One of my favorite games in more recent years was Mass Effect (the first one, not the second that most people prefer). It’s a space epic with a cool story and moral choices that at least appeared to matter at the time (part of the reason why people didn’t like Mass Effect 3- they really didn’t). In particular, I liked the world building done in the game and all the extra information on the various alien races which wasn’t really needed, but I thoroughly enjoyed (in fact, part of the reason I didn’t like Mass Effect 2 as much as most people is that they went back on that lore a few times for gameplay reasons). Today I want to talk about my favorite scene in Mass Effect and how it ties into Catholicism (note- this is kind of a big reveal scene near the end of the game so SPOILER ALERT).
At this point in the game the player character Commander Shepard has gone against the wishes of the galactic government in order to continue investigating the threat of the Reapers- giant inorganic life that periodically comes into the galaxy to wipe out all organic life. Shepard goes to the hidden Ilos where an artifact called the Conduit is supposed to be. While fighting through the planet, he and his team are temporarily trapped and redirected down a side passage. There, they meet Vigil, an ancient computer program created by the Protheans- the alien race that previously dominated the galaxy before being killed off by the Reapers.
Vigil reveals that when the Reapers attacked the Protheans 50000 years ago, the people working at the research center on Ilos were put into cryogenic sleep to hide as records of life on the planet had been destroyed in the initial attack. By the time the Reapers finally left the galaxy, there were only a few of the researchers left to revive on the planet. These researchers, knowing that there wasn’t any hope to revive the Prothean race, decided instead to spend their little remaining time helping the people of the future.
They created the Conduit- a mass relay that would send someone to the location where the Reapers first appear and made some changes to delay the Reapers return (which is why in Mass Effect 1 you are only fighting a single reaper rather than all of them). They also created Vigil, an AI that could explain what was going on to whoever eventually showed up on the planet many millennium later. After talking to Vigil, Shepard and his team use the Conduit to go to the Citadel and stop the one Reaper from bringing in the rest, ending the first game. I remember when I first played Mass Effect, this scene with Vigil cemented it as one of my favorite games of all time. For some reason, I always enjoy stories where some people in the past do something to help the people in the future they will never meet. Now you may be wondering, how does that story connect to Catholicism? The answer is actually my favorite bible verse.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). This is probably my favorite passage in the Bible, from the end of the Gospel of John. It’s effectively the same idea as the story of the creation of Vigil in Mass Effect. Some ancient people left behind a record that will help save people of the future they may never meet. There is however, one key difference between the two- the Gospel of John is real and was written for me, rather than some fictional character. Think about the early Christians. Many of these people went to their deaths proclaiming the truth about Jesus to lead others to him in the future (this is where the term Martyr actually comes from- it means witness). Without them, Christianity as we know it really wouldn’t exist today (barring supernatural means of course). If these people had kept it to themselves rather than spreading the Gospel, it probably would just be a minor footnote for in depth textbooks on the history of Rome or Judaism instead of the most common religion in the world. Because of the actions of these people 2000 years ago, I am able to know the truth today.
So as you can see, the story of the Protheans on Ilos can show the importance of the works and witness of the early Christians. As someone who honestly isn’t a very emotional person, thinking about the Bible verse I mentioned still always gets to me because I know it actually is addressing me in particular (in addition to everyone else). I think seeing some of your favorite elements of fiction in real life can have a real effect on people (for example, JRR Tolkien converted CS Lewis to Christianity when he explained how the Gospels were like all the myths the two liked, but the Gospels were actually true). This effect is honestly probably a large part of why Mass Effect was so memorable to me and why 13 years later the scene with Vigil still stands out so clearly in my mind.
Song of the Post-