Happy N7Day, Commanders. This is what Mass Effect has taught me.

*This post contains spoilers for the Mass Effect Trilogy*

I cannot remember the exact day I picked up a copy of the first Mass Effect game, but it was well past its launch date. Funny thing, at the time, I had only played Bioware’s Jade Empire and Dragon Age. I wasn’t interested in playing a science fiction game. It was a genre that didn’t grab me even though I did enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek when I watched them in my childhood. I always enjoyed fantasy more than I did science fiction. If I had a choice, I would choose Flight of Dragons or The Last Unicorn over Alien or ET (though I love the hell out of Last Starfighter). It wasn’t until a friend of mine pushed me to buy the first game. He said if anything, I would enjoy the narrative.

So I picked up a copy and I became a Earthborn, Sole Survivor, Commander Shepard who excelled in the Soldier class. I was confused at first. Who was Nihlus? Joker? Anderson? What was the Alliance? Why are these things called geth rushing me? There was a lot to process in a very short amount of time. I understood mages and dragons, not Turians and Spectres. I was familiar with the culture of Jade Empire merely because it was a culture that is part of what I grew up with. Science fiction was very foreign to me.

I continued my journey as Shepard and it wasn’t until Virmire that I felt my first emotional connection to these characters. The dreaded decision you have to make between saving Kaidan OR Ashley really hit me. I thought I messed up or I missed something along the way and this was my punishment. But no. You could only save one of them. Along the journey, I found myself becoming attached to these characters. I never cared much for DLC, but I purchased all the narrative add ons for ME2 and ME3. I wanted to see more of Shepard and my crew. Every character was developed well. They each had a story, they each had their reasons for being who they are, even the villains. Your morals were challenged and your emotions were tested. I’m not much of a crier when it comes to fictional characters, but I will remember Mordin’s story arc for the rest of my life. I didn’t care much for him when I first met him in ME2, but slowly, I grew to care for him and his quirkiness. In ME3, I cried my heart out. I couldn’t play the game for a good 20 minutes because I was so distraught over the loss of this character, but at the same time, I couldn’t have imagined a more noble ending for him.

It is entirely the characters who made this trilogy for me. The worlds are beautiful, the levels are amazing and the galaxy that the Mass Effect team has created is beyond inspiring. Hell, I felt goosebumps when Shepard was reunited with the Normandy. I love these characters with all my heart. They felt real. Their hardships, their successes, their love, their rage… these characters were perfect because they were not perfect. They made mistakes, they suffered consequences and they felt the impacts of war and their decisions. It is in this that makes me believe that Mass Effect is one of the most best games out there and it will hold up for many years.

Though the trilogy may be over, and we say goodbye to Commander Shepard, I am confident that Bioware will produce yet another string of worlds that we will fall in love with. So I cannot wait for Andromeda.

Last year, I was tasked with creating a video that full encompasses how I, and hopefully others, feel about Mass Effect. It was difficult to describe. But I began the script with “Mass Effect isn’t just a game” and my feelings took over from there.

Thank you, Bioware and thank you to the Mass Effect team for putting in so much energy, time, effort and sleepless nights into these games. Your hard work will never go unnoticed. I adore you all.

After a year of preparation, the Mass Effect Cast Cosplay panel finally happened

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…and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. To see everything come to fruition as it did, I can only go back to the very beginning of this journey and remember what it took to create the MECC (Mass Effect Cast Cosplay).

First off, I may be listed officially as Talent Coordinator on the MECC team, but so much credit goes to Karissa Barrows, the woman who lead the entire project. She organized all the donations, communicated with our talent, put out plenty of fires, made sure the costumers were on the same page, even took some time to fly out of state just to get cosplay measurements from the talent. So much of this event happened because of this woman, and I can only say that I am honored to be her friend.

Karissa and I started chatting over a year ago on Twitter, and we bonded immediately over our mutual love for Mass Effect. Before long, I was asked to help with the MECC. I have never tackled a challenge like this, so I was on board. How could I say no to possibly working with such gifted people AND raise money to give to St Jude’s? I didn’t, and I am beyond grateful for that. After countless days of asking for donations, holding raffle events to raise more donations, figuring out where to even hold the panel, we finally found a home at PAX East 2014.

