Yet as with Schrödinger’s Cat, or Robert Frost’s own less traveled path, searching out each possibility voids all others.
To replay Mass Effect is to explore parallel worlds. Having played ‘paragon Shepard’ before embarking on ‘evil Shepard’, I was acutely aware of the variety of choices before me, and the importance of many of those choices. Their consequences echo forwards in time – through Shepard, I subtly shape the world around me. My squad mates, or their absence, remind me in their poignant and affirming ways of when I have either frakked up or done well.
In one scene Tali, intoxicated, describes (like many of the other characters) how the legacy of her parents haunt her. Yet I could easily rant to her about my own haunting, as I endlessly question the choices I made in previous games. Should I have let Ashley or Kaidan die in the first game? What would have happened had I let Morinth kill her mother, Samara, in the second game? If I had have told Kelly Chambers to change her identity in the third game, would she still be alive?
All too often in real life, I find myself feeling like the river of fate is carrying me along with it: while I can shift a bit to the left or to the right of centre, ultimately I am still at the mercy of the flow. Seeing the repercussions of my choices in the controlled environment of an RPG helps me appreciate the power of causation; the choices that I make do matter. They are one out of many – and I do own my life.
As Maximus Meridius remarks, ‘What we do in life echoes in eternity.’