Prof. Silmarien Szilagyi
If you read my two-part series, The Men of Thedas, you'll know I like role-playing games (RPGs) that allow me to live vicariously through a created character, romance included. Thus, it should come as no surprise that this article is about the men of Bioware's RPG sci-fi trilogy, Mass Effect.
In these games, you play as a human named Shepard, leading an eclectic crew of humans and aliens to save the universe from evil synthetics hell-bent on destroying all sentient, organic life. It's a third-person shooter, which initially daunted me, but it's also a Bioware creation, so I knew the characters would be engaging and well-rounded. And yes, some of those characters are potential love interests, too.
Unlike The Men of Thedas, which covered all the romanceable male characters, The Men of Mass Effect will only cover the ones I like best. We'll begin with a human, before we plunge head-first into the alien and potentially life-threatening experience of interspecies romance (anaphylactic shock is nothing to scoff at).
"Fifty thousand years to figure this out, and it's down to twenty-five mutineers. Way to go, Team Milky Way."
Kaidan Alenko is a human Marine who joins Commander Shepard's squad in the firstMass Effect game. As a powerful biotic, he has element zero nodules embedded in his body, which enable him to generate mass effect fields that he uses in combat. In other words, he is telekinetic. Biotics are incredibly effective, but, depending on the type of element zero implant (L1 vs. L2 vs. L3), they can cause brain damage. Kaidan is one of the lucky ones; although he has L2 implants--the most dangerous type--, the worst he suffers are migraines.
Despite being a soldier, Kaidan is generally a gentle and sympathetic soul. He is initially reluctant to use his biotics on living targets, and he believes in equality and fair treatment for alien species. He cares deeply about his friends and crew mates, going so far as to offer himself up as sacrifice to save the rest of the crew. He fights for the innocent and urges others to do the same. That strict moral code, however, can also make him critical and closed-minded. For all his acceptance of alien species, Kaidan can be incredibly judgmental if someone strays from his rigid morals. A little obtuse, too.
Kaidan is romanceable by a female Shepard, whom he is quite taken with from the start of Mass Effect 1. He protects her, supports her, and comforts her, but he also challenges and questions her, if he thinks she's making the wrong decision. My Anastasia Shepard romanced Kaidan and was quite happy with him...until he blew it in Mass Effect 2.
"Can it wait for a bit? I'm in the middle of some calibrations."
Garrus is, without a doubt, my favorite male character in Mass Effect. As a turian, Garrus certainly looks alien--more avian than humanoid, though that similarity is really only aesthetic. Turians' most distinguishing physical feature is perhaps their metallic plating, which evolved to protect them from their planet's high levels of solar radiation, but, as a whole, the species is rather hard and tough.
Turians place high a value on their military. They begin their training at age fifteen, and Garrus is no different. He excels, particularly with the sniper rifle, and follows in his father's footsteps to join C-Sec, the primary security force in Council space. He quickly becomes jaded with the bureaucratic red tape, however, and leaves C-Sec to join Shepard's crew, because he believes that Shepard would actually accomplish something. Consequently, Garrus respects and admires Shepard, regardless of the commander's sex.
While he shares his species' militarism and can be quite ruthless in battle, Garrus is otherwise calm and sympathetic. He's the ultimate bro, if you will, easygoing and content to shoot beer cans (okay, maybe they're not beer cans) with Shepard. Garrus is likable and even gets along with the species that many turians view with animosity (e.g., krogan and humans). He's quippy, oddly charming, and open-minded, though he is also prone to arrogance and cold efficiency. He believes in justice--"an eye for an eye"--, but not necessarily in the Council's brand of justice. If the rules impede his ability to protect the innocent or to apprehend a criminal, he'll happily buck them. And, if your Shepard builds up a rapport with him, Garrus follows him/her to Hell and back.