I won’t get into all the details as far as leading up to the actual panel because I want to write about the relationships that were formed within this community. Though we had a few actors unable to make the panel, we did end up with an amazing group, and I couldn’t be happier to have met them. I had no idea what to expect. I never met any of these people before, and I was hoping and praying that I would do a good job in accommodating them when they arrived in Boston. Let me tell you all, Kimberly Brooks, Keythe Farley, Rana McAnear, and Luciano Costa are absolutely wonderful people.

I helped Kimberly (voice of Ashley Williams) for most of the weekend, and she is beyond generous and sweet. One of my favorite memories with her was helping her with Twitter and teaching her and Luciano about hashtags.

One of the most surprising things to learn was that Luciano and Keythe never really had a con experience before, and we were determined to make sure they had a great time. We are happy to report that all of them thoroughly enjoyed meeting fans, chatting with them, and getting to know the community more. Luciano and Keythe were moreso blown away by the loyal fandom that is tied to Mass Effect and Bioware. It is no surprise, but I must reiterate that Bioware truly has some of the best fans ever, and to share that bond with the people that are hugely responsible for such love, was amazing to witness.

People flew in from all over the world to be at the MECC panel, and that even caught us by surprise. Karissa expressed that she was worried the panel wouldn’t be successful. Can you imagine her surprise when I told her the line for the panel started forming two hours before it even started? Karissa booked the main theater, a space that could hold a little over three thousand people…

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There was such an overwhelming show of support for MECC that I am astounded my mascara didn’t run down my face. While our guests were prepping in the back room, I HAD to take an opportunity to say hello to everyone in the room. I asked everyone to say hi, and hi they did say. All I could do was tell all of you how much I love you because it is true. Karissa and the team are not official representatives of the video games industry, yet we nearly packed that theater. Nearly three thousand people attended a panel that was created by fans, and this shows what an awesome community we are a part of right now.

Some fun shots:

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We also had some of the best cosplayers ever! Everyone was so lovely, and I was glad I was able to snap a few photos here and there. Right after the panel, the actors and models did a photoshoot. All funds went directly to St Jude’s. Just look at that line! We were again surprised by how many people showed up.

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Dave Hulegaard (community manager for Mass Effect and Dragon Age showed up and offered some support. He is one of the sweetest guys, and he absolutely loves talking to fans of the games. I highly encourage you to shake his hand and give him a hug if you run into him at a con.

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Here is Luciano interacting with fans. He told me that this moment was one of the best memories for him to take away from the weekend. He really loved messing around and having fun with everyone. He was also blown away by how many people were Kaidan fans.

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Very cool friends of mine were dressed up for the occasion, and they also donated quite a bit to make sure this event happened. We are beyond grateful for their generosity. Eric in particular was such a powerhouse contributor. The MECC panel, he said, was such a highlight for him that all the donations were worth it.

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Kimberly is one of my favorite ladies in the world now. She’s such a strong, sassy, and loving person that everyone who meets her is lucky to know her.

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And of course, I had to take a pic with the Thane mask. We were selling raffle tickets to give away this baby, and boy were people ecstatic for a chance to win this gem. Karissa, her father and uncle worked so hard on this part of the cosplay. It is such a great testament to the absolute loyalty people had for this panel. Just between us, we didn’t even finish painting Keythe’s pants until four hours before the panel. But we finished it, and he rocked it! I actually caught myself swooning a bit when he took the stage in full cosplay. Karissa’s dad and  uncle, your skills are awe-inspiring!

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PJ Shepard and Garrus body pillow. I wanted to kidnap them both.

This fan flew in from Ireland! IRELAND. She was a real sweetheart and she was so passionate about Mass Effect. I completely fell in love with her accent.

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One of the most pleasant surprises was getting to know Keythe Farley a little bit more. I dare say that he is one of my top favorite people of all time now. Not only is he very charming and funny, but he is very genuine as well. He is very experienced in his craft, but even he found himself in a position of being mentored when it came to convention experience. He had a blast, trust me, and it was all thanks to the ME fans that came out to see him and the others. He was very touched by some of the Thane stories that fans were telling him.

