Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I've been spending the past few days (and I'm likely to spend the next several more) playing through Mass Effect 2 for a paper I'm aiming to get published. (Yeah, that was originally going to be the culmination of my much delayed academic series. Spoiler, I guess.) Specifically, I'm looking for instances of race, biotech, and choice. While playthroughs of the game are readily available online, unfortunately they rarely consider the outcome of every possible choice in a conversation. Which means I spend most of my time endlessly going through a single conversation, typing out all the possibilities and jotting down some notes to remind myself why it mattered. In that vein, I spent the last two hours transcribing everything said over the intercom in the space station known as Omega. Since it doesn't seem to exist anywhere else on the Internet, I thought I'd post them here, so no one ever has to go through the pain I did. Sections in italics signal a male speaker, normal font a female speaker, and bolded sections refer to an alien Batarian speaker. The ... sections mark where I missed a word. I'd go back and fill in the blanks, but which news story plays next seems to be randomly chosen, and if a news story doesn't repeat itself after an hour, well, that's too bad. (All right, it's not great scholarship. If it was really important to my argument, I would have made the effort, but this stuff is rather ancillary. And besides, doing great scholarship means getting the funding to buy a new computer so I can run the software that allows me to record videos of my monitor feed, and thus not have to press pause every 3 seconds to jot down what's just been said. So if anyone wants to donate for that noble cause, feel free.) Here we go:

-The Vorcha. A blight on Omega’s society, or a boon for the station’s depressed labor market? A new study on the vorcha’s adaptive capabilities shows that with proper treatment, young vorcha can be molded into productive members of society. The study, sponsored by generi-stethics services, promises to redefine the way we look at the vorcha who clog our walkways. Could these vagrants someday become an asset?

-Imagine this. You’re in the Nexus. It’s late, and the only one around is that screeching Prophet and a few vorchas scratching for food. Suddenly, a shot. Red hot life blood pours from a wound in your back as your life ebbs away. The attacker leans forward, hoists your valuables and says, “Good thing you didn’t have a devlon stinger.” Devlon industries. Fine sidearms for your personal protection.

-Two years since the destruction of the Destiny Ascension, and …. For the fleet… of the Citadel have reached an impasse.The Asari republics had ceded its share of defense responsibility to the Turian hierarchy, the human alliance maintains a majority share of forces.

-The hunt is on for Omega’s public enemy number one. And this time, there is no escape. Merc groups from all over the Terminus system are recruiting for assaults on the notorious Archangel in an attempt to kill the meddling bastard once and for all. Who is he? Who gives a shit? He’ll be dead soon enough. And the ones who take him down will be living like kings.

-The Shepherd memorial on Akuze is expected to open next year once the area is declared safe for visitors. Admiral Stephen Hackett will preside.

-A source reports that the attack on the human colony Freedom’s Progress is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack by members from former council races. While no formal statement has been issued, the Council has made formal information requests of the Salarian special tasks group.

-Investigators on Noveria have uncovered troubling data from the wreckage of League 15. Researchers there may have been cloning Rachni genetic material. Fortunately, according to Council representatives, the experiment produced no living Rachni.

-Captain Hannah Shepherd has apparently turned down an admiral star and will remain in command of the Orizaba. The captain deemed her promotion to admiral a political ploy and said that she could best honor her child’s legacy by captaining a ship.

-Sources say that the asari Shiara, more commonly known as the Consort, may be leaving the Citadel after years of bad press and rumors of intelligence leaks.

-The Turian hierarchy has announced that it will not limit its Dreadnought production to previous totals. Citing an increased need for security in the wake of the death of previous Council members, the Turian military intends to increase defense production. Representatives of the new human led Council have no comment.

-Aria T’Loak. She’s Omega’s number one citizen. But what do we really know about her? With your help, we can make damn sure that the people who should rule Omega do so. Act now for Omega’s future.

-Commander Shepherd. He uncovered Saren’s plan, defeated the geth army and died in the final days of the fight. Or did he? Witnesses report seeing him alive on Omega.

-Plague in the slums. Is this the end for Omega’s poor? Omega’s destitute and pathetic are dying in their own filth. Some people demand that something be done. Mostly those whose loved ones live in the slums. Salarian researcher Morlan Solus thinks he has the answer, but he’s wasting his time. The plague is the answer. The answer to the endless sea of sentient waste that populates the slums. Let those people fall to the Vorcha.

