The Average Gamer

Cover Art

If you’d asked me about cover art 3 years ago I would have told you that it makes no difference to me whatsoever. I buy games on the strength of publisher loyalty, developer loyalty, demos and reviews, in that order. Sometimes I’ll read reviews which prompt me to play the demo, but I’ll never buy a game on just reviews. I certainly won’t buy a game based on its cover art, though if one looked like this, I’d probably pick it up and look at the back.
I am an RPG!

Actually, I take it back. I might well buy a game on the strength of its cover art if it looked like this:
I am an RPG! by BioWare

But otherwise, not so much. The thing that changed 3 years ago was the release of Mass Effect. Now long-time readers of this blog will know that I have a long history of computer-RPGs, all the way back to the Gold Box games. I played Baldur’s Gate and all its sequels. I played Icewind Dale. I played KOTOR. I played NeverWinter Nights. And yet, with all that gaming history from BioWare, I still had serious doubts over whether or not I could play Mass Effect. Why’s that?

The cover art. And the screenshots. And the character art. And the marketing videos. And the merchandise.

Cover art featuring title character John Shepard Screenshot featuring title character John Shephard Xbox 360 faceplate featuring promo character John Shepard

Who the hell is that? I don’t want to play a BOY!

Yup, even with all the previous BioWare games, the sheer onslaught of John Shepard imagery gave me serious doubts as to whether or not this game was for me. I honestly don’t understand why this was seen as a good idea. It’s an RPG, ffs. You’re supposed to BE the title character, not identify with him. Hell, probably the most popular lead character in the history of gaming is a first-person mute. Fortunately for both BioWare and Microsoft, I did a little research because I had faith in the developers. I discovered that I could indeed play someone of my own gender and wound up buying an Xbox 360 specifically to play Mass Effect :)

Cover art be damned. It gets in the way of real gaming.

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details.

Other takes on cover art for games:

Or check out previous banter posts on The Average Gamer.


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  3. Mizzy

    22nd Jul, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I think the marketing and the screenshots IS what drew me into ME! *lol* Even if I was going to be stuck playing the generic male Sheperd, the fact that I had dialogue options to make him a saint or a supreme douchebag was what sold me.

    • Debbie "Weefz" Timmins

      22nd Jul, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      Hehe! To each their own, hey? Don’t get me wrong, I do love the artwork and style for Mass Effect. I still use the old theme for my Xbox dashboard :)

      I was seriously considering getting an Xbox 360 faceplate, but that John Shepard face is nothing to MY experience of the game. Mass Effect and ME2 are about Elandra Shephard, goddamit! She’s a cute feisty spaceship commander who doesn’t take shit from anyone and on the heels of a failed relationship with Kaiden, is about to experiment with Turian/human sex o.O

      I dunno who that guy is in all the pictures. Some loser ;)

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  5. Terry

    22nd Jul, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Great post! I’m guessing you have similar feelings about the Dragon Age 2 marketing?

    And I remember the Gold Box games! I remember them as being ridiculously hard and watching the Heroes of Krynn die repeatedly.

    • Debbie "Weefz" Timmins

      22nd Jul, 2010 at 5:02 pm

      TBH, I had been avoiding DA2 marketing coz it reminds me that I haven’t played nearly enough of DA:O yet. Now that you mention it, I had a look and yes, looks like they’re playing heavily to the male überwarrior fantasy again.


      • Terry

        22nd Jul, 2010 at 5:03 pm

        Yeah, a lot of people I know want to smack them.

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  7. Michelle

    22nd Jul, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Totally agree about the male Shepard on the Mass Effect marketing – would have been great to have the option to buy the female Shepard version of the game.

    Personally, and I’ve heard many other people say this too, I think the female Shepard is the superior way to play the game :)

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