In the driver’s seat

Unlike the the leash-led RPGs and adventure games that predated it, Mass Effect was about letting you respond honestly to the events that happen around you and then holding you responsible for your actions. Nowhere is this better expressed or emphasized than the moment you have control again after each post-mission cut scene: you advisors’ chairs empty, the next thing you do (take a step forward, go release the apocryphal zerg-Eve into the wild, whatever) is under your control, and you’ll take the blame for it too. This screenshot depicts what may be a watershed moment in designing storytelling games.