How could I let this Winter-een-mas pass without thanking the fine folks at Bungie, who brought us Marathon back in the mid-nineties, and went on to develop Myth, Oni, and of course Halo.
I will admit that back when I was playing games such as Marathon and Myth, I wasn't of an age where I paid attention to developers. The developer logo at the beginning of each game was just one more screen I had skip through to get to the stuff I wanted to play. I was younger than I am now, and naive in the ways of the industry. Eventually I would learn that some of those simple symbols, those logos and company names could be counted on, time and time again, for quality products. Bungie was one of those companies.
My experiences with Marathon and Myth back in the day were limited. Enjoyed, but limited. At the time I was more into console gaming than PC gaming. But by the time Oni rolled around, I had my own computer, and was delighted to find the gameplay that was offered by that interesting title.
I remember thinking at the time (around 1999 I believe) that Oni was the next step in gaming. The many moves and acrobatics you could do, the enemy AI, the weapons. And most of all, the colorful, cartoonish style they adopted for the visual feel of the game.
And then we come to Halo, the only game that really puts Bungie on the map for most of the kids, who never experienced Marathon during the period where first-person shooters were the hot new things on the scene.
Halo was actually my first Xbox experience, and it was what clinched me buying the system. My uncle got an Xbox on release day, and I was playing Halo with him and my cousin when I discovered the most wonderful thing in all of existence. The Warthog.
Because honestly, as far as straight-forward first-person shooters go, Halo is terribly slow. Master Chief actually runs like he's wearing a lead suit. So what made Halo such an incredible success? It was all of the little things, such as the Warthog. Most of it was probably the multi-player capability, but some of it was surely the Warthogs.
Halo's popularity spread because it was such a great party game. It really is. People who weren't normally into games got into Halo. And multi-player really was an experience, be it versus or co-op.
Indeed, one of my fondest memories is directly related to Halo. Shortly after the Xbox was released, Toby and I both had a day off. We woke up slightly earlier than normal. We went out and bought alcohol to last us for the rest of the day. We picked up chinese food. And then we went back to our apartment and played Halo co-op, increasingly under the influence of booze as the night went on. We'd get frustrated at certain areas, and to relieve the tension, we might spend as much as fifteen minutes doing nothing but smashing eachother in the head with the butt of our guns.
And then if you were fortunate enough to hook up four Xboxes and play Halo with 16 people... well, there was never quite an experience like it. You would hear primal shouts and lewd insults being thrown from room to room. The roar of a flag capture could be deafening. It is a happening that can not truly be described in words.
Only one game can claim to be a true Halo-killer, and that game is Halo 2. When Halo 2 dropped this past fall, the sound of gamers clamoring to their pre-order locations could be heard worldwide. And with just cause.
This very webcomic artist held his own Halo 2 release party, in fact. Other webcomic artists and friends came from New York, Boston and as far as Canada to play Halo 2 for what must have been 8-10 hours straight, across four TV's and four Xboxes. Eighteen to twenty people in my apartment, screaming and laughing. The neighbors must have wanted to fire a grenade through our windows.
And it's not a memory I would trade for anything in the world.
Because that's what Halo does. It creates a fun atmosphere of gaming, even for people that don't know what they're doing. We had people who had never touched Halo before in their lives, pick it up and join in the fun, and do rather well on occasions.
This is a mark of a good game, in my opinion. When a game can transcend the standard "gamer/regular person" boundary in such a widespread and magnificent way, the developers have done something really special. Bungie has done something really special on multiple occasions, and their hard work and contributions to the industry make the world a better place to game in.
Thank you, Bungie, for providing me with so many wonderful memories with close friends and loved ones, at which your games have been the centerpiece.