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‘Mass Effect’ is a kind of utopia for the chronically ill



And then there’s Tali. Traditionally, the immunocompromised are presented with the “boy in the bubble” troops. think about Seinfeld episode where the characters visit a young man named Donald, confined to a single room and kept behind a plastic sheet in a germ-free environment. Or Bubble Boy, a film from the early 2000s that Jake Gyllenhaal surely wants us to forget, where his character can only leave his house in a literal plastic bubble. In both cases, the immunocompromised person is a victim who is locked up for safety, without harm – and outside the public. The Seinfeld the episode not even performance Donald, except for his gloved hands.

The truth is, of course, that no one in our society allows that kind of removal. The immunocompromised need to work, interact and ̵

1; as with most invisible diseases – we are not met with understanding, but disbelief, accusations of hypochondria and overreaction. We wore masks before the pandemic, doubled up under it, and we continue to wear them afterwards. We have been staring at the exercise, filled with questions and accusations, pulled aside by security guards. And even now that mask mandates are falling, these laughter is coming back.

We exist in a world that is obviously hostile to us in several ways – and so does Tali.

After a lifetime of sterile interstellar ships, the immune system of Tali and her people has terrified, forcing them into protective bio-suits. And yet she was introduced to the first Mass effect as a young woman on a pilgrimage, deliberately moving away from her fleet, from safety and into the wider world. She, like me, balances risk and reward. She filters food, takes preventative antibiotics, even though others throw away her appearance and call her a “dress rat” and threaten to cough on her.

She hesitates and thinks about her safety, but she does not let this stop her. After removing the bio suit for a romantic evening with Shepard, she is visibly bothered, sniffs and has less fever – in the same way that immunosuppressed people often catch a cold after a flight or a concert. Tali, however, does not regret famously. After talking to Shephard afterwards (and describing the sinus infection in vivid detail), she declares that the meeting “was totally worth it.”

She is, as Jerreat-Poole says of the Joker, a “crip killjoy” -some who undermines notions of how the disabled and chronically ill “should” be presented. Illness, by and large, is seen as shameful in our current society, something that should be separated and dealt with quietly. But Joker’s slackness, Talis’ vulnerability and Liara’s loneliness are always clear. No one hides who they are, or limits themselves to the assumptions of others. After all, Liara will be the leading information broker in the galaxy. Tali creates a life for himself beyond the Quarian fleet. And the Joker repeatedly proves his claims to be the “best fucking pilot in the galaxy.”

Even Commander Shepard, the player’s avatar and a powerful imaginative super-soldier, is not quite as infallible as one might expect: Shepard gets regular checks, and after a life-saving operation – one that specifically does not makes them a gun-armed living weapon — like many organ transplant recipients, carrying scars and trauma and lost years. Or, as Shepard’s faithful shipmate Garrus Vakarian says of this resurrection: “Be surprising if it does not mess you up a little.”

The games never fall in this darkness, nor in pity, and never become prey for a short story that negates everything that came before. Instead, Mass effect Recognizes that illness and disability are simply a part of life, and a constant for millions of us.

All that being said, this is not the trilogy complete perfect-Thane’s redemption is only spurred on by his diagnosis, and Cerberus’ army of “changed” people promotes the Darth Vader-like “medical equipment” that sets the evil stereotype. And the project: Overlord mission tortures an autistic man grotesquely, with graphics and sound effects that are “physically uncomfortable to play as someone with real sensory sensitivity,” says Genn. It’s an alarming two hours of both dehumanization and inaccessibility (and something that probably should have been left out by Legendary edition republished).

Across all three matches, however, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. “There are problems, but there is also the joy of recognition,” says Rogers of Thane. The Mass effect the series understands the reality of living with an illness, in ways that few games ever have – and more importantly, it understands that being disabled or chronically ill does not mean you can not save the galaxy sometimes as well.


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