-Breaking news. The weekly death toll numbers are in and they’re not looking good. The last report places the station’s murder rate at 89, up 5 from the previous week. The news report places the death toll at just 73 with experts blaming the council’s threatened limits on the slave trade for the lower number. With 80% of all bets placed on the over this week this news could sink Omega’s economy. Experts say that the smart money’s on the over for next week’s report.

-The Fermat Consortium is going ahead with its plans to sue the Citadel council to remove unfair limits on the intergalactic slave trade. A Fermat spokesman had this to say: slavery is an inextricable part of Batarian caste system. By limiting the slave trade the council is limiting our cultural rights. The Council is scheduled to hear arguments for the next few weeks. Fermat Representatives do not expect the council to take the culturally sensitive option.

-Certa foundation is likely to close by the end of this fiscal year. The foundation never recovered from a deadly attack by biotic extremists on one of its medical centers two years ago.

-Survivors from the destroyed colony of Zhu’s Hope have petitioned the council for reparations, given former Spectre Saren’s role in the attack on their home.

-A human colony called Freedom’s Progress has been attacked by unknown forces logging yet another in the chronicle of the humans failing to defend their own colonies. The Alliance has dispatched aid and travel support vessels in an effort to ease the suffering among the ruins of the human colony. Raiders and pirates have already jumped on the opportunity, staking out the routes that lead to Freedom’s Progress. Record windfalls are expected.

-A quiet candlelight vigil is planned for the hostages who died during the Turian attack on Terra Nova. Reverend Michael Bowman, whose daughter Kate died in the fighting, is holding a nondenominational prayer service for the anniversary of the attack.

-The Kaidan Alenko Memorial scholarship … gifted human biotics to the … for care and training. Alenko, a graduate of the controversial biotic acclimation and temperance training project, sacrificed his life to help stop Saren on Virmire.

-The Vorcha. Ruthless parasites on the hard working men and women of Omega. If you’ve got vorcha problems, there’s only one thing to do: get rid of them. Genera relocation services will design and execute a three, four, or five part plan to confront your nagging Vorcha problem and remove it entirely. And it’s safe and humane. In all our long history, not a single client has been harmed by genera relocation services or our methods. Call today. Get rid of your vorcha hassles, forever.

-Later today, we interview Councillor Udina. This relentless advocate for humanity has ruffled some feathers and has no plans to stop. Tune in and learn with the man the Turian Hierarchy called ‘diplomatic incident waiting to happen happened…. In humanity’s galactic affairs.

-The… universe looms wide. Will you be the one to fill it?... Manufacturing has opened offices all over the …and beyond, preparing to drive civilization into… reaches of the abyss. Only the bravest, … and most qualified and dedicated people will survive in the harsh regions of the most untamed section of the galaxy. If you are that type of person, apply to Daton Manufacturing today and look into the abyss.

-We will all perish in fire and radiation. Let those who think themselves worthy come unto him… The Word is clear. The lesser races will be punished. Only the pure will ascend into righteousness. Be forewarned. The end times are coming. And you are not prepared. Paid for by the followers of the exalted light of the word.

24 separate sound bits. It's not quite Grand Theft Auto level of radio commentary, yet, but it's nothing to sniff at. And there's actually some fodder for study there. Note, for starters, that the references to the Vorcha refer to them alternatively as filth to be cleaned, viruses to be wiped out (or, in some cases, a necessary bane to weed out the weak), and animals to be molded into desirable forms. It's rhetoric based loosely on those found in the discourse of Europeans of the 18th and 19th centuries. Definitely some race stuff there. We've also got parallel arms races going on (Turians and humans) and references to the Batarian rivalry for human colony areas. There's plenty of references to events whose outcomes hinged on the player's actions in Mass Effect One: the death of Kaidan Alenko, the human control of the Council, even the existence of Mother Shepard, so it's reinforcing the overall emphasis on player control and choice. Incidentally, my favorite bit is the report that says the drop in murders is bad, because it may disrupt the gambling economy of all those who believed it would get worse.
Well, that wasn't so bad. How much of the game do I have done now? Let's see... I've been playing for 6 hours and... I'm on the 3rd of approximately 25 missions.
Sigh. Oh yes, video game analysis is great fun...

Later Days.

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