As everybody knows, Halo is at best an OK or “pretty fun” game. As a retired gamer, I did not know there was a Halo 5 (I assumed there was just three or four games in the series). It is thus very surprising to me how influential the series has been on my generation. One of the canonical video game trailers directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, TRON Legacy) is the 2006 Halo 3 “Starry Night” commercial. This commercial debuted at the Super Bowl that split the second term of President Bush. The commercial begins with a boy and a girl pondering life on other planets and then quickly switches to a battle sequence from Halo, and we learn that it is, in fact, an ad for Halo 3. This commercial was part of a very successful marketing blitz by Microsoft that earned them an award. This trailer is in many ways just another overdramatic ploy to lure in man-boys who had their emotions scrambled by endless hours of Sesame Street and Duck Tales, and have spent more of their lives on electronic devices as opposed to living real life. On the other had there is a subtle brilliance to the trailer that is both beautiful and a tragic representation of my generation.
There is though something bitterly affecting about the “Starry Night” commercial that strikes a chord with my generation. Kosinski is obviously playing with genres here as we move from the Romantic or pastoral mode of children in the tall grass somewhere in Middle America dreaming of the stars to the epic mode of war. It is deeply in engaging and stirs up the deepest martial desires in men. It represents the great saga of the farm boy turned hero, off to defend the fatherland from a terrible alien menace. It is old as Hesiod and Homer and finds its most coherent vision in the poetic corpus of Virgil. At the same time, it is all fake: there are no aliens attacking earth. Most of the people playing the game have never fought nor ever will fight in a war. Having conquered the dreaded aliens the player will have accomplished absolutely nothing.
The commercial ends with the message “Finish the Fight.” But what fight are we supposed to be fighting? 2006 was the beginning of the surge that was both a military success and colossal failure. Already Americans saw the Iraq War and Bush doctrine for the tremendous frauds that there were. All of our efforts in the Middle East have failed. We see ISIS, funded and supported by the United States, murdering Christians and reclaiming territory in Iraq that we have earned by our blood. On the home front, our country is dissolving before our very eyes. We are told to give up on our marriages, to let criminals burn our cities to the ground, and let illegal immigrants gobble up our small towns. What is the point of fighting for a country that is no longer our own? What is the point of fighting for our children’s future if we do not have children, or if we do, they are more biological warehouses of psychiatric medication and replicates of Disney characters than they are our own flesh and blood?
In my retirement from gaming, I look back with a deep nostalgia and love for the ability to walk the line between fiction and reality and, as the poet said, “half perceive, half create” reality. I wish I could play Civilization, Final Fantasy VII, and Super Mario 64 again. But the magic is gone. In both the country and the Church, something wicked this way is coming. It is time for our generation to stop being the Peter Pan generation. I am now, more than ever, convinced that it is time to abandon the “house of art,” and “Finish the Fight.”