The 140th issue of Escapist Magazine features five new articles, one of which breaks BioWare's Mass Effect down to its various sci-fi components.
"Mass Effect is a space opera," says Joel Gourdin of X-Play in the opening of "Sci vs. Fi: Mass Effect," a half-hour slobberfest over the game, presented by the SciFi channel back in November. The program featured BioWare staff and Mass Effect voice actors, as well as game journalists and random D-List celebrities. Gourdin contributed shameless saliva to the production, but he did classify the game correctly.
Space opera is essentially Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers: serial adventure with galactic-scale civilizations. The core conflict of a space opera occurs between larger-than-life heroes and villains, with the fate of humanity at stake. Though long derided for bad science and cartoonish characters, the genre has been respectable since Star Trek.
From the beginning, space opera has always been allegorical. They reflected the great conflicts of the 20th century. The humanoids populating the galaxy represent either Earth cultures or exaggerations of the human condition. Thus, Klingons represent both the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the dangers of unrestrained aggression. The reason for using this formula is to address concerns of the day. It was no accident that the first interracial kiss on American television occurred on Star Trek.
Mass Effect applies the Star Trek formula - exactly that formula. Aliens represent what it means to be human, and BioWare hopes to show us a startling kiss. Unfortunately, the moment for such old-timey sci-fi may have passed.