Ex-Bioware lead writer David Gaider has said the idea of a reported Mass Effect TV adaptation makes him “cringe”.
Yesterday it was reported that Amazon Prime is “nearing a deal” for a TV series based on the Bioware sci-fi RPG.
But Gaider, who worked on Bioware’s other RPG series Dragon Age, shared concern on Twitter that an adaptation could alienate fans of the game.
“For starters, ME and DA have a custom protagonist,” he said. “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
He notes how much of the story is off-loaded on to the companion characters, as Shepard is something of a blank slate. Each player will have their own experience of those companions, be it through friendship or romance, and that will be tricky to balance in a TV show with a set narrative.
“Both ME’s and DA’s plots were, at best, serviceable,” he said. “Those plots had to take into account the player’s agency. They were kind of the shell upon which that player’s emotional engagement was delivered — usually through the companions and the choices themselves. Choice heightened engagement. Interactivity was the star, not the plot.”
He continues: “Take all that out, lose most of the companions, and you potentially end up with… a pretty run-of-the-mill fantasy or science-fiction show, one where a lot of the built-in audience has possibly been turned into outraged, howling malcontents before it’s even released.”
He also notes that with a large TV audience, show producers will need to balance fans’ desire for a story outside of the games with the need to deliver exposition to those new to the franchise.
Mass Effect is known for its branching, player-choice driven narrative which will certainly be difficult to adapt for a TV audience. Perhaps we’ll just have Henry Cavill as Shepard and that’s that.