“We’ve Forgotten Our Roots”: Bioweapons and Forms of Life in Mass Effect’s Speculative Future

Eamon Reid*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Many cultural artefacts explore the relationship between populations and politics, including Mass Effect, a role-playing videogame that both critiques and affirms liberal and conservative biopolitical tendencies. Of particular interest is the biopolitical dynamics of the Krogan lifeform. Due to population difficulties deriving from both naturalistic and cultural tendencies, they were targeted by a bioweapon – the genophage. The genophage drastically transformed how they comprehend their own form of life, as the bioweapon infected the Krogan with a plague-like genetic modification targeting their reproductive organs. The player in the Mass Effect trilogy can cure the genophage or not, and reasons are provided to contextualize both options. In this article, I argue that the genophage problematic can be interpreted as a reflection on the attempt to affect a form of life from the outside. I emphasize what Tristan Garica describes as we-expansion: that Mass Effect leaves open the question of the possibility of expanding our sense of we. But Mass Effect also leaves open the question of we-contraction, in so doing it neither offers a utopian or dystopian political vision, but an agnostic one.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220199
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalOpen Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Early online date14 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023


  • political videogames
  • role-playing games and biopolitics
  • plague and governmentality


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