Ode to a buddy
This post is about Halo: Combat Evolved.
Halo was, is, a tremendous experience and I was lucky enough to experience both the multiplayer (countless trips round London dragging consoles, pads and leads) and singleplayer fully. I got lost in that game many times, I loved it. I loved being in that world.
Anyone who’s played Halo deeply and lovingly will understand.
Today though, I come to honour a friend.
Part of the beauty of Halo was that you could dick around for ages and do stuff you weren’t really supposed to (i.e. it didn’t further the story) as much as you liked. I played the game through ‘straight’ so many times that dicking around and inventing new games within the game became the game. Through this unstructured form of play I made an accidental discovery that would affect my view on games permanently.
I found that if you carefully shot the arms off of a flood infested Elite, he could no longer harm you.
2 shots later and like a disgusting alien faced affectionate bipedal dog this creature comes bounding up to me and… nothing. It’s just hanging with me, all up in my face, examining me. I inspected him, looked right into his tendrils, and after a while, after running a few laps of the immediate area to see if he got bored (he didn’t) I started to like this guy.
A new quest was born. How long could I keep my new, literally unarmed buddy from harm?
The answer was, incredibly, a very long time. We journeyed through the level together very very carefully. He couldn’t jump which made things tricky. Other enemies would come along and start shooting at him. Sometimes he’d get hit with some stray plasma fire, I could hear him whelp with pain. I felt conflicted shooting other flood, I wondered how he would feel about it. But he was devoted, unflinching in his loyalty, and so was I. We spent hours together conducting our secret affair, during which I developed a bond, I gave him a personality, I talked to him. I told him it would be ok, even though in my heart I knew that if we did get to the end of the level, he wouldn’t make it through the next loading screen.
Eventually, while dashing from rock to rock, he caught one too many plasma shots from an Elite that knew no better, and fell.
As he lay on the snow, the distant gunfire was drowned out. I stood next to him in the open just waiting. I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t want to leave him there, forgotten. He meant more to me than any of the marines had, and I had really liked some of them. After a time I left. I finished the level and sat in quiet contemplation during the long long loading screen.
Here lies the best friend I’ve ever had in a videogame. You had no cut scenes, no dialogue, no name. The game pitted us against each other, but somehow our friendship worked. It’s been almost ten years since we met. I’ve searched but never found anyone like you.
This one’s for you. My buddy.
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Tags: bungie, emotion, Halo, videogames, xbox