The Zen of Video Games – No Circle of Light Here


When the Leviathyn gang was talking about doing a Halo week, I inwardly groaned – I felt like I would have absolutely nothing to say. Even now, I’m just typing away, writing this up without knowing where I’m going with it, or if there’s even an interesting point to be explored at all.

The thing is – and the internet will crucify me for this – I don’t like Halo. Don’t get me wrong, the first game was great, it was intense, imaginative, and fun. And then Halo 2 shit itself inside out in the first hour of play, and I was done. I might’ve given Halo 3 a try, but Halo was more popular than orgasms by this point, and my natural wariness of over-popular things like Britney Spears and Twilight has paid off time and time again, so I gave Halo 3 (and every other Halo game since) a pass. I’m perfectly aware that games like Halo, as opposed to Britney Spears and Twilight, are popular for a reason, and maybe it was just my inner hipster refusing to go along with the ‘cool’ kids, but I still couldn’t shake the sense that I was dodging a bullet by staying away from them.

An incredibly popular and profitable bullet, but a bullet nonetheless.

And of course, Halo has continued to be popular, and gain accolades upon accolades, and selling like Justin Bieber CD’s….and I’m just sitting here, not Master Chief-ing. Even though posts about Halo 4 were a welcome respite from the endless political B.S. festooning my Facebook news feed last week, and I AM grateful for that, I still won’t be playing the game.

And this bothers me. Despite not having played them, I’ve assimilated enough information about them to know that Halo 3 wrapped things up pretty thoroughly. Halo 4, by rights, should be the start of something new and different, and if the gameplay is still tight enough to please millions of mindless Mountain-Dew-chugging, Doritos-munching fanboys, then there’s no reason it couldn’t be a good game, despite Microsoft’s absolutely shameless greed.

I hear this is how Microsoft executives spend their work days.

It’s just that my experience with Halo 2 was so completely and utterly miserable, it helped put me off the entire series. I remember the opening being incredibly confusing, something about a heretic and betrayal – I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I played for maybe half an hour, but the gameplay was just completely lifeless. It felt like I was just playing the first Halo again without any of the energy or creativity. I tried one more time, years later, but I made it just as far before realizing that between a story I didn’t understand (that didn’t give me any reason to care) and lackluster gameplay, there was nothing convincing me to keep playing.

And then I thought maybe the online multiplayer would make up for it. I played exactly two matches, and that was it. I performed as can be expected for someone who barely knew which end of a gun the bullets came out of, and I expected to suck, but what I didn’t expect was the ridiculous amount of griefing. Spawn camping, teabagging, name-calling, all in a single match. You haven’t been humiliated until someone who sounds like a 7-year-old boy calls you a “pathetic noob”. I shrugged it off as just bad luck, getting matched up with premature ill-mannered dipshits, but the second match was just more of the same. And that’s when I decided to walk away. I traded the game in – something I NEVER do, I’m a collector – and got Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude instead, and I was much happier with that game.

Despite the “ehh” writing and rampant sexism, I STILL found this more charming than Halo 2. And not just because it had boobs in it. But mostly.

Halo 1, as I’ve said, was quite a different story. I liked the frenetic gun battles, the way each gun had a specific purpose, and the big kicker was playing the entire game in co-op. I beat the game for the first time in co-op, actually. As I recall, it was 5 or 6AM, and my friend Stan and I had stayed up all night, playing various games, and even though he wasn’t really a shooter fan, I talked him into playing Halo with me.

And it was really intense. I remember setting the Pillar of Autumn to blow, and then racing in the Warthog to the escape ship, tensely shouting at each other – I was telling him to shoot the Flood, while he told me to stop driving into things. And I seem to recall running into a blockade, and being forced to go the rest of the way on foot. Realizing how little time was left, I yelled at him to ignore the enemies and just run. We sprinted down the long causeway towards the ship, ignoring massive damage to our shields and health, and reached the ship with less than five seconds left.

We both sat, breathless, as we watched the Pillar of Autumn’s fusion engines explode, detonating the ship and eventually segmenting and destroying the entire Halo ring. Stan and I looked at each other in wide-eyed amazement.

So Halo has managed to produce one of my favorite moments in gaming, and then followed it up with one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. Is it any real wonder I’ve stayed away from them? Even if future games had a 50/50 chance of being incredible or godawful, I’d still pass. I’d like better odds than that, thanks.

But then I think about Resident Evil. I was wrong about the Resident Evil series losing its way. Yeah, it’s not quite the same, and yeah, Resident Evil has let me down from time to time. Resident Evil: Survivor comes to mind, that wasn’t even laughably bad, if it was, I might’ve still enjoyed it. As it was, it was phenomenally boring. And the only positive thing I can say about Operation Raccoon City is that it’s functional. Oh, and the case it came in could be used to hold other, better games. But that’s about it.

But even though they haven’t been exactly what I wanted, I can still enjoy Resident Evil games. I’ve been having a great deal of fun playing Resident Evil 6 with a friend. I am desperate to get my hands on the soundtrack, it’s fantastic. And yeah, the plot is filled with absurdities, and the action is excessively over-the-top, but I’ve been getting a laugh out of it. I want to play Leon’s campaign again just to keep a running tab of how many broken bones Leon would be collecting if he and Helena weren’t secretly Terminators in disguise.

To be fair, though, Terminators have been out of work for a while. Someone should cast this fella in the next Call of Duty, that might liven things up.

And if I can enjoy Resident Evil, despite some bad experiences, there’s no reason I couldn’t enjoy Halo. You always have to afford games the opportunity to surprise you. Hell, I’m told Halo: Reach has 4-player split-screen multiplayer with bots, and that’s something I’ve been wishing to see in a lot of games. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still not going to run out and grab Halo 4….but if I happen to see Reach available for cheap, I’ll think about it.

But I will most definitely not be drinking Mountain Dew or eating Doritos while playing. Screw that product tie-in noise.