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FemShep Friday has arrived!

- February 10th, 2012

Bioware has finally launched a Mass Effect 3 trailer starring the female version of protagonist Commander Shepard, or FemShep, as she’s known to her fans.

And she definitely has fans.

FemShep doesn’t get as much attention as her oh-so-manly counterpart (Mass Effect 3 marks the first time Bioware has used her in their marketing), and she doesn’t have yield the same numbers (only 18% of players choose her), but  much like a cult-classic TV show, she commands a small but dedicated fanbase.

Just ask Jaime Roberston, the founder of FemShep.com, a community where Female Shepard’s loyal followers can write fanfic, share fanart and swap stories about their space-faring, galaxy-saving exploits.

What began as a FemShep thread on Bioware Social Network turned into a Deviant art site (Warning: Some NSFW content) and eventually became a central hub for the greater FemShepper community.

So what is it about this character that inspires this kind of fandom?

We were discussing this just a few days ago and it seems to be different things for different people. Certainly one of the big attractions is Jennifer Hale‘s performance as Commander Shepard

But also it’s refreshing to see a female protagonist portrayed in such a respectful way. For a lot of the female players, it seems FemShep really represents them. She’s just a woman doing her duty. She’s not there for the eye candy or to be saved. She’s in that world as the leader and I think it’s very inspiring to some people to see that.

For me, personally, FemShep is a refreshing change from generic space marine #415. And as a guy playing a female character allows a certain disconnect to really make the character as unique as possible within the confines of the game.

But as I said, it’s many things to many people. A shorter answer would be, she just clicked.

Robertson, of course, is not a female player. In fact, there are plenty of FemSheppers of the dude variety. So what’s the allure? Is just that she’s more interesting than the ever-stoic, pro-soccer-looking bro Shepard?

There is an old joke. Who’s backside would you rather look at for 30+ hours? I would be lying if I said that wasn’t at least in the equation. But ultimately, it boils down to two things for me. One is I prefer Jennifer Hale’s performance. She brings a certain humanity to the role that helps sell the cinematic quality of the game. The other is, as I said before, playing FemShep allows a disconnect to really create the character. When I’m playing FemShep, I’m not playing me. She is a character. That adds to the cinematic structure of the game.

And Robertson’s FemShep is a pretty fleshed out character.  This is her. Her name is Urania Jane Shepard — U. J. for short.

She’s a Colonist/Sole Survivor (aka the Angst Queen). She was a brat on Midoir, into punk rock and general ne’er-do-well. That is, until her family and friends were killed.

She’s sort of like the sports celebrities that always drank and did drugs until something terrible happened and then they got saved. Only instead of religion, the military and “doing right” became her life.”

In case you were wondering, that bit of character motivation is not from the game at all. People are so fond of Shepard, they bring her to life with their imaginations, actively adding to her canon. Now that is a character deserving of a trailer.

I think they saw that both that untapped market and the loyalty and passion that a lot of the “FemSheppers” had out there. And they are rewarding that loyalty and passion.

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1 comment

  1. Steve Tilley | February 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    I’ve been a FemShepper all along. While I do fall into that “whose ass would you rather look at?” camp I also think the idea of a female starship commander is simply more interesting than a male. I don’t play RPGs to insert my real-life self into games, I play to take on the role of a character who isn’t necessarily like me, but interests me nonetheless. Sure, my Cmdr. Sarah Shepard is ridiculously hawt (and her facial scar just adds to the sexy) but I feel like I know her better than any game character I’ve played. I can’t wait to see how her story wraps up in ME3.

    My only FemShep regret is that by choosing the female character I’ve missed out on fellow Edmontonian Mark Meer’s voice work in this game. Mark’s a great guy and a family friend and I know Shepard has been an important role for him, but outside of trailers and the like I’ve never actually heard ManShep speak!

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