haloHalo is the best video game that I have played. And today, right now, the third installment of the trilogy is available for sale. As corny as this might sound, I actually have real, true emotions for this game and its characters. Maybe it’s because of the memories attached to the games that include family and friends. But, then again, maybe it’s that special feeling you get from standing high up on a ledge, aiming your rocket launcher, and pulling the trigger.

Here’s a look back:

MARATHON

My relationship with Halo begins long, long ago – way back to when Master Chief was no more than a twinkle in someone’s awesome helmet visor. The year was 1994 and the game was Marathon. Also made by Bungie Software, Marathon was everything to first-person shooter computer games that Halo would prove to be to first-person shooter videogames: the story was just that much more complex, the graphics and possibilities were just that much more insane, and, to the delight of me, my brother, and sister, you could hold a weapon in each of your hands.

My brother was just getting into Apple computers around this time and we had several around our house in differing states of tinkering and disrepair. When the multiplayer Marathon arrived at our house, he quickly connected the Mac in our parents’ home office to a Mac on the dining room table and to a Mac up in his bedroom.

It was perhaps the most primitive form of online play – as I snuck around the maps I listened for any sounds from the other rooms: was my brother laughing? Was my sister’s mouse so quiet that I knew she was laying in wait for me? It was, we all agreed, the most fun ever. Little did we know it was just a precursor for awesome things to come.

HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED

I started playing Halo the year I graduated from college. I had gotten a job as a local reporter and was constantly stressed and angry. My work environment was unhealthy – frantic bosses, a dirty and cramped desk, and long hours covering stale events in a small, rural town. Waking up each morning was the worst thing that had ever happened to me until I woke up the next morning.

But there was one hour of the day that was my own. At noon, I would rush down the two blocks from the office to my one-window studio apartment and I would turn on my Xbox. For one solid hour, I would pick up a pistol and a shotgun – maybe a few hand grenades – and kill everything I saw. The Covenant morphed into my shitty job and my stagnant life. The action both focused me and relieved me. I could go back and face the afternoon, calm and collected. Each time I beat the game, I upped the difficulty level and started it again.

On the nights I didn’t have to cover a story, I would play at my boyfriend’s house with our friends – six or seven people switching in and out of a four-player game. When we got tired of it we played Madden, but we never really got tired of it.

HALO 2

Sometimes it’s hard for me to get to know people. I’m shy, I’m awkward, and my interests don’t often match my appearance. So when my boyfriend Ben took my on a trip to Las Vegas last year with the Mixed Martial Arts team he trained with for a grappling competition, I was a little nervous. I wanted to fit in and I wanted to be liked, but why would these tough guys even give me a chance?

I was sitting silently in the hotel room with a crowd of them on the first night, not able to relate to the guys and definitely not able to relate to their girlfriends, who were comparing different brands of self-tanning lotions. But just when all hope was lost, one of the guys pulled out an Xbox, four controllers, and Halo II. That world, those maps — they were a place I would always be in my element.

After they played for a while, I got up the courage to ask for a turn. A few minutes after that, I could tell a few of them were shocked or at least won over. “Ben,” one of them said, “I want you to know that your girlfriend just shot me in the head.”

HALO 3

Unfortunately, I don’t own an Xbox anymore and therefore won’t be buying Halo 3. I don’t have the money and probably shouldn’t spend the time (I tell myself). Each time I see the commercial for it, I find it nothing less than touching. And as sad as that is, especially on this day, it’s nice to know that Halo 3 is out there, and it will be out there when I’m ready to play it.

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