Garrus, as I said, is my favorite male character in the game, so it should come as no surprise that my Shepard romanced him as soon as she could (Mass Effect 2). In many ways, Garrus reminds me of Dragon Age's Cullen Rutherford, particularly in the romance department. He's confident when interacting with Shepard as a colleague or superior, but throw flirtation into the mix, and that surety transforms into an awkward yet endearing jumble of compliments and innuendos. And some of those compliments are just downright strange: "So...your, uh, hair looks good, and your waist is...very supportive." However, once he and your female Shepard get past that, Garrus is a devoted lover. He just as easily comforts Shepard as watches her six, and, despite being a different species, he also understands her.
It's clear he cares deeply for her, even going so far as to envision a future with her. So, if you manage to pry Garrus away from his seemingly perpetual calibrations, he'll reward you with one of the most satisfying romances Bioware has ever created. Just ask Cassandra Lobiesk.
"Laser dot trembles on the skull. Spice on the spring wind. Sunset eyes defiant in the scope. A bystander noticed my spotting laser and threw herself between me and the target. She couldn't see me...but she stared me down."
Another non-human member of Shepard's crew is the drell assassin Thane Krios. The drell are a reptilian-humanoid species that were rescued from their homeworld of Kahje by another alien species (the hanar) and now work for them to repay their debt and gratitude. In Thane's case, that work is as an assassin, and he is rumored to be the best in the galaxy. Assassinating a target is a personal thing for him; he prefers to kill up-close, combining stealth, guns, hand-to-hand combat, and biotics, rather than sniping from a distance. He is a confident and talented killer.
Despite his profession, Thane is a good man, er, drell. He says a prayer for every target he kills, asking his deities for forgiveness, yet he still harbors guilt, due to his species' eidetic memory that forces him to remember every assignment in lifelike detail. His perfect memory is not all bad, however, because it also allows him to relive happier times. As Shepard gets to know Thane better, we learn that he's a widower with an estranged son named Kolyat. Part of his plot line even involves reuniting and, ideally, reconciling him with Kolyat.
Thane keeps to himself, but he does confide in Shepard, opening up the possibility for romance. Unlike Garrus, Thane has experience with serious relationships, so he approaches one with Shepard much more confidently, though he confesses that it's the first time he's ever been involved with a member of a different species. If your female Shepard shows romantic interest in him, he will call her siha, which is a drell term of endearment. He also says lines like "Time is short for me, siha, but any I have is yours to take" and "I love you. If all else whispers back into the tide, know this for fact." Swoon. But beware. As the first quote suggests, Thane's story may end in tears. Nevertheless, if I hadn't already been so fond of Garrus, Anastasia Shepard would have romanced Thane in a heartbeat.
"Have killed many, Shepard. Many methods. Gunfire, knives, drugs, tech attacks, once with farming equipment. But not with medicine."
As the quote suggests, Mordin is a highly capable killer, but he's also a highly capable doctor. That may seem rather paradoxical, until you get to know him better. Mordin is a salarian scientist and a former operative in the salarian Special Tasks Group (STG), where he performed reconnaissance and, yes, where he likely killed people. During his time with the STG, he certainly participated in controversial medical practices, so his moral character appears to be consequentialistic, which means he believes that the ends justify the means. He does not, however, condone killing without good reason.
"I am the very model of a scientist salarian." Yes, he is. The salarians are a warm-blooded, quick-thinking amphibian species, with a short life span (about forty years). Mordin, like most of his kin, thinks fast, talks fast, and moves fast, so he is the perfect person to have on your crew if you need to do the scientific impossible and don't have a lot of time to do it. But Mordin is much more than a brilliant mind; he's friendly, honorable, helpful (particularly if you require information on cross-speciesinteractions...ahem), self-assured (with good reason!), and disarmingly funny. But what surprised me most was his kindness. Sure, he's committed some controversial medical practices, but, depending on how you play Shepard, he may regret his actions and revise his opinion, potentially leading to a heartbreaking decision that still makes me sad when I think about it. Mordin was so affable that Cassandra, our editor-in-chief, went to great lengths to prevent that sad thing from happening to him. No spoilers.
Although Mordin is not romanceable, that hasn't stopped him from endearing himself to Mass Effect fans all over the world. He's probably the most entertaining of the crew members, and also one of the most complex.
"I don't like this. Fury is my choice, not a sickness."
