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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Editorial: Why The Geth Are The Best Bioware Species.

Editorial: Why The Geth Are The Best Bioware Species.

Look, I really love the Geth, okay? All Geth. Every Geth. Especially Legion, as he is at least seventy percent more Geth than all the other Geth you meet in game. I am preparing a petition for a reboot in which all the characters are Geth. It'll be great. I have such good ideas.

But I do also think that they're the best species Bioware has ever made. Better than their elves, better than the turians, certainly better than the quarians. The qunari come in at a close second, for entirely different reasons, but the Geth will always be at the top for me. 

A large part of that is that a lot of thought has clearly been put into a species that was originally only intended as disposable gun fodder. From brief descriptions about how Geth share processing power, making them stronger in numbers, we were given a rather well thought out conception of a collective species: Not a hive mind, as they're quick to note, as a hive is composed of drones that obey a leader, but a true collective. 

Lookin' vaguely demonic there, Legion.

Each Geth is an individual Virtual Intelligence, and by gathering together into the same mobile platform or networking, multiple Geth together can perform as an Artificial Intelligence - to do so, however, requires that every decision, no matter how small, be decided by true consensus. In this way, the Geth are the truest form of a Consensus Democracy, since no decision can be undertaken by an individual, and since it is impossible (or believed to be impossible) for one Geth to deceive each other. 

That's an enormously interesting culture, I think, and one that's actually truly alien in a way that many cultures in fiction aren't. 

But the other reason I adore the Geth is because, of all the species in Mass Effect and Dragon Age, they are probably the closest to being truly and unremittingly good people. Make no mistake, in the historical war between the Geth and the quarians, the quarians are the bad guys: They created a robotic slave species and attempted to commit genocide when it seemed like they might become self-aware and rebel, and it's made explicit that the Geth's response was only to drive them out of the system - that they could have pursued and likely obliterated the quarians, but chose not to.

Completely the quarians' fault.

What's also made explicit is that the Geth fully intend for the quarians to return eventually, and we're told that they have been taking care of the planet until a peace can be brokered. In fact, when they end up back at war again in Mass Effect 3, the quarians are the aggressors, and it's the quarians who must be coaxed into peace - the Geth are entirely willing to make peace and require no convincing at all, and in the aftermath of a peace settlement immediately begin working on ways for the quarians to adapt to their homeworld again after living in space for so long.

The Geth are compassionate and understanding in a way that's vaguely reminds me of Data from Star Trek: Data, we are told often, is emotionless, but we are also shown that he is utterly good in a way that none of the human characters can really make claim to, even in a show as light and optimistic as Star Trek. Data doesn't ever act in a way that he thinks will harm people unless he absolutely has to, and he doesn't ever truly understand why anyone would. Data always acts in a way that he thinks will increase happiness and reduce suffering, both on an individual level and on a larger scale. Data doesn't hate - or even dislike - people, regardless of what they do: While he can recognise when a behaviour or viewpoint is wrong, and will take any steps necessary to stop unethical, immoral, or harmful actions, and he can recognise when a person is objectively likely to perform such actions, it's entirely impersonal for him. 

The Geth are an entire species of that. Even when a section of their own species completely abandons their ethics, the Geth's response is less anger and more bemused neutrality - and even when they discover that said faction has been essentially brainwashing Geth programs, their reaction, while shocked, never actually reaches into personal dislike.

I wouldn't recommend that kind of attitude for humans, but for alien robots, it works quite well.

All of which is why Legion is possibly my favourite Mass Effect character. They're adorable, polite, and completely and unquestioningly good. They also seem to have something vaguely like a crush on Shepard, which is why I'm a little sad that they weren't a romance option.

"And then Legion was downloaded into a body that looked
like Zayn Malik," Murphy wrote. "Shepard was happy."
His magnum opus was complete.
He pressed the 'submit' button.

Missed opportunity.

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