Adventures in OkCupid Land: perspectives and hacks from the online-dating site

About a month ago[1] I set up and starting developing an OkCupid profile. As with many new activities upon which I embark, I approached it empirically (though, that's not to say thoroughly) – undertook a review of existing literature, maintained a logbook, and reviewed the performance of each experiment in communication. Now, if the result cannot be an interesting activity partner, casual sex, or a life-long thing, at least I will have a blog post to show for it.

“The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death”

Each time that I play Mass Effect, I contribute to a collective study of morality. Between me and the other 3.5 million ME3 players, 2mil ME2 players, and the countless pirates, we have made close to every one of the numerous significant variations of Shepard’s conversation options. Think of it as a million monkeys working away not on a typewriter, but on a chessboard: resulting in a trove of anthropological insights not only on the choices people have made, yet (more importantly) what they have thought of their and others’ choices.

‘What we do in life echoes in eternity’ – Glory and Consequence in RPGs

The biggest features of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are the vastness and detail of its world, Tamriel. Six months after pirating buying my own copy, I continue to stumble upon rich, self-contained stories on the path less traveledThe appeal in Mass Effect however is in the possibilities always in front of me. On any one day, I can choose to either punch reporters in the face or invite them to my cabin. The game invites me to search out Easter Eggs through conversation, interaction, and exploration.

Moral fortitude in Mass Effect

I recently finished replaying Mass Effect 3 (Insanity level / Sentinel) as a Renegade. Going ‘evil’ gave the game plenty of replayability but left me feeling dirty – case in point, fatally shooting Mordin, one of the coolest characters on the starship Normandy. One player describes Mordin’s murder as the “saddest moment in Mass Effect 3” – though I doubt it is quite as sad as Tali and Legion’s double-suicide, which I almost turned into a triple-suicide.

Chariots of the Protheans

Bioware’s Mass Effect trilogy is part of a rich tradition of action, science fiction and horror narratives – the HG Lovecraftian elements of the Cthulhu-like Reapers, case in point.[1] Then there are the healthy doses of anthropology - the idea, for instance, that the technological superior Protheans ‘guided’ the Asari, passing themselves off as gods, in their early cultural development is straight out of Chariots of the Gods?

The hero with a thousand helmets

Whenever I watch, or read, or appreciate some story, I pool a bit of my own mind into that of the protagonist.[1] For a few hours while leaning over my eBook reader, I live in vicarious wonder; and at the Astor Theatre, or Malthouse Theatre, or around a campfire on the banks of the Murry, I again piggyback on the journey of my hero. Yet in these latter cases, so too is everyone else around me, disseminating fragments of us throughout the cast of the film, or play, or story. We psychically entangle ourselves with the figures on the screen or stage.[2]

Will the real Commander Shepard please stand up?

Bioware, the makers of both Dragon Age and Mass Effect, named our hero after Rear Admiral (Deceased) Alan Shepard – the first American in space, and the fifth on the moon. The two Shepards appear to share some strong parallels: adventurer, pioneer, and comedian.[1] Our Shepard is essentially a jock, though (s)he can surprise[2] – for instance, (s)he is also openly and confidently bi-sexual.[3] Much of the story of Shepard is about helping others realize their full potential, and get past their fears and complexes.[4] Shepherd is a spiritual adviser and matchmaker.[5] The characters in her/his squad thank him/her for having helped him grow – and reaching such points can either ensure that they survive to the final battle and beyond (as with Cortez), or provide Shepard with their bonus power.