I was wowed by Halo: Combat Evolved when I first saw it back in 2001, and rushed to get my first Xbox when it was released just so I could play it. I went through the game several times, increasing the difficulty, learning all the tricks and quirks, and later went on to play the sequels, upgrade to newer versions of the Xbox, and play group matches with my buddies.
We’d gather at my friend Ron’s house, fire up 3-4 guys on the big screen TV, and another 3-4 guys on a projector in the other room that a friend “borrowed” from work, hooked up to my Xbox that I’d brought along for the night. We’d yell shit back and forth, munching on pizza or wings in between matches (this was just before on-line matches became popular). It became a semi-regular thing.
Later when folks could design their own boards, I’d adapt ones with more booby traps, just to piss off the more aggressive players (things like a switch that would fling you off a ramp into an abyss, or a landmine that would smack you in the face as you stepped off an elevator). I was not popular during those matches.
Halo was a common interest and a regular staple for several years, until Ron passed away suddenly in 2011, just a couple weeks before his 40th birthday. Ron was a close friend, and he performed the ceremony for my wedding in 2005. Everyone who knew him was devastated.
After a time we tried one or two Halo nights at someone else’s house, or in an on-line group, but it just wasn’t the same. At home on my own, I tried to work my way through Halo 4 when it was released in 2012, but for the first time in the franchise, my interest faded quickly and I never finished it. More Halo games were released, but I ignored them; the game had lost most of the joy and camaraderie. I drifted to other games, often enjoying a drink or “two” while playing (pro tip: a sip of whiskey during every Bethesda loading screen is a quick path to a hangover). While I’ve cut back on the whiskey, I still enjoy late night gaming when I can.
My daughters just turned 8 and 10 this year, and they’ve been playing more and more games on various devices. I keep trying to find co-op ones I can play with them, or they can play with each other. Recently my older daughter has been playing a lot of Minecraft, so I asked her if she’d be interested in Halo, and she agreed to try it.
She was instantly hooked. Soon the two of us were running through the boards, her finding a high sniper perch while I ran around our enemies, lobbing grenades like an idiot. I’d yell “Doors and corners!” when we’d enter a room, and soon had her yelling “Covering fire!” whenever she aided me. (Neither of us were using those correctly, but that’s not the point—we had a blast).
We’ve played a few times since and enjoyed every minute of it, but I’ve nudged her to play more with her sister than me, because I didn’t want either of them feeling left out.
Parents share what they love with their children, whether it’s sports, or art, or in my case, video games. I’m glad when it’s raining so we can feel no guilt about sitting on the couch and enjoying that experience for a few hours. And recently, with my girls and Halo, I’ve been able to rekindle a little bit of joy that was lost for too long. I don’t know if I feel Ron’s presence when I’m playing, but I’m certainly thinking of him. I most definitely imagine him ridiculing me for committing such sentiment in writing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Miss you, buddy.