intrepid reporter tries to find time to play the biggest video
game ever—and save the virtual world from the Covenant
needs my help,” I tell myself as I accompany my young but
hobbled friend into the 24-hour Wal-Mart in East Greenbush.
My friend just had hernia surgery that has left him twisted
and bent, walking like a brittle old man. It’s not just that
he recently had surgery—on top of that, he awoke to find his
basement apartment flooded, his TV remote floating in filth.
So, “Everything I do tonight is a good deed,” I think to myself
as I lug an ultra-jumbo pack of bottled water toward the register.
My friend needs water to brush his teeth, flush his toilets.
But I have ulterior motives for being in this florescent-light-soaked,
corporate-retail-purgatory at 2 AM: Halo 3.
I put down the water package and scamper over to the electronics
section, leaving my heaped-over friend standing by a cookie
stand. He is in too much pain to voice his displeasure.
The clerks seem fairly tired of this Halo nonsense, and I
am still tentative, feeling the guilt of subverting such a
noble mission for my own virtual frag-fest. The clerk recognizes
what I want before I have to tell him. He guides me over to
the case, his blue apron a bit disheveled, his smiley face
looking worse for wear.
want the special edition or the regular edition?” he asks.
Before I can answer he informs me, “You probably don’t want
the special edition. It is 10 bucks more and we’ve been having
problems; the discs come loose in the case and get scratched.”
I try to make a witty remark about Bungie, the developer of
Halo 3, having more important things to worry about than scratched
discs, like Microsoft’s bottom line and the future of its
gaming system (X-Box 360), but it falls on deaf ears. He probably
didn’t waste his time reading months of speculation in Wired
and the The New York Times about Halo’s impending
success; even if he did, after watching the mobs of gamers
storm through his section, Mr. Electronics Clerk just wants
I get home at 5 AM I’m gonna pop my copy in for just a little
while and take it for a spin,” he says as he lovingly runs
what is soon to be my copy of Halo 3 over the scanner.
I hurry my injured friend into my car, pop the trunk and drop
the water, and in a flash I am escorting Mr. Hobbles into
his plumbingless apartment. Before I know it I am at home
in front of my widescreen DLP HD television.
It’s 3:30 AM. The light from the screen flickers to life,
and the warm strings of Halo’s theme ring out hauntingly,
as if I’ve just entered a church. Appropriate, as I have just
entered geek heaven. Millions of little particles appear from
darkness and begin to congeal into the all-familiar halo—like
Paramount’s mountains or MGM’s lion, Halo’s halo has become
It is important to think about Halo 3 in terms of popular
film, because like the Lord of the Rings or the Alien
series, Halo has managed to brand itself and attach itself
so solidly to the backbone of pop culture that fans of the
game are eager to lap up the next installment. But unlike
those films, Halo comes packaged not only with the epic story
and adventure that lures people in, but also an interactive
community that lets players continue to create their own adventures.
Microsoft insists Halo 3 is the future of video gaming: absurd
production values, immersive game play, online communities
hosting millions. And while in some ways they are right, game
companies like Nintendo are more concerned about straight-out-of-the-box
fun, production values be damned.
By 4 AM, the drawn-out cinematic introduction to the game
is annoying me. I just want to shoot something. Master Chief,
the game’s protagonist, falls from the sky. A group of space
marines find him. A cigar-smoking higher-up treats Chief as
though he is dead. I know better; he is the fricking hero
of the game.
aren’t going to leave him here,” announces the marine, melodramatically.
And then our fallen hero stirs, and I’m annoyed that this
video game presumes to make me feel emotion. I just want
to shoot something.
Finally, the shooting begins. But it’s not just me and my
gun vs. the Covenant (the alien hordes). It is me, my gun,
a bunch of yappy space marines, and one of the damn aliens
called the Arbiter, who has pulled a Benedict Arnold on his
evil alien overlords and teamed up with me. And I want him—and
them—to leave me alone and let me take on all the evil alien
bastards myself. But instead I am part of some bigger story:
blah, blah, blah. Enough exposition!
I realize that as impressed with Halo 3’s massive scope, its
addictive shoot-’em-up gameplay as I am, I just want some
mindless game play, and I certainly don’t want to interact
with other people online while escaping into my video-game
I’m cranky, and as the sun rises I realize that this morning,
Halo 3 is not that much fun for one reason: I have deadlines.
So I stop moaning and clear my schedule for this coming weekend.
Invalid friends and deadlines be damned; this weekend someone
is getting fragged.