relevance of the ‘canon’ to an interactive form such as Mass Effect. The background to this discussion is the overall controversy regarding sex in videogames, and why it is such a difficult subject to handle well, that began in particular regarding Mass Effect a few years ago. More recently, speculation surfaced and inspired a heated debate regarding the possibility of expanding same-sex relationships with previously-established characters in Mass Effect 3. The debate, while very likely motivated by personal aversions to non-heterosexuality in general, revolved around canonical and continuity objections. My question here is, can an interactive medium have a non-interactive canon? Who is to say what the truth is, in a medium where nothing is true, and everything is permitted?
I'm getting a lot of mental mileage out of this topic, and I'm spreading the thoughts out in various outlets. This blog post is one version of the thinking. I will be developing it further in a paper I'm presenting in July at an academic conference, and I had a chat to Mark Serrels over at Kotaku AU for a slightly more approachable take (albeit with slightly different concentration). There is a lot more to be said about Mass Effect, romance, fiction and simulation and I hope to be involved in saying. For now, let's begin with this discussion of canon.