The final "man" of Mass Effect we're going to cover is a genetically engineered krogan named Grunt. The krogan are reptilian bipeds with a penchant for violence and war, and Grunt, though bred in a tank, is no exception. As a result, he looks different from his kin--younger, a little "softer", and even somewhat baby-like. But don't let his seeming innocence fool you; he was created to be the perfect krogan. So, yeah, he's going to like killing things.
Contrary to expectation, krogan are not stupid. Krogan scientists and doctors do exist, and although Grunt is not one of them, he's nevertheless intelligent and well-spoken. The fact that he tends to talk intelligently about hurting others is beside the point... That, however, does not stop me from wanting to hug him every time Anastasia Shepard talks to him. But don't tell Grunt that; he'd probably chuck me through the ship's bulkhead.
Violence is a big part of Grunt's personality, but it's not the only part. If Shepard chooses to free him from his tank and help him on his personal quest, he becomes quite loyal, going so far as to proclaim Shepard as his "battlemaster." He could have ditched Shepard for his own clan of krogan but instead sticks around until Shepard's task is done. I'm sure the plentitude of enemies is a big draw, but it's certainly not the only one.
For all his toughness, however, Grunt is apparently a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. There's a scene--probably my favorite scene--in Mass Effect 3 (in the CitadelDLC) where Shepard discovers Grunt passed out in his/her shower, drunkenly mumbling such gems as "damn your lettuce", "are you a wizard?", "sharks!", and "I'm a pretty bird." He also, rather adorably, cleans up the bathroom the next morning. Like Mordin, Grunt cannot be romanced--not because he lacks the, uh, urges (unlike Mordin), but possibly because he has a crush on a certain blue lady on Shepard's team...
This is it.
These are my final days as a student on HOL. These are the days that seven years ago I couldn't wait to see happen. These are the days that I thought would never get here, and now they are.
I remember when I first signed up for HOL. I was relatively young, only about 14 years old, when I clicked the sign-up button. Originally I intended on signing up even earlier, but for some reason, I had always missed the sign-up period. I would get extremely frustrated with myself for missing it, but never gave up hope. I knew that one day I would sign up, and enjoy my time here, because from that young of age, I knew HOL was a special place.
I was devastated that I wasn't able to sign-up precisely at midnight when sign-ups opened and had to settle for being about the sixth or seventh person who signed up for that year. It was during that insane rush and excitement that I was finally getting to join that I didn't really put any thought into what my name was going to be. I chose a generic first name, and then when it came time to pick a last name, I didn't want to waste anymore time and just sign-up, so I stole the last name of my favorite character. While I could have changed my last name later on, I came to love it and now it's weird to think of myself as anyone other than Ryan Granger.
Now I won't bore you with a year-by-year description of my time here, but I did want to take a brief time to explain some of my younger years. Being a 14-year-old boy, I admit, I was annoying. That didn't improve once I got on IRC. (It probably got worse.) I'm sure there was talk of, "My gosh, can we get rid of this one? He's awful." Well the problem was that I was dead set on being on this site, and I wasn't going anywhere. It wasn't until I finally understood the people of HOL and you know, developed people skill that I finally got in the groove of things.
By my second year I went through the PiT program in Ravenclaw, and would later become a Reserve Prefect, which I so lovingly called RMPiT. (A Reserve Male Prefect in Training) By the end of my second year, I became a full-fledged prefect for the site that I was so desperate to be a part of. It was an absolute dream come true. I'm pretty sure Rhiannon got an e-mail full of exclamation points and other gibberish that I managed to keyboard smash when I got that e-mail from her asking if I wanted to become a prefect. I vividly remember dancing around in my basement with small tears in my eyes because I was so excited.
While for the most part, it was all up from that moment on, I did see my shares of struggles. That's something that I think every HOLer will have at some point in their time here. There are moments when you get so frustrated and upset that you're ready to click that quit button, but there's something so special about the place that you just can't leave it behind. Just know that whenever you're feeling down, there is always someone here to make you feel better.
It's amazing how things change in seven years. The people, the events, the way things are done. It all has changed since I first joined HOL seven years ago. Thankfully, there have been several things that haven't changed though. The camaraderie, the passion, and the amazing experiences this site has to offer just to name a few. There's nothing that I love more than those aspects of HOL.
