57 – Halo, a gaming career of distinction.

To anyone who reads this, let it be known that I am not an avid gamer by nature.

The last time I considered myself a hardcore gamer was when the original Xbox was still all the rage: I lived in a time when people still actually used computers to run all various RTS games; the ones that most gamers (of the now) would fondly look back on as a joke or as an antiquated novelty. Even then I only had a limited selection of games; I never had any money to get all the latest releases so I would literally play the life out of every game I had, hoping to find something new within them.

If I gained anything from this former livelihood it was an appreciation for games with long-standing histories, or at least a game that  went beyond ‘spec’ and blockbuster ratings. I remember a time when strategy games and role players were the kings of digital entertainment, followed closely by action adventures and first person shooters trailing behind the latter (there was a time when the shooter was a limited market, habited by the ‘serious’ PC gamers that professed how there was little future for their ‘underground gaming scene’)

     

There are so many games that, by current standards are considered ancient. More than often it is these ‘obsolete’ games that are the most original, they bear the most powerful story-lines and multidimensional levels of attention to detail. In most cases I would choose these distinguished marvels of virtual entertainment over the current spam we consistently seem to snap up on a bi-monthly basis.

However there are the occasional blood lines of game franchises (that emerged in the pre-fps-eminence era) which continue to maintain a strong, loyal following. This really is a case of subjectivity, and obviously many of you out there will disagree with my taste: Halo, the shooter that finally put the FPS on the map by doing what the likes of Quake had failed to do – make it big in the console market.

Spanning over a decade with a myriad of products and releases to its name, the ‘Halo’ franchise has dominated the Xbox market with its ever-trusty formula of genocidal aliens, fictional contexts, cyborg-AI romance and comedic marines. Apparently no matter what they release (except for their strategy-game attempt, ‘Halo Wars’), the fan base eats it up with relish and joy. But it really is a love or hate situation; you’re a Halo fan or you’re a hater, it’s as simple as that.

I am a Halo lover, it is one of the few games I actually claim to understand and follow religiously (is that sad?). I never fell for any other generic shooter, perhaps because this is one of the original trend setters, coupled with its extensive evolution (that most franchises haven’t existed long enough to enjoy). I suppose we all have to get our Geek on now and again, and for me its the sci-fi heavy hitter that does it.

But as you will know, it isn’t just me that will feel this way about the game. In fact, in comparison to a lot of the fan-base I am a mere novice. The lengths that some people will go to fill out that void of the undiscovered ‘Halo-verse’ is incredible. But it does not come as a surprise when Bungie and 343 Studios have devoted so much time and money to sculpt live action trailers, animated films and book publishing deals just to help satisfy the insatiable needs of their customers.

(Above) (Left) Neil Blomkamp (Director of District 9) produced a short film as a viral campaign for the Halo 3 release in 2007. It was an adrenaline packed action short featuring none other than Halo’s Legendary ODST troopers, which are often considered the pinnacle of video-game badassery. (Middle) With every passing year the fan films grow more credible in their appearance and their approach. This is a screen shot from a British fan film which is currently under production! (Right) If that wasn’t enough, top-notch artists from every corner of the globe create homages to the game, with graphic novels, comics and paintings. 

Take the ‘Halo Movie’ rumours that spread like wildfire some years ago. I still don’t know where this came from, but for some reason the fans had it in their head that their game franchise was striking a deal with Hollywood to produce a full feature length film (with Peter Jackson as the producer!). Now don’t get me wrong, that would have been amazing (if it was done right), but this was evidently a pipe dream. That didn’t dishearten the community; when they realised they weren’t getting what wanted they started to do it themselves. There are several independent production groups that have scrounged some money together and gone off to make their own ‘fan-films’! To me this sums up the determined, albeit stubborn nature of the fan-base – it never ceases to amaze me how far some will go to practically live out their vicarious fantasies.

Just type in ‘Halo Fan Films’ in YouTube and you’ll get a taster of some of the things people have been cooking up. In particular the ‘Helljumpers’ series, and of course the much-anticipated ‘Operation Chastity’. And lets not forget the hundreds of Machinimas and ‘RoosterTeeth’ productions that have helped bolster both the gaming series and the strength of the support network, as fans swap homages and quirky creations all within the Halo universe. Then of course you have the Anime/comic phase that 343 Industries went through… Needless to say there is more than enough ‘bonus content’ to keep one occupied between each game.

And yes, of course we have the games themselves: Famous for the superhero-like abilities of the Spartans you control, and the myriad of bright blooded creatures you slaughter on your quest for victory. Halo was one of the first games to popularize both the two-weapon system, and regenerating health. Because of this some people argue Halo was the death of the shooter, but then some argue it was its greatest achievement. It all depends on what side of the fence you sit on, but either way it has made many people rich, and even more people happy (or brainwashed, you decide…)

All eyes are fixed on 343, the future of Halo is in their hands as they get set to reboot the series later this year.

Of course it’s a business that makes money, but I like to think that someone within the industry keeps working in the Halo universe out of love for the game. After all, it’s been around long enough to become a cultural superstar, with a catalogue of works many of us grew up with. I guess that is why I choose the Halo games over others, because I grew up with them; the games developed as the technology did, and all the while I was there to see it happen.

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