Entry #6: The Halo Effect

Earlier this week, I announced that we would give away 5 copies of Dungeons & Dreamers (coming in March 2014) for the best stories about playing Dungeons & Dragons, or MMORPGS, or role-playing games, or computer games in general.

The rules aren’t really important. Telling us a good story about playing games with friends is the key to winning.

You can see the entries and demo stories here.

This story comes from Kyle, a former student now living in South Korea and writing The Explorer’s Manifesto.

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When I was in high school, video games weren’t the pop culture sensation they are today. This was before grandma and grandpa were playing Wii Sports, before frat boys were playing Rock Band. This was when gaming was a bunch of guys sitting around on computers playing Counter Strike until 3 AM.

This was a way of life for me. I played through numerous games, both single and multiplayer but only had a few close friends to share my stories of victory and defeat with. Gaming wasn’t something you brought up with just anyone, but rather with your closest friends.

This all changed once Halo: Combat Evolved was released.

At the time, Halo was being lauded by gamers and critics alike for its PC style gameplay on a console and its robust multiplayer that allowed a significant increase in customization and play styles compared to previous console offerings. While it didn’t offer online multiplayer, it did offer LAN based multiplayer where 4 Xboxes and 4 TVs could all be hooked together for 16 player deathmatches.

My friend was one of the first ones in our school to get an Xbox and with it, a copy of Halo. It was during his birthday party where we all got our first taste of Halo and what it had to offer. Soon we found ourselves coming back to it whenever we got together to game. Sure, I’ve been playing stuff like this for years on PC before Halo came out, but suddenly, for the first time, I could play a PC style multiplayer FPS with friends in the same room. All those years of being a lone wolf, playing online with people half a world away changed and suddenly, my social skills and my gaming skills were beginning to blossom.

Soon, word of mouth on how good Halo was started to spread, and more people started getting Xboxes and with it, more people started playing Halo. Our get togethers of six people started steadily growing as the year went on and by the end of the school year, we had almost half the class getting together at random times and random places to game. We started organizing tournaments and power rankings. We were putting in cash to make prizes for the winners and bragging about our victories at the lunch table the next week.

It was during this time that I met a majority of the people that I would eventually call my friends. People, who at the time I never thought I would ever be hanging out and spending time with. People from all social circles would come together and put aside their differences and vices in order to play Halo. Halo multiplayer was our Fight Club. A jock may have not have talked to a nerd during the school day, but on the weekend, controller in hand, we were all digital space marines pumping led into each other and talking trash into the early hours of the morning.

It’s been years since I’ve played the original Halo, and since that time, I’ve lost touch with many of the people I originally played with. The core group, the ones there since the beginning I still talk with and keep in regular contact with. Sometimes we still get together to play the latest in the Halo series but its not the same as before. For all the social ills and criticisms of being anti social outlets games can sometimes draw, Halo provided me with one of the most memorable times of my young life. A time when we all came together to game and have a good time. A time that didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, good looking, had a girlfriend or were a social outcast. In a bedroom with four TV’s, four Xboxes and 16 massive controllers, were were all one and the same.

It was beautiful to see us put our differences and social statuses aside in the name of gaming. It was a bonding experience that has yet to be duplicated and even with the latest in online services and massive 64 player online matches, most likely never will. Halo was more than a game to me, and no matter how much criticism and countless sequels and spin offs it receives, it will always be more than a game.