The one thing that hasn't changed in seven years is the amazing people. I have met some of the most incredible people that I will never forget for everything they've done for me. These people have been there for me through thick and thin, through HOL problems and Real Life issues. The people here are amazing. If I could personally thank every single one of you, I would. You all mean so much to me. And while I can't necessarily list every single one of you, there are some people who deserve some special thanks because without them I would have never accomplished as much as I have. I would have never been a student teacher, library department deputy head, prefect, co-head prefect for Ravenclaw and more. So I'm going to do my best to give them all a thanks they deserve.
For starters, thank you to all the people who aren't here anymore. You all are special individuals that I wish could have stuck around, but I know you all are doing amazing things on your own.
To the members of the PPC, you all were the bomb-dot-com. From Rorey Padfoot, Zoki Phantom, Serenity Thomas, Ivelisse Ada, Hermionie Miranda, Katelin Ross, Rin Silrose, Rowan Dream, Abby Chalmers, and more. (I know I forgot some, but just know that you still mean a ton to me). You all were some of the first close friends I made on HOL, and will always be special for that.
To all the other house staff members, thanks for always motivating me to do more. Thanks for working with me when I'm sure I wasn't your first choice to deal with. You all do a lot of great work and are some good role-models for HOL. Thanks to those from other houses who have helped me along the ways. (Scarlet Leslie, Sirius Fudge, Ivelisse Ada, Hermionie Miranda, Aly, Celestra, and many many more).
To the house of Ravenclaw, I don't know where to begin. You guys are by the far the best people I've met. Being a prefect for you has been an incredibly rewarding experience because of you all. I wouldn't want to serve another house. You make me so proud and I can't wait to see what all you do in the years to come.
To the Ravenclaw Staff members past and present, Thank you for giving me a chance even when you really didn't want to. I hope I made you all proud. Special thanks to Alexia Riaper and Jenna Hathaway for training me to be such a great prefect. I owe you two a lot even though you're not around anymore.
To the current staff, it's been an absolute honor to work with you. You all are some of the most creative people I've ever met. It's no wonder why Ravenclaw thrives, because of people like you. All the work you do is incredible and I just wanted to say thank you for all of that. To Cassie, Rhiannon, Kyrie, Sil, and any other Ravenclaw heads, you all are fantastic and have done so much for this house that I can't get over how awesome you all are.
To the Ravenclaw prefects and reserves, you make me so proud and are doing some amazing work. Keep up the incredible work and continue to make our house proud. Special shoutout to Shiloh Adlar for putting up with me as my class assistant. I know I tell you all the time, but you are the absolutely best and I'm so glad I have you to help!
To all the HOL Head Office people who have made this site possible, from the bottom of my heart: Thank You. This site has changed me for the better and I don't know what I would do without it. So thank you for giving not only me, but all our members, the chance to express our love for Harry Potter and to make life-long friends.
There's one final thank you left to say and the saying "saving the best for last" is the biggest understatement I could make about this person. Back in our second year we were partnered up in PiT and I really think we were supposed to meet then. I can't imagine what would have happened if I would have joined sooner or later than when I did. Things wouldn't have been the same and I wouldn't have met Arielle Lemoyne. I wouldn't have met my best friend and partner in crime. I wouldn't have anyone to bother about how stupid vegetables are, or tease her about other stupid things. I'm so thankful to have you by my side for the past seven years. Things wouldn't have been the same without you, and I'm so incredibly thankful to call you my friend not only on HOL but also in real life as well. I wouldn't have wanted to spend these last seven years without anyone but you and I cannot wait to see what else we accomplish in the next coming years.
While my 14-year-old self never thought this day would come and couldn't wait to say he graduated, I'm sad to say my journey as a student is coming to an end, but my time here at HOL is far from over. I know I forgot a million and one thank yous from this, and this is just a small drop in the bucket of my story, but just know this site will change your life. It changed mine for sure, and it changed it for the better. I hope every single one of you has just as amazing and life-changing journey as I have and have tons of fun.