Mass Effect Goes Multiplayer

A team consisting of a Turian, a Krogan, and a Salarian fight against heavily armored Cerberus shock troops.

After months of rumors and speculation, BioWare has confirmed that, Mass Effect 3, the final part of their space opera action RPG trilogy, will feature a 4-player online co-op mode. BioWare introducing multiplayer at such a late stage in the series is an interesting move, especially in light of the fact that they have been criticized in the past for neglecting their current audience in their attempts to court a new one.

It’s nothing unique to them, but I’ve always found it a particularly interesting conflict with BioWare. Their titles have been regularly featured here on The Border House because of the way their narratives, character customization options, NPC interactions, and marketing choices pose and interact with various social justice issues. Due to statements and responses from some of their staff, like David Gaider, on representation and the presence of queer characters in their properties, BioWare also tends to be perceived as comparatively progressive amongst game developers.

However, in the last few of their releases, many marketing and design choices have been at odds with their progressive rep, due to their often overdone attempts to appeal to fans of twitch combat and intense FPS action over fans of deep RPG character building and involved storylines.* Fans of the former are stereotyped as the “typical” white, heterosexual male gamer only interested in sex and violence, while the latter’s interests are often feminized.

Online play has always been a tricky proposition for the marginalized. To move from the insulated safe space of single player or local multiplayer where, generally, you will only be in the company of those you’ve chosen to be with and into the wilds of random online match-ups can be downright terrifying for some. The tenor of communities that pop up around games with online play (mandatory or optional; competitive or cooperative) vary, but many involve players constantly being exposed to a barrage of verbal abuse including racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and other slurs.

The multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 is both co-op and optional, but also said to be beneficial to the single-player campaign if utilized. It remains to be seen whether there’s any legitimate shift in the audience for the game due to its addition and how the current audience will comport itself in a multiplayer setting. A (sometimes dubiously) progressive developer does not necessarily equal a progressive audience, as the perpetual arguments about the inclusion of same sex romance on the BioWare Social Network prove.

Personally, I plan to give it a go. I’ve played online games for long enough that I’m sure I won’t hear anything I haven’t before, and I might just hear something I like.

*This is in no way a value judgment on either mode of play. I happen to enjoy both immensely myself.

About Rawles

Rawles is cis, queer, black, a reader, a writer, a gamer, and an activist. She enjoys marathon sessions of The Sims, melting faces, and having an alt for every possible RPG outcome. She tweets more than she ought to across multiple accounts, but you can find her stream of consciousness rantings at @rawlesmarie and her original fiction and critical essays on pop culture at
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16 Responses to Mass Effect Goes Multiplayer

  1. Twyst says:

    Yeah, apparently you get some kind of currency from the MP that you can ‘spend’ in the campaign, and there is some switch option to turn this off or on.
    The other thing is you need the Online Pass in order to play – so it seems like an EA initiative, vs a choice by BioWare, but you never know. I guess this campaign, out of the previous two, makes the most sense to include MP with?

    The stuff i am wondering about: Can i be a female Drell? Krogan? Or am i only going to be able to play Asari or Human?
    Given female Krogans look the same, and i wouldnt think there is too much difference in drell (drell face, human body under armor? idk).

    We’ll see.

    • Jamie says:

      They actually say on the website that you can play as “Turians, Krogans, Asari and more…” which fills me with the obscene sort of joy, possible only because I hope they’ll give Krogans a charge ability. (I think I also heard you could play as Drell, but the website doesn’t say, though it does say “never say never” in regards to Hanar and Elcor…)


    • Deviija says:

      Actually, I wanted to comment about the choice of faces and sex in the multiplayer — and this gives me a good reply response point to do it with. ;)

      I read on another gaming site that, yes, you WILL be able to play male or female of each race in multiplayer. Except for Asari for obvious reasons. :P As for the races available, they are Human, Drell, Salarian, Krogan, Turian, Asari, and Human.

      It will be interesting to see just HOW the artists are going to design the ladies of the various species, since this is their debut. After that poor joking video about ‘how do we make a female Turian? well, boobs and lipstick!’ that was passed around the blog/tumblr spaces months ago, it makes me very dubious and cautious. The fellow was going on about how they admit to having no real idea to how to imagine female (Turians), so… makes me frown all around that this is the go-to hallmarks of femininity. Even if it was meant in a jokey way. It is just sigh.

      I really do not want to see curvy large-breasted Krogan and Salarians and Turians, for example. That would drive me up the wall. The aliens are already poorly alien as it is by ME2. I’d like aliens to be even more removed from humans in my sci-fi and fantasy, but alas… Another thing I hope they avoid is the tired catch-all phenotype cliches of fantasy and sci-fi where usually the female of any species is more tinier, slender, hourglass-figured, shorter, delicate than the male of the species. :\

      • Corbiu Geisha says:

        Yes! Aliens as alien as possible is always a good thing!

