Do You Like Halo, Then?
Do You Like Halo, Then?
The eternal question…
When you invest so much in videogames, it’s often crushing to keep meeting people who don’t share the same passion. But, as Lewis Denby’s come to realise, maybe it’s okay that they don’t.
“Oh, really?” says the guy. We’re standing outside a Leeds nightclub, a crowd of people gathered roughly in line, waiting for permission to enter. Smoke blows around in the cold air, while drops of water fall from the underside of the bridge above. I cringe.
“What do you do?” he’s asked, a few seconds before. I wouldn’t mind. It’s nice when people show an interest in your life – even complete strangers. The problem is I know what’s coming next. As soon as those words escape my mouth – “I write about videogames” – there’s only one follow-up question that ever arrives.
“I write about videogames,” I say, after a sigh and a pause.
“Oh, really?” he says. “Do you like Halo, then?”
A hero comes along
The Master Chief has become the poster child for popular videogame culture. A nameless, faceless super-soldier, he’s a figure of mystery and intrigue, and a dab hand with futuristic weaponry to boot. He’s a hero. Videogames are full of them.
And I think that’s always been my issue with the Halo franchise. I’ve never disliked it, as such. I fondly recall the days where, as a teenager, I’d wander up to the local LAN café with a friend, at the times we knew would be busiest, just to sit and play Halo on the Xbox while we waited for a computer. I didn’t own an Xbox at the time, but when Halo emerged on the PC in 2003, its ultra-refined combat mechanics had me gripped to the mouse and keyboard for its entire duration.
As the series progressed, though, it lost some of its magic. Halo, this remarkable, polished, next-generation masterpiece of first-person shooter design, became tepid through its own success. It spawned sequels and novels and feeble imitations of both. The Master Chief had become the poster boy for next-gen blasting, but his game, propagated to the nth degree, lost something in the process.
So. How to respond? I mean, the answer is “yes,” it absolutely is. I loved Halo. Its sequels are strong first-person shooting games. But it’d be a defeated nod, at best. Yes, I like Halo. Yes, the series is a strong one, towards the more consistent end of the gaming spectrum. But I lost my enthusiasm for it long ago, and now, anyone who mentions its name – especially so soon after discovering the unlikely line of work I’ve chosen – becomes a kind of unfortunate enemy.
Attempting to categorise those who play videogames is a horrible thing. Hardcore, casual, male, female, whatever – it doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. Even the term ‘gamer’ itself is a hideous one, devoid of any real use other than to pigeonhole and stereotype. Hands up, though, because I find myself doing just that, each and every time this happens.
Oh, he’s one of those gamers, I think to myself, as I try in vain to establish the best possible response.