The sheer marketing force that surrounds a game like Halo 3 is almost beyond comparison. The effect created brings to mind things like hurricanes, firestorms, and quantum tunneling. It feeds off itself, creating something that is awe inspiring in its ability to toy with known laws of physics, and create a sheer destructive force that can remake the landscape. You may not like the fact that the internet is burning down around you, but it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of it.
There may be no other title that hits the gaming world with the same impact that a new Halo does. I suppose the closest cultural event are the Star Wars films back in the day, or the release of the fifth Harry Potter novel.
But video games are different. The shared cultural intimacy of actually experiencing a game is unique. It isn’t just a few hours in a movie theater, or being curled up with a book. Once released the audience will actually be able to share the game together in a way that goes beyond what traditional media can can offer. Both through multiplayer, and the ability to cooperatively play through the story mode, it’s possible to play the game, generate a totally unique moment, and then discuss that experience, every time. And looking at the kind of new features that are being offered with this game, it’s pretty clear that the potential that offers wasn’t lost on the game developers.
Every “AAA” game title is ultimately about the polish. The time spent making the good better, and the better perfect. It also demands that the developers have a deep understanding of what it is that they’re going to be making great. That’s what Blizzard does so well for instance, and why they’ve been able to take over both the RTS and the MMO genres. They make it so much smoother than what has come before that you can’t help but be a little seduced by it.
And Halo seems to be following that trajectory. Like a firestorm it both feeds and expands the audience by not just polishing the quality of the interactive experience, but also letting the player know that they understand what a multiplayer experience is in a way that lets them move the bar.
With this much hype it’s the game itself that can get a little lost in the shuffle. But I’ll argue that the ability for a game experience to transcend the expectations that you bring to it is an advantage interactive experiences have over traditional media. Here’s hoping Halo 3 lives up to the hype.