It was cold outside. Our shaky breaths clouding and rising in the air as we gripped our jackets tighter, miserably bouncing from one foot to the other in a sad attempt to produce more body heat. All we wanted to do was be warm.
I looked to the poor sap I had dragged along on my little escapade, one of my very close friends, and judging by the look on her face it was apparent she regretted coming with me. Although I wanted nothing more than to return home to my warm bed and sleep, I had no room to complain. In fact, neither could the rest of the people in line.
Yes, my friend Christine and I were queued up in a line outside of our local GameStop on West Chester Pike, along with a couple dozen others — all fans of a mega-hit video game series whose main protagonist has transcended typical video game boundaries to become a widely recognized icon in pop culture. I’m talking about Master Chief and, in extension, the “Halo” series. I was standing outside on Nov. 5 for the midnight release of the highly coveted “Halo 4.”
The “Halo” series was first released in 2001 on the original Xbox gaming system. It was considered a leading game for the Xbox — in order to garner interest for Microsoft’s new console, it was released exclusively for that platform. Most modern-day gaming consoles have a strategy like that in mind.
However, “Halo’s” popularity, and in extension its demand, was mind-boggling. It was getting near-perfect reviews, it was selling millions of copies and it was winning awards. This one game morphed into an entire series, some games even going so far as to expand on the universe found in “Halo,” moving beyond Master Chief. “Halo 3” was the last game players were able to control the heroic Master Chief, and that was released in 2007. Although several smaller “Halo” games have released since them, none of them continued with the Spartan’s storyline. That was, of course, until “Halo 4.”
Seconds after all our cellphones disclosed midnight, the doors opened. The mood was light, fun. A group of teenagers in front of us had spent most of the time in line crowded around an iPhone belonging to someone in their group, eagerly speaking about improvements and gear that was rumored to be available.
Tyler Gniewosz, a senior at Upper Darby High School, was excited to be a part of the action.
“I own every ‘Halo’ game out there,” Gniewosz said. “I’ve been waiting for months.”
Gniewosz had received “Halo” as a Christmas present, in addition to a new Xbox.
“Everyone I knew was getting ‘Halo,’” he recounted. “We’d all play multiplayer.”
As we spoke, it soon came to my attention that Gniewosz was pleased on the timing of the release date.
“I don’t have to skip school tomorrow, we have off because of the elections,” he pointed out, to which his friends also expressed their approval.
I was back and seated in my apartment a little before 1 a.m. I allowed myself the opportunity to change into my pajamas before turning on my Xbox 360 and putting my new prized possession in the disk tray. Not wanting to miss a thing, I watched the cinematic cut scenes play out with a bated breath, spent some time readjusting to “Halo’s” unique shooting and playing style and just played.
The game picked up four years after the events that occurred during “Halo 3,” showing what had become of Master Chief during that time. Being a fan of visuals, I was thrilled with how vibrant and crisp the landscapes appeared and happy that the weapons returned with a vengeance. Though I felt myself grow weary, I was not able to put the controller down, unable to stop playing. Finally, I heard my roommate begin to stir and was aware that she was getting ready to work the morning shift at her job. Looking out of the window confirmed my suspicion — the sky was starting to brighten. I could not put off sleep any longer. Having played nearly six hours straight, I went to bed.
After a quick nap and a few classes, I was thrilled to happen across another “Halo” fan that was satisfied to have the latest addition of the “Halo” series in his possession.
“I’m true to Master Chief,” senior management information systems major Christopher Guecia said when asked why he picked up a copy of “Halo 4.” “I really wanted to see what happened to him, I wanted to see where his story was going.”
By now I’ve logged a few dozen hours playing “Halo 4” — after finishing the campaign I spent the rest of my time getting utterly destroyed in multiplayer. It’s not entirely surprising to many players that the “Halo” series is what peaked their interest in first-person shooters, a game where they honed their skills in annihilating enemy players. So, I’ll just hold my tongue and grumble to myself, maybe even try to get better, as a little teenage boy skipping school continuously headshots me from across the map.
Samantha Tighe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.