Halo Nation


Halo as a Cultural Phenomenon

Imagine that a person that had been stranded on a desert island for twenty years asked you to explain what Harry Potter was. How would you answer that question? It's a kids book right? Is that a satisfactory answer that does justice to the Harry Potter universe? A universe that has transcended it's literary beginnings and now spans movies, toys, board games, video games and a theme park! When was the last time that you attended a Halloween party that didn't feature a costumed Harry Potter? In short Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon. Everybody knows about it. Whether you have read the books or not certain things are synonymous with the boy wizard; gold and maroon scarves, quidditch and bespectacled boys with lightning scars all scream Harry Potter to us. Why am I making this point? Because I consider it to be the pinnacle of a major entertainment franchise. So my question to you is this...

Is Halo a cultural phenomenon in the sense that Star Wars, Harry Potter and James Bond are?

My opinion is that is not a cultural phenomenon... yet. It has the potential. It deserves the status. And it is the perfect fodder for school ground arguments over who would win in a fight, the Master Chief or Superman. It shares many similarities to the big entertainment franchises (Star Wars, Star Trek, James Bond, Harry Potter, The Matrix, Batman, Superman etc). Halo has a hero that we transpose our own personalities on to, the Master Chief. A lone wolf with super-human powers, an exciting arsenal and a compelling relationship with his A.I. side kick Cortana. And at it is core this relationship is deeply emotional and draws us in. Halo also has a well defined antagonist in the shape of the covenant who symbolise religious extremism through genocide, suicidal grunts and prophets that preach their misguided ideology. They eradicate everything and everyone who stands in the way of their “great journey”. Halo has a formulaic setting; the 26th century with lush alien worlds and giant mechanical structures. Formulaic it may be, but it does it well. And all of this is built around the simple premise of good vs evil. In short everything is their to make a Halo the biggest, best known franchise there is.

So why isn't it? Again I am going to offer my opinion, it has yet to conquer the big screen or for that matter tv and I believe this is the final step to achive mega stardom. It saddens me to say but not everyone plays video games, or reads books or sit glued to a PC monitor looking at specialist forums! I know this because I have friends and family that have no interest in these formats and have not been exposed to the Halo universe. I would also say that it seems (to me at least) that it Is more difficult for video games to break into this category. Sure you may shout me down with Mario, or Zelda, or Tomb Raider. But I don't think any of these have achieved this status. Mario and Zelda have no real narrative or story ark, they tell essentially the same story (one painfully simple the other hideously convoluted) every time. There is no real saga that drags us in. Tomb Raider on the other hand does have most of the elements I listed above, save for the arch enemy element. At one time I may have said that it was on the brink of achieving cultural phenomenon status, but I fear it has fallen on hard times and has faded before it took a hold. I could be wrong and it might just be resting. Time will tell. Bringing Halo to big screen will be make or break, done well and Halo will be colossal.

Why do I think this is so important? Because I love the Halo universe, I love the games, I love the books, I love the bat-sh!t crazy community! And I want to go on loving it and to share this with my sons and daughters in the future. Just like I enjoyed Star Wars with my dad. Halo could a very long and productive life span, and it is almost there!

There is one little niggle though. Every big entertainment franchise I can think of has suffered from it's expansion. The bigger it gets the more people you have to employ to keep it going and the more difficult it becomes to keep the story free of contradictions in the canon, or bad narrative decisions (George Lucas why did you push us Jar-Jar on us!). And to a small extent this has already happened between the Halo books and video games. And Halo doesn't even have a single creative visionary like George Lucas or JK Rowling so I fully expect more kinks in the story.

Anyway I am running at 800 words so I will cut it short. Do you agree with me or am I just plain mad? How important is the growth and direction of the Halo universe? And who is guiding it?

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