Happy New Year everyone! With a new year comes some new changes for Halsey’s Journal in terms of what kind of articles you can expect from me now and for the foreseeable future. I presented these on my Twitter account to record reactions, so here is my plan for the year 2018 here on my blog:
- Halsey Log: This will simply be the kind of investigative and/or editorial writing that I have already been doing on this blog. I just feel that giving it a category to file under will make things easier for archival purposes. For the record, what the article that follows this bit of housekeeping will be is a Halsey Log.
- Off The Record: These will be creative writing pieces posted in either one-part or multiple-part formats (for now I don’t plan to go beyond three parts at the most). Consider this fan fiction if you want, but I tend to have ideas on how I’d like to see stories continued, expanded on, or fixed across all manner of fictional universes.
- Combat Readiness: Articles filed under this will be reviews of books, movies, games, etc. I’ve never really been one to do reviews as I’ve preferred to just add on to discussions already happening. I figure I may as well break into this form of writing. Don’t just expect new stuff to be reviewed either, I’ve got some obscure and old stuff laying around that could use a review or two.
With that out of the way, onto the main article. Thanks for reading!
As a new year begins, I felt it would be prudent to do a reflection on my history within the Halo fandom. I know such a thing only really appeals to a handful of people who, strangely, feel my opinion on the developments of Halo is worth a damn. Trust me, I’m often perplexed about this as much as anybody. Self-deprecation aside, I think everybody should do something like this at least once. It’s good to know where one comes from and the people, places, and events along the way that have brought you to where you are now. So, lets begin shall we?
I wish I had a precise day and time when I was first exposed to Halo, but I can tell you that the first year I became aware of the franchise was back in 2003. One of my grandfathers had a taste for high-end electronics and I say that because it was at his house that I first got to play the original Xbox. Two games stick out in my memory as the kind of games me and the rest of the family played, Soulcalibur II and Halo: Combat Evolved. The former was a fun title, but when Halo: Combat Evolved’s multiplayer was booted up for the first time…that was something special. Granted, I was nine at the time and compared to some of the older people playing I was not very good at the game. I didn’t even know there was a single-player campaign at the time.
Sadly, I wouldn’t know for quite a while since I was not allowed to played Halo at my own house even after I got an Xbox of my own. My folks abided by the ESRB-rating system, so I’d only ever be able to play Halo at other people’s houses. Luckily, my friend across the street and next door (after I moved) had Halo: CE, so I got to experience the campaign. We blasted through the Pillar of Autumn, crashed on Alpha Halo, faced the horde of the Flood, and destroyed Alpha Halo in the glory of co-op. I relished those days and when Halo 2 caught on my radar I faced a mixture of excitement and dread. I devoured what information I could from Electronic Gaming Monthly and the Official Xbox Magazine about Halo 2. New enemies? Being able to shoot two weapons at the same time? Fighting on Earth? This all sounded like Halo 2 was going to be the shit!
Yet, I would not be able to play it at home. I’d have to wait until my friends got it and experience it that way. Once more me and my pals tore through the campaign. We were a bit disappointed that the game did not stay on Earth for long, but this Arbiter guy we played as every now and then was cool. Endless hours were spent before Halo 2 launched trying to piece together who and what the Covenant was. How did the Grunts, Elites, and all the rest fit into the picture? Who were their leaders? What bug crawled up their ass to make them hate us so much? Halo 2 gave us some answers and by the time the credits rolled we had all new material to work with to theorize about Halo 3. That is, after we got endless hours of multiplayer sessions in.
I was still unaware of the expanded Halo universe at the time, however. I had a computer, I knew how to Google, yet nothing every crossed my mind to see if Halo had any other material to go along with it. That all changed in the winter of 2007. By this time I had my own Xbox 360 and was allowed to play Halo games at home. My church youth group went to a place where an entire neighborhood decorated a long stretch of houses along a central road with lights. Me and a friend were talking and the topic of Halo came up. I forget what triggered him to mention it, but he began telling me about the origins of the Spartan-II program and the Spartan-IIIs and Onyx. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he said these came from Halo books he had read. After that, once I got money or gift cards for Barnes and Noble, I made it my mission to get those books. And I did.
