“You want to play?”
“No, I’ll just watch.”
Do you ever miss out on a cultural phenomenon and then avoid it to keep your streak of not being part of the zeitgeist for no apparent reason?
Yeah, me too.
I grew up a gamer. I was born and raised a bit of a Nintendo fanboy. Platformers, adventure games, and kitschy games were my schtick.
When my friends started playing first person shooters, I quickly found that I wasn’t very good at them. Kids being kids, I feared being teased. Maybe I was teased. I don’t remember.
Either way, I pushed hard against the genre. I’d watch my friends play games instead of play with them. When this became a pattern, I’d get too sheepish to ask to play when the desire struck. I felt like I was becoming the boring friend to hang out with.
“What if I’m still terrible? I’d look stupid asking to play after I just said I’ll only watch.”
I missed out on some fun games. But now I’m an adult who has grown out of some of these insecurities (and perhaps some of my contrarian pride).
This week, I played the Halo: Combat Evolved campaign for the first time. Most would argue that Halo helped change the gaming landscape in a massive way. The Halo franchise went on to make heaps of cash and become one of the most popular and recognizable video game IPs.
I played a few of the Halo games with friends a handful of times, but not enough to actually know what I was doing or rouse the desire to play more.
Think military combat... but evolved.
Halo features a futuristic military fighting against a strange alien army, The Covenant, and a horde of zombies that’ll make you falsetto scream, The Flood. You fill the boots of the Master Chief. From the get-go, almost no information is given about Master Chief. You are awaken from cryogenic sleep and forced straight into combat.
As the game goes on, your squad looks to you for leadership. Are you some kind of super soldier? I actually don’t know yet. I have two more missions left on the campaign. Also, I’m pretty sure they save Master Chief’s background information for the sequels.
You probably already know the answer to this since this game is old enough to drive, vote, buy cigarettes, get a tattoo and get married.
The game is actually pretty interesting. Fighting the Covenant, learning about the super-weapon called Halo, discovering betrayals, and AHH! Zombie dudes scaring the pants off me!
I’m playing the Anniversary edition on Halo: The Master Chief Collection so everything looks updated and runs smoothly. The mechanics are nice and function similarly to most modern first-person shooters. While that’s all well and good, the vibe of the game is what excites me the most. It reminds me of one of my favorite games of all time: Metroid Prime. That’s a good sign.
There’s a part of the campaign that was rough though. At one point, you’re walking through identical hallways and corridors over and over, fighting bad guys for what seems like forever. It was waves and waves of enemies with no end in sight. I was about to give up, but I loved the vibe of the game and couldn’t let an annoying mission get in the way of that.
One of my favorite features is the ability to switch to the graphics from the original game. It allows me to experience the original like so many people did without being forced to play that way all the time. The updated textures on this remastered game look nice and create a bit more diversity in the imagery.
A cocktail of contrarian reasoning and FOMO
My reaction to my FOMO was to lean into the “missing out” factor but treat it like an intentional choice because of some sort of contrarian reasoning. I feared getting teased for being bad at a game so I swore off the genre entirely and missed out on neat franchises like Halo. Even when I got over the insecurities, I had almost convinced myself that I just hated games like Halo.
If you learn anything from my experience, it should be this: let yourself enjoy things. Don’t miss out on a game, movie, style of music, etc. simply to avoid being teased. I did this and now I’m playing catch-up.
Playing catch-up can be a fun ride though when you’re destroying butt-ugly aliens.