Mass Effect Month: Day 24 – Genophage

We’re back with our month-long Mass Effect challenge! For previous days, click here.

Mass Effect Month, Day 24: What is your opinion on the genophage?

Yikes. What do I think of a biological weapon used to control the population of a species that attempted to take over the worlds and colonies of other species in order to support their exploding population, often being aggressive and without remorse?

Well, isn’t that a loaded question.

Obviously, using a biological weapon against any species is never okay, and I am certainly not in favor of using a weapon that would so drastically and devastatingly limit a species’ ability to reproduce to the point of extinction. However, like all conflicts in the Mass Effect universe, the problem is more nuanced than Wrex’s proclamation that “to thank us for wiping out the rachni, they neutered us all.”

Image result for wrex mass effect

Using the genophage was a desperate measure, and to be fair, the salarians only planned on using it to deter attacks, whereas the turians sought to destroy the krogran during the Krogan Rebellion. The krogan, on the other hand, had overpopulated their own worlds and begun conquering already-inhabited planets, and refusing self-imposed breeding constraints and, perhaps more dangerously, flouting the governmental authority of the Citadel Council. Faced with the endangerment of other Milky Way species, war eventually broke out against the unstoppable krogan. Unstoppable krogan who had been acting little different than a plague to the rest of the galaxy.

So what is the best solution? The krogan appeared unwilling to leave peaceably alongside the other races, and they did not surrender after military defeats. Although the genophage was a desperate measure to take, I wonder how far any of us would go to try and preserve our species, especially in the face of an unstoppable and insatiable army. Wouldn’t we want to destroy them, too?


Interestingly, I also wonder if the genophage is very different from the exaltation of the kett. After all, it is modifying the genetics of another species in order to destroy it. Both, in their own way, can be seen as necessary: the genophage to save the galaxy from rampaging krogan, and the exaltation process to ensure kett survival. And yet, from the safety of behind a screen, we are able to look at these actions and be horrified by them.

What do you think? Is the genophage understandable? Is it similar to how the kett exalt members of other species? Is there anything justifiable about either of the two, or are both just abhorrant? Let me know in the comments!

I should go,

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  1. This is one of the most interesting moral pendulums in the entire trilogy for me. I found myself swinging back and forth on favour of it. It wasn’t until Mordin sacrificed himself to cure it in ME3 that I finally made up my mind. That man broke my heart and reduced me to tears. Argh the feels!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, out of all of the long-standing conflicts, this was my favorite one, because it exists in a morally grey area. I mean, it’s bad, but it had good intentions, but those mean nothing if the actions are harmful, but… and ’round and ’round we go haha.

      Mordin’s sacrifice was another incredibly sad moment. Him singing to himself because he was scared just broke my heart.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Was it because he was sacred? I’m not so certain. There’s another version where he speaks to himself and says something more serious like “Mission accomplished. The genophage is gone.” And then he dies. I didn’t realise until I watched someone else’s YouTube video. That leads me to think him singing in my version (and yours) means he is completely happy with his decision with no doubts or regrets.

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  2. it’s a pretty grey area given how it’s described in your article and the game. On it’s own, it’s awful! But given war has broken out and the Krogan’s were seemingly unstoppable and what appeared, seflishly taking planets or zones that weren’t there’s simply due to them over populating their own worlds, it seems almost like fair game, as bad as it sounds for me to say that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anytime I force someone into the weird grey area of morality, I consider it a job well done haha. But seriously, it was definitely a desperate solution, but for a desperate cause. That’s one of the reasons I like being able to fix it in ME3… Like with the quarian/geth conflict, times are different now.

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  3. Ooooh! I wrote about the genophage myself in a blog post when I was watching the LP. Sorry for the cursing.

    “Speaking of the genophage, I cannot blame the krogan in the least for everything they did in that situation. The salarians and the turians screwed them over royally, though arguably the salarians didn’t expect anyone to actually use the genophage and believed it would only be wielded as a deterrent, but war makes monsters of us all (truth per GRRM).

    The other alien races used the krogan in the Rachni Wars and then committed genocide against them. That’s supremely fucked up. The salarians developed it. The turians used it. The krogan suffered from it, and a human cured it. No wonder Wrex has such respect for Shepherd (in the way Oliz plays). There’s no way I wouldn’t cure the genophage in my playthrough of it either. Yes, the krogan do breed a lot due to the environment they evolved in, but genocide is never the answer, and they deserve reparations for what occurred.”

    And speaking of GRRM, he has a set of trilogy (fancy that?) of short stories with a similar theme. There’s a planet running out of food because the main/most popular religion is all about breeding as much as possible. Their leaders figure out that at the rate of population growth, they’ll run out of food/resources in less than a hundred years. The planets around them are becoming nervous because obviously war happens in situations like this. The main character of the story has the means to solve their problem, but his solutions are only bandages on a wound, and he tells them they *have* to curb their breeding, but they don’t listen. In the end, he winds up tricking them into forced sterilization (not the entire population though), by putting one of their own in an impossible situation where she has no other choice.

    I think the salarians and the turians put the krogan into the situation where they (the former two) then saw no other choice but to commit that atrocity, but they’d already done so by upjumping the krogan before their society was ready. Their breeding was prefect for Tachunka, which is a harsh environment, so having many offspring is an evolutionary advantage. Take away that environment doesn’t take away their birth rates. The krogan weren’t mature enough as a species yet, but they were needed in the Racni wars due to their battle prowess. It’s a really sad, complicated situation, and one of the reasons I love ME so much. It asks the hard questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One thing I’ll say for the genophage: it certainly gets people talking about the lovely grey area of morality! I do agree with your assessment, however, especially insofar as the complicated political mess that started it and ended it.

      Hm… that sounds suspiciously like the krogan genophage, yes….

      I wonder if things would have been different if the krogan hadn’t been, erm, *exalted* by the salarians… Another reason not to mess with creating life…. hm….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s the reason the Prime Directive exists in the Star Trek universe. The hope is that technological growth will occur at the same pace as societal, and that a culture will be mature/evolved enough for the level of technology they achieve. It’s highly debatable whether or not we (humans) are, but I think there’s a theory that any civilization that doesn’t have concurrent evolution of those two things with technology exceeding winds up destroying themselves. I definitely think something had to be done about the krogan, but really *nothing* should have been done with them. I think it’s also a metaphor about how veterans are treated. Once they were no longer needed, their needs and issues were looked up as a problem/nuisance.


  4. I cured the genophage in my playthrough and was very supportive of the krogan. Keeping it active, and not helping the krogan with a cure, after the war is almost as bad as genocide in my mind. Should it have been released in the first place is a question I can’t quite answer…. I wanna say no, but if it wasn’t the krogan would’ve likely wiped out everyone. Grey areas are the worst!


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