Dear 343 Industries,
I never considered myself a gamer when I was growing up. I didn't know what a lan party was until I was invited to one by accident. I though Hyrule was a variation on the traditional, and played out, high five. Yoshi was a character found on t-shirts that cool kids wore.
I played games, sure. I played the Final Fantasy series recklessly and with naivety found only in the noobiest of noobs. I slashed my way through Ninja Gaiden, a silent warrior shaking with repressed exuberance so as not to draw motherly attention to the uber-violence that permeates the series. I went head-to-head with my old man in a little game called Ice Hockey. We would set up ridiculously large tournament brackets filled with endless variations of fat dudes with wicked slapshots, skinny dudes who could skate fast, and medium sized dudes who could handle the puck in the manner in which a boss would.
I played video games when I was growing up, but I never considered myself a gamer. That is, until I met John-117...The Master Chief.
I didn't own the brick house that was the original Xbox. I didn't go to a friend's house and get introduced. I didn't wander into some store and see a video playing. I escaped to an abandoned basement during a family Thanksgiving.
While the rest of my male family members were yelling at the television screen about an obviously blown call that cost them a touchdown imperative to their psychological and emotional health, I was pondering just how boring being an adult male can be.
As I stumbled down the stairs and into the dark basement, Marty O' Donnell's opus washed over me, purifying me of all thoughts of future beer-guts and pointless drivel on how "the sport just isn't the way it used to be."
There was (and still is) something so captivating about the menus used in the Halo franchise. The sweeping vistas of a universe so foreign, yet so very familiar, evokes moments of awe even today. I was hooked and I hadn't even met the Chief yet. I hadn't even scratched the surface of the lore I have come to cherish. Yet, there I was, inexorably drawn to the massive alien controller in front of me.
A burning desire to be far away from the world I occupied and an intricate piece of the one I was hypnotized by? Most definitely...
So it begins...
I beat Halo: Combat Evolved that night (as well as kicking the crap out of a tryptophan fueled need for sleep). I beat it again the following day. When the rest of the world was trampling old ladies to death in the entryways of their favorite retail stores (and yet boys who play video games are the violent ones), I was chillin' with the Chief.
Even after that life-altering Thanksgiving, I still wasn't a gamer...but the seed was planted. I spent the next four years occasionally playing games, but mostly focused on being a person I thought I wanted to be while in college. It wasn't until I met my future wife that I realized how important the Chief had been to me.
She encourage me to be who I was, to fully embrace what allowed me to be happy. She bought me my first Xbox 360 and, in true love-of-my-life fashion, purchased Halo's 1, 2, and 3.
I needn't tell you how, but that seed planted four years prior sprouted into a Sequoia within a matter of hours. I was a gamer. I lived and breathed Halo for the next two years. I read the books. I read the comics. I embraced the community and felt the same in return. I met friends and made enemies. I slayed and was slain. I lived...and my beautiful wife was right there next to me, spittin' game at any fool desperate enough to come looking for an easy kill while she was sporting a sword.
The Dark Ages
Then Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach happened. While not terrible games in their own right, as they told a necessary story within a universe I loved, there was something missing. There was an ingredient left on the shelf by the legendary Bungie. These games were not their best effort, akin to a vegetarian grilling a steak, the love just was not there...Chief was not there.
I wandered aimlessly during these years, searching for experiences comparable to my time with John-117. I found solace in the stoic heroes presented in superb titles like Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, and The Elder Scrolls series, but nothing that matched my love for the Chief.
As of November 10th, 2012 (my birthday), I completed Halo 4, the triumphant return of my hero, my mentor...John-117, the Master Chief.
Much has happened in my life since the last time I had played Halo. I was married to my sword wielding goddess of a wife this year, along with various other acts of "settling down."
I found that my life experience leading up to the return of the Chief made me come to understand both myself, and this character, on a much more personal level.
The Chief is a man of little words; but, try as he may, he can not mask his inherent humanity in the midst of the carnage he has experienced throughout his years of service. While my life obviously does not run parallel to his, I put on armor similar to his. I don an armored helmet of socially acceptable behaviors, a suit of pragmatic and cynical thought, and arm myself with the knowledge that, at the end of the day, I know who I am underneath and I have someone who recognizes these survival mechanisms.
SO, thank you 343. Thank you for reintroducing me to my hero. Thank you for reminding me of my humanity in a world losing pieces of the same every day. Thank you for your art.