The Halo series has had a profound effect on my life.
For some gamers it’s Mario, for others it’s Solid Snake or Markus Phoenix – for me, it’s the Master Chief. He’s my god, my messiah. I even have a little action figure that constantly looks down on me from a shelf on my desk.
Seriously though, I really like Halo.
Each title in the series reminds me of a specific period of my life but the franchise’s quintessential title, Halo Combat Evolved, has a special place in my heart. The first time I played the game, I was a 12-year-old without a care in the world. I didn’t have to worry about paying rent, buying food or finding a decent job – It was just me, the Covenant, the Masterchief and a little ring world called Halo. On the rare occasion that I end up playing Halo: Combat Evolved these days, it always reminds me of this happy care free time in my life.
The fact that Halo Combat Evolved came out almost 10 years ago is really hard for me to wrap my head around. It seems like it was only a few years ago that I was playing it for the first time at my brother’s apartment. I went to visit him while he was away at university. He rented an Xbox from blockbuster and a copy of Halo and Oddworld Munch’s Oddysee. The first time I played Halo I didn’t think the game was that special. It just felt awkward; the now standard dual analog control set up felt extremely weird at the time. Driving the Warthog for the first time also was rather difficult. It wasn’t until I played the game’s multiplayer that I knew there was something different about Bungie’s space epic.
For me Halo was the first game everyone I knew played; it became almost like a sport at my high school. We’d spend our lunch periods talking about our kill to death ratios and creating new strategies. This eventually evolved into full fledged events that looked a little like this:
A room full of sweaty young men stare intently at flat-screen monitors. They cling to the Xbox 360 gamepads in their hands as if their lives depend on it. Gunfire and plasma flies across the many screens that line the room’s dark walls. The sound of machine guns and explosions is almost deafening as the players try to yell over the volume. Pizza boxes and pop cans litter the table in the center of the room. The floor is almost invisible, lost in an array of wires strewn across the once pale blue carpet.
This is a LAN party – my group of friends and I would organize these events on half days in high school. Everyone would lug televisions and Xbox’s to each other’s houses and play Halo until our eye’s hurt. With all the power bars, cords and routers (you really could barely see the floor). Sometimes I’m surprised we didn’t somehow manage to start a fire. At one point I even turned down going to a girl’s house to attend a LAN party. Sad? Maybe, but that’s how important Halo was to me back then.
Then there was Xbox Connect (XBC), a home made precursor to Xbox Live. XBC essentially tricked your Xbox into thinking it was playing a simple system link game when really it was connected to someone from the other side of the world. XBC was awkward to set up, laggy and lacked voice chat. It wasn’t the greatest way to game but it was one of the first times I’d ever gamed online. When you finally got into a game that loaded up properly, the experience was pure bliss.
With the advent of Xbox Live and Halo 2, the social experience of LAN parties shifted online. My group of friends and I would game late into the night, screaming obscenities at one another over Xbox Live much to the distress of my easily angered father. I guess he didn’t enjoy me calling some kid from Texas an, “inbred cock sucking asshole,” at 3 in the morning. In my defense, the kid was a team killing asshole and actually quite possibly inbred – he didn’t sound very intelligent.
Then there are the midnight launches. Standing in line for hours for whatever Halo title was coming out at the time, whether it was Halo 3, Halo: ODST or Halo Reach, was always an event of epic proportions. It didn’t matter that I could show up the very next day and buy one of the hundred copies sitting on Bestbuy’s shelves, I had to line up for hours – I needed to have the game in my hands on day one.
Flash forward to now and the entire first person shooter genre, particularly the Halo series, seems like it’s getting stale. Reach was a great final attempt by Bungie to shake things up but I don’t think it was enough. I’m looking forward to finding out what 343 Studios does with the franchise. Although I’ve sort of lost interest in the franchise lately, (I blame armor lock) Halo will always be my game. It’s like a bad relationship I just can’t leave. You make me mad Halo, so mad, but I’m a nostalgic person and I want to remember the good times.
I guarantee I’ll be standing in line waiting for Halo Anniversary Edition.
This is the first part of a multi section series on GameJudgment covering how the Halo Franchise has effected each of our writers.