Somewhere along the water soaked streets of Chiba City, Japan, walks a tall yet lanky American man. Each successive neon sign he passes reflects off his leather coat and jet black hair. Turning into an alleyway, he reaches the door to his apartment and fumbles, attempting to find the key. His hands, his damn hands. Made of meat, flesh and bone. That's what he was, a bag of meat wrapped in organic tissue. He lamented every moment, every second he was outside of cyberspace. Why couldn't he live there, eternally?
His name is Case, the main character of William Gibson's pioneering novel Neuromancer. The novel which coined the term "cyberspace," and dared us all to believe in a reality beyond what is tangible. Gibson foresaw the internet, human augmentation and virtual reality before those terms were even invented. In true visionary form, he gave us a glimpse at a world without boundaries, borders, or laws. Where information was free, and accessible to anyone, from anywhere. Where the escape of your own desired reality was but a "sync" away, and life was not what it was but instead what you created it to be.
Neuromancer gave rise to books like Ender's Game, films like The Matrix, and anime such as Akira. Within the games industry, cyberpunk is alive and well. Deus Ex, System Shock, Syndicate, and Remember Me are all examples of games which not only define the genre, but also re-define it.
There is one game however which is not a re-definition of cyberpunk, but rather a revolution. Halo takes the themes, motifs and environments of cyberpunk and expands upon them in incredible detail. Within Halo, it is not about escape, improvement or access. It is the carrying of information that is far more important than just pure knowledge. The passing of culture, identity and the very individuality which we all hold so dear.
It's time to plug into Halo's digital splitstream. One hex at a time.
There is something to be said for a personal narrative. One which is crafted from the heart of the writer, in which their entire being is placed onto the page. The sum of all experiences, the joy and the pain is written in word. These stories have a certain genuine style, of which is difficult to replicate. Many of the most prolific science fiction authors such as Phillip K. Dick, wrote not because they were paid to, but because they had to. In Dick's case, it was because of his drug induced paranoia and the hallucinations that accompanied. His novels did not sell well, and even though many of his most popular books such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and The Man In The High Castle received critical acclaim, the public was mostly unaware of his brilliance.
Dick passed away in 1982, never knowing that only months later, his works would be passed around into lucrative hands and made into blockbuster films. The Minority Report, Total Recall, Paycheck, The Man In The High Castle and many, many more were all transformed into film or TV adaptations to great acclaim. But, as with any mass market media, they were watered down and appealed to a much larger audience than he originally intended.
One of Dick's works was an anomaly, an outsider. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was adapted by director Ridely Scott, under the title Blade Runner. Perhaps it was dumb luck, or the fact that Mr. Scott himself was an anomaly, that Blade Runner not only captured the novel before it, but surpassed it in every way. Before Dick's death, he saw a screening of the film and called it "surreal & intoxicating." Blade Runner went on to be, what is considered by many, the most significant work of science fiction ever crafted. A legacy in which we all ask ourselves, who is the replicant, and who is the human being.
But this is not the rule, it is the exception. Unless someone has the ability and vision to craft a narrative masterpiece, a mass consumed story will always be straight forward and withing complexity. Not everyone, is a Phillip K. Dick, not everyone is a Ridely Scott. And that, is more than ok. As Rachael said...
"I'm not in the business Mr. Deckard, I am the business..."
Man is difficult to change, harder still to convince. I, in my humblest form will attempt to be odd, strange. I do not wish to be the marble statue, a monolith set in stone by hand and chisel. No, I wish to be as the sea; which morphs with the tides and current. Never content, nor stubborn an ocean, that it cannot convince the waves to lose their shape."
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Somewhere on a yellow field of poppies in the summer of 1936, only a few miles away from the golden coast of Monterey, California, sat John Steinbeck. He was a strapping man, a thin mustache etched across his upper-lip and a demeanor that was described as "calmly stoic." He never wore suits or extravagant clothing, instead preferring the freedom and humility a simple blazer or vest provided. Being quite fond of a pint of draft, he loved a good laugh and better company. When passed local children at play, he would often take time out of his day to entertain them with stories of his various voyages up and down the gulf of Mexico. He would walk to streets during the day, the beaches at night. All the while, dreaming of the next imaginary world he would construct within the pages of a book.
While taking his daily strolls, he would hand out incomplete copies of his latest work and ask for feedback. Surprisingly, the critique he received was often lighthearted, and jaunty in nature. Later in life, he would confide that the comments within these pages were amusing, and made him smile constantly. He admitted, that the polite and kind comments he received within those works, were the main driving force behind the successes of his novels such as Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice And Men.
"A work in which has positivity and kindness injected within to it, is most certainly more palatable than that of a work dripping in vindictive cynicism." - John Steinbeck
And so we now find ourselves on those same summer strolls, along beaches and cobblestone roads. While we eagerly flip through the pages or pace through levels of the next Halo installment, we stand in the shoes of those kind neighbors who have the ability to produce a laugh, or a genuine smile. We rarely do, when we always should. So let us dream of the slipstream, the winter cliffs of Kamchatka, and the forest spires of Genesis. Forget all that you know, and instead, open your mind to the possibilities of a different kind of critique. Not one dripping in cynicism, but one which often times, is accompanied by a pint of draft.
A Halo fan since the beginning, 2001. Also a games industry consultant, writer, and educator. These are my thoughts, praise and advice concerning the past, present and future narrative of the Halo franchise.
Halo, all assets within, characters and merchandise are property of the Microsoft Corporation and is developed by its subsidiary 343 Industries.
I do not own, claim to own or retain any rights to the Halo franchise. This is a fan based work, and is strictly non-profit.
All other images, articles linked, materials and franchises that are not strictly specified as my own are property of their respective owners.
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