Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Game Review

You may not have heard any sinews twanging or backbones creaking into an upright position, but a kind of evolution is being seen in America's family rooms. You don't need to worry that Fido will start walking on his hind legs and ask you to go fetch the paper—the evolution I'm referring to is taking place in the world of video games. The level of thought-provoking realism in games nowadays is reaching new interactive heights. And there is currently no better example of that than BioWare's sprawling Mass Effect.

The ambitious storyline of this sci-fi RPG/shooter is a mixture of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and good ol' Captain Kirk-era Star Trek. In it, humans have recently gotten up to speed in the realm of deep-space travel and are invited to join an established galactic community. The outspoken earthlings quickly grab the known universe's attention because of their propensity for both compassion and military aggression. That seemingly at-odds combination leaves some outer space denizens with a bad taste in their green-tinged mouths. But when trouble comes a-knockin', who ya gonna call?

So Many Choices
Gamers customize a male or female avatar, adding skills in combat, tech and something called biotics (a defensive kind of magic that can manipulate objects in the environment). The resulting warrior is Earth's primo soldier, Commander Shepard. He or she has to track down a renegade Galactic Council member (think United Nations in space) named Saren who has taken sides with an evil race called the Geth. With them, Saren starts an interspecies war over some ancient alien artifacts that could reveal the deepest and deadliest secrets of the universe.

This grand space drama in video game form puts a unique spin on the chase-the-bad-guy formula by giving you an actual universe to fly around in and the freedom to go about your shooting, fighting and investigative duties as you see fit. That expanded sense of free will is further supported by an innovative dialogue system that allows you to select what your character is thinking during discussions with other people.

Just Like Real Life
Shepard's cognitive choices (after you decide whether he or she is a he or she—I picked he) reflect the desires of his virtual heart and can push him in a variety of directions. Those thoughts and desires shape not only what he says, but the person he will become. For instance, brain waves guided by reason and generosity will make Shepard a respected leader, and he'll gain friendships as the game progresses. But opting to lie, cheat and steal, or filling his virtual mind with harsh, aggressive thoughts produces a hated, ironfisted officer who will stop at nothing—even murder—to achieve his objectives.

If you're getting the idea that Mass Effect deals with emotions and moral questions that a lot of games don't concern themselves with, you're right. The characters here are multifaceted and complex, and conversations reveal an intricate melodrama of political intrigue and racial prejudice that demands players make real-life kinds of ethical decisions.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean wise judgment prevails.

A group of blue-skinned telepathic women called the Asari, for instance, are from an "enlightened" race that is very open to casual sexual interaction with any species or gender. When coupling with Shepard, cut scenes show heterosexual or homosexual sex through a montage of silhouetted embraces and dimly lit but very naked curves. (When finished, in one case, the Asari gushes, "By the goddess, that was incredible, Shepard.")

Blow 'Em Up and Cuss 'Em Out
Then there's the shooter part of the equation. Players pick weaponry, armor and tactical moves for their three-member squad and blast their way through everything from an assault on a fortified enemy base to a breakout firefight in a bar. Blood is spilled in a few cinematic cut scenes, but most enemies fall over bloodlessly or disappear in a flash. Even in the area of gunplay, though, choices can take things from bad to worse. An evil version of Shepard, for example, will knock an ally to the ground and deliver a bullet to his head.

And if things weren't sounding dicey enough, a large portion of the dialogue is scattered with heated language that won't sit well in your family room. Words such as "d--n," "h---," "a--" and "b--tard" stud military exchanges.

Now, I won't deny that the Mass Effect design team has crafted a video game masterpiece. Its graphics and detail are spectacular. It offers immense amounts of gameplay with a combination of exploration, plot-twisting intrigue and action-filled adrenaline rushes that only this new generation of games is capable of. Other reviewers have been raving with statements such as, "Sets the course for future thrillers" (USA Today) and "One of the best sci-fi games ever" (Associated Press). The title's 1 million sales in under three weeks on the shelf backs them up.

But when MSNBC contributor Levi Buchanan gushes, "You'll want to explore this 'do anything' universe over and over," he unintentionally raises a big problem with video gaming's latest metamorphosis. It's no longer just a question of what mass deadening effect mowing down row after row of enemies will have on gamers' psyches. Now they have hours and hours of ethical dilemmas (including sexual situations) to immerse themselves in as well. And if they don't find the game's darkest corners in the first play-through, there's lots of stuff here that'll keep 'em coming back for more until they do.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range







Record Label


Xbox 360, PC


Microsoft Game Studios,BioWare


On Video

Year Published



Bob Hoose Stephen Strong

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!