A Failure of Tone in Mass Effect 3′s Citadel

I can’t bear to think about the disfunction in Washington and the nihilism and lack of empathy of the Republicans so instead I’ll go back to game world, and bring up a point that occurred to me about the jarring tone set by Citadel when it has to fall in the middle of this life and death battle for the galaxy.  There is a brief interaction with Zaeed (one of my favorite characters) where he is cursing a blue streak as he tries to win a stuffed toy for a little boy who is crying.  At first blush it seems amusing, but I actually found it to be one of the more disturbing moments in the Citadel DLC (downloadable content).  Why?

Because if you’ve played the game you know that the child will soon be killed once the Reapers seize control of the Citadel.  I know some of the BioWare people have tried to tell us that there were survivors on the Citadel, but they didn’t show us that.  They showed us a charnel house so when you show me this weeping child I know he’s dead, and Zaeed’s reluctant act of kindness ultimately meant nothing.  As I wrote in an earlier analysis of Citadel, I think it’s in the wrong game, and this just adds to my sense that this farewell gift wasn’t fully thought through.

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I suspect that religion was some random by-product of mammalian reproduction… a necessary evil in the childhood of our species… but why was it more evil than necessary? Isn’t killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity? — Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – 2008)

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