Halo transformed me from a guy who plays video games to a gamer. Before Halo, I owned a PS2, I had a few games for it, but I had no intention of owning any other systems, and I didn’t think of myself as a video game guy. I was just a guy who liked to play video games sometimes, just like I watched movies sometimes – hell, I bought my PS2 partly because it doubled as a DVD player. Halo changed all of that.
A few guys at my work would not shut up about it. How great it was, how I needed to play it. Finally, I decided to rent an Xbox and the game to check it out for myself. And from the moment it started, I was hooked. I played it every night until it was due back at the rental store, then dropped another $15 to rent it again so I could finish it. Two days after I took it back, I broke down and bought my own Xbox, and a copy of Halo to go with it.
Halo wasn’t full of big, new ideas. It added a few new twists to a well-established genre, made the experience feel at home on a new platform, and then just nailed nearly every element of the game to perfection. Okay, there were a few overly repetitive sections, but aside from that, it got everything right. The controls were tight, the graphics were gorgeous, the enemies were smart and tenacious and fun as hell to fight. Even the story was pretty solid, a nice little tale that blended the best elements of Aliens, Starship Troopers and a few other sci-fi popcorn classics.
I was already well on my way to addiction, but I didn’t reach the tipping point until I fired up the multiplayer with a few of my friends after a night of drinking. If the single player was a fantastic execution of standard elements, the multiplayer was a perfect distillation of those same elements into a brutal, adrenaline-fueled competition. Shooting my dear friends in the face with a shotgun, I found a place of purity—a fierce, competitive spirit I hadn’t felt in years. We played until our fingers were all but blistered, our eyes failing as the sun came up.
And the next week, I did it again. And the next. And the next. I became the Halo guy, and every Friday night for ten months I had a Halo party at my house. I bought a second, 27-inch TV and talked friends into lugging their own 80-pound TVs over. Most nights, we had four Xboxes, four televisions and a party that ranged from six to fifteen people playing. We’d play for six to eight hours, breaking only to smoke cigarettes and talk shit. One of my roommates joined us, and became a pretty good player in his own right. Another took to renting a hotel room on Friday nights to get the hell away from us. My girlfriend threatened to leave me if she didn’t get at least the occasional Friday night date. I told her to go ahead. Saturdays, she could have. Fridays belonged to Halo.
This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on Westword‘s Latest Word blog. You can find it in its original incarnation here.