Given how much of I enjoy the Halo lore, you’d think I’d start from the very beginning, right? Nah, my first Halo book was Ghosts of Onyx. Odd way to go about it, I know, but that’s how I started my venture into the expanded universe. Honestly, it wasn’t all that confusing. Obviously I was missing context from the The Fall of Reach, The Flood, and First Strike, but I was able to get into the story easy enough. I like to think focusing on the Spartan-IIIs and the Covenant portions made it easier to navigate since I didn’t need any prior context to understand those stories. Catching up with the other books only enhanced the experience.
Also, it gave me my first encounter with Dr. Catherine Halsey and I fell in love. Okay, not really. Kinda.
I think the most important takeaway from Ghosts of Onyx was that it showed Halo was far bigger in scope than Master Chief. A cast of colorful characters lived in the same universe and had their own guiding hand in the evolving story even if the impact was rarely felt in the games. Once Ghosts of Onyx came to close with Halsey, Mendez, Blue Team and Team Saber locked in the Onyx shield world and Halo 3 already a year old, I had this feeling that the universe was not ending but on the cusp of a new beginning.
At the same time, I began to find people who shared my interest in Halo. Technically, my first foray in the Halo fandom began with the DigitalPh33r (Jon CJG) Forums back when Arby N’ The Chief was first starting out. That board was discussion of Jon’s machinima, but more true Halo topics were discussed as well. Eventually, especially after those forums exploded and people migrated to a forum called Zantive (if that’s even still around), I found myself going to Bungie.net. My first account on Bungie.net went by the handle of Go Vader, so if you remember seeing that name…sorry. Looking back at some old posts I really cringe. I was such a little shit (still am, just a bigger one right?). I held onto that account for about two years before adopting my DecepticonCobra name in October of 2010. That’s the identity I would keep until this day when I’m not I DR HALSEY I.
I don’t remember any major events I was a part of outside of one. Anybody else attached to this feel free to correct me, but in 2011 myself and several other forum members got together and created a fan-fiction anthology called Halo: Revolutions. This was inspired by the Halo: Evolutions anthology book and those involved got really serious about this project. Speaking of which, Haruspis you need to get on writing your sequel to Absicondus (no I will never let you forget this). Anyway, we created an entire Bungie group for this, did peer review, and had the best time. Hell, it even got featured on Halo.Bungie.Org. My contribution was a short story called “Miss Isabella”, a story told in interview format between a doctor and orphan girl in the aftermath of a Covenant invasion. She survives the initial assault and is saved by a Spartan-II who watches over her as she is escorted to a safe zone. I was heavily inspired by Max Brook’s World War Z at the time, in particular the story of Sharon.
After Revolutions was “released”, I think it was only natural that I’d wander over to the Bungie Universe forums. At roughly the same time I’d be taking my first tentative steps into Halo Waypoint as this new upstart company called 343 Industries began to enter the scene. Looking back, I’m not surprised some of my earliest posts on Waypoint were about Halo: Glasslands and how it wasn’t very good. I was also boarding the hype train for Halo 4 and getting into almost every discussion it seemed about leaks, new information, theories, all that sort of stuff. Seems all those theories triggered my creative side seeing as how in March of 2012 I began what is probably still my most ambitious project I’ve ever completed: my Halo 4 script.
I’ve gone through it again and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I’m still find it funny that I totally called things like the Librarian being an AI and Requiem (the Greater Ark in my version) being chucked into the nearby sun it revolved around. There are even a few cool pieces I think hold up, notably Chief being placed in a slipspace pod like those from Onyx and getting Forerunner armor upon his awakening. I also liked the Chief being placed in a simulation where he relives the Battle of Pegasi Delta from Ghosts of Onyx, the Library from Halo: CE, and the fall of Charum Hakkor from the Forerunner trilogy. However, there is a lot wrong with it. For one, the grammar and spelling sometimes falters. I’ll admit, I pumped this thing out fast and with few revisions. I also incorporated A LOT of background material into the story to the point I think people not versed in the lore would get lost. Granted, that tends to be a problem with the real Halo 4 and 5, but it honestly reads like I’m putting in references for the sake of it. I mean, I end up having Chakas and the Lord of Admirals, the Didact, the Spirit of Fire, and more just show up. Even my portrayal of Cortana’s death just seems needlessly cruel. Chief caps her in the head after she was made real with the Composer! What was I thinking?
