Mass Effect TV show rumour ‘makes me cringe’ says former BioWare writer

Mass Effect is not going to be easy to adapt (pic: EA)

The lead writer for Dragon Age has talked about the problems a TV adaptation of Mass Effect will face and how it’s unlikely to please fans.

Everyone knows video game movies usually turn out awful but perhaps things will be different with TV shows, especially once The Last Of Us show is out. Although at least one person, who should know what he’s talking about, is dubious about the prospects of the rumoured Mass Effect series.

Although it hasn’t been officially announced yet there seems little doubt that the rumours of Amazon creating a Mass Effect show are true. But already some people are saying it’s a bad idea – including the man that created the setting for sister series Dragon Age.

Former BioWare lead writer David Gaider never worked on Mass Effect but Dragon Age works in a very similar way, especially in terms of its protagonist and the use of companion characters, which Gaider suggests are going to be very difficult to translate into linear media.

‘Mass Effect and Drago Age have a custom protagonist’, wrote Gaider on Twitter. ‘Meaning said TV show will need to pick whether said protagonist will be male or female. Boom, right off the bat you’ve just alienated a whole bunch of the built-in fan base who had their hopes up.’

‘Secondly, those protagonists are designed to be a bit of a blank slate, one that the player fills out with their decisions. That’s not going to work for a passive medium. So, suddenly, the protagonist will have their own personality… and their own story. That will be weird.’

I’m relieved to see that the Mass Effect/Amazon deal is for a potential TV series and not a movie. Even so, the possibility (and likewise for Dragon Age) makes me cringe just a little, unlike many fans who appear… excited?

Let me explain. (Thread)

— David Gaider (@davidgaider) November 25, 2021

Gaider explains how companions in the games are used as cyphers for the player’s ’emotional engagement’ and that the protagonists themselves are ‘pretty boring’.

He also predicts that, for clarity and time purposes, many of the companions will not be featured in anything more than a cameo. Instead, he suggests that the series makers may be tempted to concentrate on the main plot, which he considers a mistake as he describes the plots of both games as ‘serviceable’ at best.

‘Interactivity was the star, not the plot’, says Gaider, in what is always the key problem with adapting video games to movies and TV.

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He does leave hope for a more successful approach, that is merely set in the universe of the show and not a direct adaptation of the games.

‘At some level, this TV series needs to answer the question ‘What IS Mass Effect?’ and that means making something that is recogniseably Mass Effect. It means retreading ground in a way that fans don’t need, and will likely react poorly to’, concludes Gaider.

He makes some interesting points, which are applicable to the majority of video game adaptations (although not necessarily The Last Of Us, which gives no player agency in terms of the story or characters), so it’s going to be interesting to see what Amazon eventually announce.

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