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And this is what happens when you leave your phone around Luciano, unattended and unlocked.

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With the sales of the photoshoot combined with the total accumulated from raffle tickets sales, we managed to raise … THIS MUCH for St. Jude’s and this was just on Saturday! Donations are still coming in, and we have one last giveaway to offer MECC fans. From now until April 20th, we are accepting donations of $15 or more which will automatically enter you to win one of the few SIGNED lithographs that were donated to us from the lovely Jessica Merizan.  Every $15 increment is one entry, and it will be after April 20th that we announce the final total that we have raised for St. Jude’s. Donations can be submitted here.

The MECC panel was incredibly humbling, and it really proved that anything can be done so long as you push toward your goal and you don’t give up on it. There were quite a few walls and obstacles we hit, but seeing the final product was such a reward and was completely worth overcoming those hurdles.

Let it be clear that this was only possible because of you, the fan. Mass Effect has “ended” as it has been a while since the launch of ME3, but your loyalty to the ME world, and your love for those who helped create this wonderful game hasn’t wavered. In fact, that love and loyalty may be back even stronger than it was before. One of the things I love so much about this community is the recognition that everyone on the Bioware teams receive. It doesn’t matter if they are voice actors, composers, artists, writers, builders, face models, level designers, producers… the community acknowledges everyone that had a part in the game’s creation. That’s what makes you, the community, awesome.

Karissa, Sara, Preston, Amanda, Brooke, Scott, Raquel, Melissa, Phil, Mitch, Liz, Thomas… you guys are amazing, and I am so happy to have worked with you on this project.

Karissa asked me to cut together a thank you video for the panel and it can be found here. Not only does it contain thank you videos from contributors to MECC but it does contain my feelings on what Mass Effect means to me. At first I didn’t know what to write or say, but when I wrote down “Mass Effect isn’t just a game…” it all came together and I hope that you feel the same as I do.

Thank you for spending the weekend with us, thank you for giving us a chance to bring the MECC to you, and thank you for keeping the ME world alive. And a very special thank you to Kimberly, Keythe, Rana and Luciano for taking time out of their schedules to come out and create lasting memories with us. I’m Commander Shepard and you are my favorite community on the Citadel.

Game on, my fellow commanders. Game on.

Mass Effect Cast Cosplay contest ends tomorrow! Win a Skype call with Kaiden Alenko or ME Funko Pop figures!

It is almost GO TIME for Mass Effect Cast Cosplay! What is MECC? A team of Mass Effect fans, lead by Karissa Barrows, managed to round up a few of the Mass Effect voice actors and models to cosplay their characters! This event will be showcased at Pax East 2014, and for the last six months, Karissa has been busting her butt to acquires funds to make this happen. We have been requesting donations to cover the cost of travel, hotel, and materials for cosplays for these lovely people so they can suit up and meet you all! We are also working with St Jude’s Children Hospital for this event as well! MEET THE ACTORS, SAVE THE CHILDREN! How you can help the initiative! 

Of course, we have been running some contests for fans, and two of them will end on 2/7/14 at 11:59PM Central Time.

For a minimum donation of $15, you can win some awesome Mass Effect Funko Pop figures (a $50 value!). Who wouldn’t want Commander Shepard guarding their bedroom or office? Image

For a $25 or more donation, you can win a chance to chat with Raphael Sbarge (voice of Kaidan Alenko and star of Once Upon a Time)! He has graciously offered his time to Skype with a lucky contest winner!

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So hop to it my lovelies!

Video game character poems for Valentine’s Day!

It is the month of LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE! And I understand that some of us may be spending that special day with that special someone and others may be enjoying just another day of February. Last year, I decided to have some fun with the corporate holiday and I created poems on Twitter for people that wanted to express their V-day love for their favorite video game characters. I intend on doing more this year. If you want me to create a short ABCB for you, please comment here or let me know on Twitter! Here’s what I came up with last year.

Hawke from Dragone Age 2:

My love for you is red,

the steel I carry is blue,

I’ll be your Champion forever…

Want a sandwich?