Still, I’m glad I made it so I have something to look back on to see how much I’ve grown. It does make me sad I never got around to finishing a Spartan Ops and Halo 5 script I planned to make. When Halo 4 itself came out I was filled with anticipation and dread. At first, I wasn’t sure how to think of it, but eventually I came around and liked it. Could it have been a bit more friendly for those who didn’t invest in the expanded universe? Yeah. Could Spartan Ops have been better without the recycling of levels and generic objectives? But I think the positives outweigh the negatives. Chief and Cortana have never been better as characters in my opinion. The Didact, while not introduced in the best way, had the potential to be Chief’s first real nemesis as opposed to people like Truth or the Gravemind who he rarely sees. The potential for where the story could go with Chief without Cortana seemed limitless.
7+ years is a huge chunk of time, but since then I don’t know if there is anything significant I can really talk about. I’ve amassed 23,000+ posts on Halo Waypoint with no sign of that stopping anytime soon. I’ve dabbled with the r/Halo and r/HaloStory to mixed success (I admit that getting involved with those two sub-reddits later on when I was more negative didn’t help). I continue to go to Halo Archive, though having most of my time be in the Halo Criticism and Concern thread isn’t something I’m really proud of. I think above all in this span of time that I became far more negative as a Halo fan.
Wasn’t always that way. While each book had it’s own issues in terms of quality, I thoroughly enjoyed Hunters in the Dark, Last Light, New Blood, and so on when they released before Halo 5. Escalation was fun for a while before sputtering out in a mess of a finale. Initiation…less said the better. Hunt the Truth was phenomenal as a supplement to Halo 5’s advertising. As Halo 5 became more of a reality as each day passed and I was hearing all the things I wanted to hear, I was ready to be blown away. Look, I don’t want this to be a regurgitation of all the rants I’ve made since 2015. Suffice it to say, Halo 5 disappointed me immensely and just made me bitter. I felt like 343 Industries had lied to me or at the least made promises they didn’t keep about Halo 5. Whether or not that is fair is up to you, but I could not wrap my head around how a company that did so much good over the years despite some stumbling blocks could blow it so bad.
After that, I would seriously say my enthusiasm over Halo chilled. I was in no rush to buy any of the new books that have since come out and when I did get them I didn’t devour them as I used to. I’ve only ever played Halo 5 on and off after playing it’s multiplayer frequently for the first few months. I didn’t leave the community, however. That said, it probably would not have hurt if I had. While I certainly think I raised a fair number of criticisms about Halo 5, but eventually it just became the same anger and bitterness over and over again. What did not help was that at the same time I was going to school to get my teaching credential and that brought a lot of stress into my life. For months I was absolutely miserable at times. In the classroom as a student teacher I was great. But between lectures that went well into the night and assignments that, while I would get high marks, felt impossible, it sucked. Worse, there were four assessments I had to do to truly be done and apply to the state of California for my credential that took hours to do and required so much. For example, one of them required videotaping a lesson, collecting student work, and explaining my process. I triumphed in the end, but I think having something I was a fan of, Halo, fail to provide me a source of entertainment during this time contributed to my attitude.
Make no mistake, I take full responsibility for this and realize how what I just said above sounds like an excuse. Even after all that was done I was still a negative force to be sure. So as I move forward, I’ll try to be more balanced in my approach to all things Halo.
Still, in 2016 I did launch this blog you are reading now. I was a reader of Haruspis’ blog for quite some time and I figured I could do it too. I have neither the skill or equipment for YouTube and most Halo YouTubers have things down pat to the point I doubt I’d be worth it. So I dabble in the written word. Most people seem to like what I write and it is for them I’ll continue to do this. Hell, I was featured in the Halo Waypoint Weekly Update (thanks Grim!), so I must be doing something right.
And with that I’m bringing this article to a close. Sorry if this sounds like an egotistical ramble, but trying to reflect on 15 years of my life revolving around Halo is a tough subject. I do appreciate the opportunity to collect my thoughts, no matter how scatterbrained and random, to see my journey thus far. Thanks for joining me.
“At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.”