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Why Do I Burn Kaiden?


I've played through the first Mass Effect several times. I've made two male paragons, one male renegade, and a female renegade. I'm working on a third male paragon right now, and I already know about several of the decisions I will need to make.

Off-topic, it's hard for me to enjoy the renegade playthroughs. One of the great benefits of branching stories is, of course, that the player gets to enjoy several stories over multiple playthroughs. Perhaps as importantly, games which require decisions of the player give us the chance to see the world - albeit in a controlled context - through a different pair of eyes. That capacity of games to challenge us, to provide us insight into other ways of being and doing, forms the basis of the appeal of games like GTA, Mass Effect, and Fallout. Still, I find myself vexed when I try to make decisions that go against my moral imperatives - I feel so deeply that the blue path is the right path that I have a hard time choosing the red option. I'm not saying I'm right, or that you should think that way. I'm simply stating that I feel my bias so deeply that choosing "renegade" makes the game less fun for me.

To wit: in all but one of my playthroughs, I've burned Kaiden on the Suicide Mission. I even burned him when he was my female renegade's love interest. The reason I burn Kaiden, and will burn him again, is simple: he's the right man for the job.

The decision to burn Kaiden or Ashley is fraught with several levels of conflict. But the overarching motive for my decision almost always boils down to the background of the two characters. Ashley is a family woman. She has close contact with her mother and sisters. Through in-game dialogue, we learn how far Ashley has gone out of her way to be there for her family when her family has needed her. Killing her off is akin to killing off all her social connections, and the cost is extremely high. Ashley wants to be a hero, yes; but she wants to be a hero who can go home. She'd be honored to die for her mission, but she's not the one who would most deeply feel the cost.

Kaiden, by contrast, is a loner. He never talks about his family in-game; in fact, the one emotional experience he ever shares revolves around him scaring away the one woman he ever loved. That personality gives him exceptional strength, yes, but it also means that none but the Normandy crew will feel his loss. If ever a man was born to die for a cause, that man is Kaiden.

In several interviews, Mass Effect writers and directors have mentioned their shock at how often Kaiden gets burned by players. They like the guy. And don't get me wrong - I do too. I like him more than I like Ashley. But for all the reasons I admire him, I know he's the person most able to accept his own loss of life, and the character who most deeply needs to feel that he DID something for others.

But again - I know these things because I hold strongly to my biases. I'm curious if anyone else out there shares these opinions, but I'm even more interested in the motives other players use when they choose who to burn on the Suicide Mission. Does anyone kill off Ashley more often than Kaiden? If so, why?

Thanks for reading.

Brianbreed 00:08, January 6, 2012 (UTC)

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