So I've been thinking lately about what I like to refer to as "The Halo Event."
First and foremost, it should be specified that The Halo Event is not to be confused with The Halo Effect. The latter is the copying of many of Halo's features into subsequent FPS games (with disastrous or wondrous consequences, depending on your opinion), while the former is something I believe affects gaming as a whole and may have changed it fundamentally. The Halo Event is not something that I realized was even happening while it was happening, but is an occurrence that I have, I think, come to understand.
I have mentioned previously, as have many others (whose blogs to which I would link you, but I cannot currently be fucked to find the specific entries relating to this subject), that the current mainstream acceptability of games is leading to a gaming industry controlled by the casual gamers as opposed to actual gamers. In part, this is due to the unexpected, near-blinding success of the Halo franchise. I say unexpected because, though gamers certainly may have been excited about its development, the non-gaming world likely had no clue of its existence before it was finally released. Yet when it arrived, it was with the force of thunder that seemed to shatter across boundaries of acceptability, and people with whom I never thought to share a single moment's conversation about video games would ask me if I had played "that Halo game."
While most casual gamers are by nature interested in casual games over major games, they can occasionally become interested in a major game. This is due to a strange combination of the game's design not being intimidating (at least to a degree), the game's hype being built up to just the right point in just the right way, and a strange timing that I couldn't begin to identify. Halo (as a franchise, not just the first game) seems to me that it was such an occurrence. Things like this are what I believe push us closer to a possible future in which casual gamers steer the industry about which they don't care.
But I also think it might be a good thing, in a way.
Yes, it would be horrible if my bleak future idea came to pass. However, without The Halo Event (it amuses me to capitalize it in that fashion), we wouldn't have a lot of things that we have today. On a broad level, it was the event that helped bring that generation of game consoles more into the public consciousness than it previously had been (barring the "neat DVD player" that was the PS2, to some people). Subsequently, it was the broadened realization of the varying console generations that allowed the general public to even understand there was some sort of different between the generation that exists now and the one that existed then. On a more personal level, without Halo I fully believe I would never have been given Mass Effect; it was the success of a sci-fi shooter, and memories of playing it, that brought the market to a point where Bioware felt they would actually be able to sell a game like that.
Now I'm not laying literally everything solely at the feet of Bungie, here. There were a great many factors to the success of the Xbox, the broadening of public consciousness about gaming, and the merging of shooters with RPGs beyond just the effects that Master Chief had on the industry. I just happen to believe that The Halo Event, in its own small way, was crucial in helping us reach the state in which we currently find ourselves. More importantly than all the other factors, I think this particular event is unique in that we can point to it directly. We can say "that franchise. That one right there. That's the one."
The Halo Event is over now. There may very well be more Halo games, but those who made the core saga have moved on to different fields. Others will take up the monumental task of following in Bungie's footsteps to make much monies for Microsoft, and I do not envy their challenge. They may very well produce great games. Yet for all they might try, The Event as it was ended when we made our last stand on Reach.
I like Halo. I like Master Chief, and I'm fascinated by the hero-myth archetype into which he was built. I like the Covenant, and I love to be disgusted by the Flood. I will miss Bungie's reign over their as-yet greatest achievement. I am sad that The Halo Event is over, and I am curious whether its impact will lead the industry I love to a place of rage or glee. For what it's worth, though (and as very childish as I know this sounds), I am at least pleased to have been here for the event. It wasn't world-changing, it may eventually prove to have not even been an industry changer, but I believe it was at least significant to this young medium.