Mass Effect: How my non-gamer dad finished the trilogy in one month
Everything in moderation, even alien romance.
Steph PanecasioFormer Editor
Steph Panecasio was an Editor based in Sydney, Australia. She knows a lot about the intersection of death, technology and culture. She's a fantasy geek who covers science, digital trends, video games, subcultures and more. Outside work, you'll most likely find her rewatching Lord of the Rings or listening to D&D podcasts.
My dad would not, by any stretch of the imagination, call himself a gamer.
At 58 years old, he's spent most of his life on assorted sports fields, spin bowling for Australia's indoor cricket team, lowering his golf handicap and smashing out sets in his local tennis tournament.
For many years, his biggest contribution to gaming was waking up for his 5 a.m. golf tee-off and hollering at me to turn the game off and finally go to sleep. I vaguely recall a time my brother tried to convince him to play Grand Theft Auto, but as a joke he started him off in the middle of one of the game's strip clubs and… well, my brother was grounded for a while after that.
But over the past six months or so, he's come around to the idea. With everything that's been going on the past year, he's had more free time (and my brother and I have been hounding him to give it a try for years). For his first challenge, he played through the entirety of the Witcher 3 -- DLC and all -- despite having never picked up a console controller before.
Despite a baffling inability to keep the camera still -- not to mention his own character -- Dad quickly progressed through the game, somehow making it through the most challenging fights without even knowing how to craft a potion.
"I just dodged a lot," he told me -- and when he says "a lot," he means literally nonstop. His finger was glued to the dodge button, so his version of Geralt was just rolling all over the landscape like a hamster on steroids.
But once the final cutscene came to a close, he felt for the first time what all gamers feel: the post-game comedown. What comes next? The adventure can't be over yet, right?
Of course not -- time for the next game. One of my all-time favorites, in fact. I insisted, because I knew he'd love it. For the past few months, my Dad has been rapidly playing through the Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
And because I'm perpetually online, I've been documenting it on Twitter.
It's been a difficult process. With Witcher, I was able to visit him to help out when he couldn't figure out a way forward. With Mass Effect, he was on his own -- and that meant I received a lot of messages at pivotal moments.
Some were furious, because I hadn't warned him of dire consequences.
Others… well, others were really more than I'd bargained for.
There's really nothing in this world that will adequately prepare you for a text message from your dad about boning blue space aliens. I am thankful every minute that I wasn't present for that cutscene.
I even got messages from Mum, documenting Dad's tendency to talk to himself in third person.
But despite being on his own, Dad raced through the games. He played as an Infiltrator, sniping his enemies at a distance (a good move, given that he hadn't really gotten the hang of shooters), and with his go-to team of Garrus and Tali, he was done with the first game in nine days flat.
Honestly, for a beginner, he went through it at a surprising rate. The second game went by even faster -- I was playing through the series myself at the same time, and he was eclipsing me by a country mile.
And that's after starting the entire ME2 save file over again.
When he played The Witcher, it took him roughly four to five months to complete the game in its entirety.
On June 24, just 34 days after beginning the series, Dad finished the final game in the Mass Effect Trilogy. Three games in little over a month.
I was barely halfway through the second one.
I was completely thrown by how quickly he went through it. How? We both work full-time jobs, we both have extracurricular activities. I'm the gamer, for goodness sake -- how did he beat me to it?
But I realized that, at 58 years of age, Dad was going through the same thing I went through when I was a teenager playing until 5 a.m. -- he was so engrossed in the game that he played it to the exclusion of all else. He was spending hours a day playing because of the drive to finish, to know what happens at the end.
My dad has always been the type of "all or nothing" person who throws himself into his hobbies. If he starts a book, he wants to finish it as soon as possible, because why wait when there are plotlines unresolved? He largely prefers movies to TV series because waiting between episodes is frustrating. He digs into YouTube deep dives and theories because he wants to know everything there is to know about the content he's consuming.
I shouldn't have been surprised. I'm exactly like him in that respect. I am my father's daughter.
He, like me, needs to know what happens next. He, like me, can't abide a loose thread. But with long, complex games with stretching storylines and forked choices, you can't do that, or you lose yourself and you lose your time.
And if you are anything like me, you burn out on games and wind up taking a six-month hiatus from anything that requires a controller. I didn't want that to happen to my dad, not when he was just starting to really get the hang of this new hobby.
So despite how impressed and proud I was of him finishing one of my favorite series in the whole world, it was also important to me that I talk to him about finding the balance between loving the game and letting the game exist without needing all the answers.
And thankfully, it worked. Dad has since moved on to a new game -- Shadow of War, because he's a big Lord of the Rings nut -- and his time on it has been far more balanced. He's taking his time, he's learning all the game mechanics early (yes, that means learning to use skill trees) and he's taking healthy breaks from the game. Mum is pleased that she can use the telly again.
In a weird way, it almost makes me look forward to having kids one day, being able to teach them how to love this hobby in a healthy way too. After all, watching Dad's adventures revitalized my love of the games he was playing because I was watching through fresh eyes.
So I'm glad Dad and I could have that discussion -- and I'm glad I was the one to do it.