Fenris from Dragon Age 2:

Hatred of magic burns red

Lyrium in veins is blue

I hate those damn apostates

But I’ll make an exception for you ❤

Anders from Dragon Age 2:

I’d see all Templars dead

Our fight is strong and true

Because someone like me

Could love someone like you

Garrus from Mass Effect:

Either on the Citadel

Or as a shining star

Whatever happens to me

I’ll see you at that bar

Caboose from Red vs Blue:

Sarge is red

Look, I’m blue!

Muffins are good

Sheila I made one- Touch.

Master Chief from Halo:

The war zone is red

We fight for days anew

I’ll do anything for peace

Even take my helmet off for you

Link from Zelda:

Rubies are red

Sapphires are blue

Hyrule, the Triforce or love?

I’ll always choose you

Legion from Mass Effect:

We may not be with you

But stray not from your goal

My thanks, Shepard Commander

For I now have a soul

Grunt from Mass Effect:

IN HONOR OF THE FALLEN

AND THE MANY THAT DIED,

THOSE REAPERS WILL FALL

SINCE YOU’RE BY MY SIDE. *WARCRY

Leliana from Dragon Age:

I’ll sing for you forever

If that is what you desire

but come, it’s warmer in my tent

Than it is by the fire

Varric from Dragon Age 2:

Enough drink for me.

Oh, I can beat you at your game!

But I’ve a maiden awaiting me,

Bianca is her name

Chrono Trigger:

Saving the world across times,

we make a fantastic pair.

Won’t you join me, fair princess

at The Millenial Fair?

Cortana from Halo:

Lacking human form

I cannot touch or feel

A.I form be damned

I know this love is real.

Zevran from Dragon Age:

What if Isabela joins us?

She is a fantastic lead!

Ouch, I am joking!

You are all the warden I need ❤

Isabela from Dragon Age 2:

A captain without a ship

I suppose it is fate

At sea I wouldn’t have found

my charming first mate.

Wesker from Resident Evil:

Red wine, candled dinner

Relax. Unhinge.

Heard of Uroburos?

Oh, don’t mind the syringe..>=]

Sebastian from Dragon Age 2:

Vengeance has blinded

but Andraste made me see

War’s victory means nothing

If you are not with me

Sten from Dragon Age:

Your ways are strange

I’ve the Qun, and you your creed

But when I go to battle

You and Asala are all I need

Samus from Metroid:

Bounty hunters don’t love.

But if you fill that void,

will you be here forever

for me and little Metroid?

Haytham Kenway from Assassin’s Creed 3:

For you Ill set aside my mission

I’ll resist the Templars’ call

Based on one condition

Mind the tricorn hat is all 😉

Allistair from Dragon Age:

Of all our companions,

It’s you I enjoy most

I thank the Maker daily,

that I’m your lamp post.

There you have the 2013 Valentine’s Day poems. So let me know what you all want to see!

Mass Effect Cast to cosplay their characters at PAX East 2014!!!

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We are in crunch mode, so here is the breakdown of where we stand for this amazing event. If you haven’t heard, we will be working with some of the cast from the Mass Effect games, and they will be cosplaying their characters for charity (St Judes)! The event will take place at Pax East 2014 on Saturday. As this is a charity event, all of the funding to get the actors/models to the event is based off of donations from our wonderful community. We have less than two months to raise 5 grand to cover the base costs (flights and lodging) for the actors plus materials needed to create the cosplays. We need your help and here is how you can assist! If you cannot donate, please spread the word. This is such a fantastic way for the actors to meet the fans, and there will be opportunities for photo ops and to purchase signed photos as well. ALL OF THE MONEY GENERATED WILL BE GIVEN TO ST JUDES. 

Rana and Mark (Samara and BroShep)

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We are doing this for so many reasons, but most of all, we love Mass Effect, we love the actors and models who have put so much time and effort into the games, and we want to help as many children as possible. 

If you have any questions, you can find us at:

masseffectcastcosplay@gmail.com

@SJBsMama (Lead Project Manager)

@MECastCosplay (Twitter Account)

Our Facebook page!