      • Korva says:

        Word. The “just slap big tits on it” thing is not a joke because it is usually reality, and it drives me up a wall as well. World of WarCraft has been especially obnoxious with this sort of sexualization of female characters. Ugh. I’m 200% behind the “more alien aliens” request as well. Humans in funny suits are tiring at best.

  2. Spookie says:

    Part of me thinks, “As long as I get to continue my romance with Garrus, I don’t give a crap.”

    And part of me resents that THIS is the “wider audience” they’re targeting for Mass Effect so that they can feel the franchise is really successful. Dudebros get all the games, eventually.

    • Deviija says:

      I will not deny that the highest point in ME2 (which isn’t saying much given the problematic content), and probably the only redeeming thing, was the romance with Garrus and how it was handled. IMO, anyway.

  3. Spookie says:

    They did say that there are female options for each of the species you can play in multiplayer, so there’s that. So I’ll at least be loading multiplayer to fool around with the character generator.

  4. Nigel says:

    It seems with each successive Bioware release the influence of EA is more fully realized. This is a disappointing development.

    • Maverynthia says:

      It kinda bothered/s me that many people I talk to ignore the EA component completely. “Oh it’s Bioware! They do their own thing!” Then why did Dragon Age..2? 1? Have Securom on it? From what I’ve heard from people working at EA, they have their tendrils in more than people expect, and it’s not something I can ignore.

      Than and EA seems to be flaunting their conquest of Origin Systems (makers of the Ultima series) with their new online store “Origin”. Almost like, “If we own you, we’ll conquer you and your name might make a good trophy.” >_>

      • Ms. Sunlight says:

        Are you implying that BioWare didn’t have intrusive DRM before DA2? Neverwinter Nights had Securom (plus an alphanumeric CD key in such tiny type I found it incredibly hard to input). The copy protection on KotOR makes it unplayable without a No CD crack on some modern PCs (unless you get the Steam version).

        I don’t think it’s EA; I think it’s just the way that sector of the market (i.e. big budget AAA multiplatform games) has gone, and that ship sailed a long time ago.

  5. Raja says:

    This looks so awesome

  6. 0thello says:

    “Online play has always been a tricky proposition for the marginalized. To move from the insulated safe space of single player or local multiplayer where, generally, you will only be in the company of those you’ve chosen to be with and into the wilds of random online match-ups can be downright terrifying for some.”

    Now THAT is the meat and potatoes of this article for me. A number of years ago the idea of online play ‘scaring’ people would have been a laughing matter for everybody but now given what online entails I sniff the faint smell of something that I can only describe as a type of agoraphobia? Yeah there’s certainly more depth to this, and I can’t wait to find out more about it.

    As for Bio ware: well they are more or less a studio under the employ of the biggest, maddest publisher out there; their ‘critical’ decline was simply an inevitability. Not that they were blameless in their infancy or adolescence… You couldn’t read a list of where they fucked up in the past without pausing for breath every so often…

    • Ms. Sunlight says:

      It’s not agoraphobia, it’s once bitten twice shy. There are a host of articles online about how certain categories of gamer in particular are targeted for abuse online.

      Women get asked to show their tits and treated like crap; either sexually harassed or patronised and treated like any screwup in the learning process is because they have a vagina. Anyone who dares say they’re gay might as well paint a target on themselves. Ignorant little shits throw racist abuse like “nigger” around like it was 1950. This against a background of widespread griefing, general trash talking and hatefulness. Who the hell wants to go back to that?

      Yes, I know not all online environments are like that, but once you’ve had that experience it doesn’t take long before you just don’t think of online gaming as fun anymore.

      • 0thello says:

        I know there are a host of articles both good and poorly written about the subject, I wrote my own dissertation on it (got a 1st :p).

        I have had the experience of verbal conflict online; in fact I get called nigger and bitch more times than I care to count (especially by rage quitters). What it hasn’t done however is deterred me from playing online. I won’t flaunt my own resilience to name calling, I know that I may be a tank but others, not so much.

        What I was more curious about was not the loss of fun in environments with verbal hostility takes centre stage, it was more the fear of going into an ‘open space’ where that MAY or MAY NOT be the case. It’s that element that is fascinating to me.

        I don’t think it can be chalked up to “once bitten twice shy”, especially when name calling or certain abhorrent behaviours are more of a deterrent than an actual experience for the majority of those that could POTENTIALLY be targetted.

        I will say that agoraphobia isn’t the exact anxiety that I’m trying to communicate to y’all, surely there’s a word for it though. If not there’s an open slot where it should be.

  7. Linar says:

    If one cannot play as a volus, hanar, or elcor, then ME3 Multiplayer is dead to me.

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