Halo 4 is currently kicking so much ass on Metacritic that you’d think it was a Final Fantasy 7 reboot made by Hideo Kojima. It’s a great game, but if you look at how the Halo series has evolved, it’s just playing to stereotype that gamers have low self-esteem.
Halo and its multiplayer element have shaped the way we shoot our friends in the face and slam out testicles into their recently dead faces, which is awesome. But as the series has progressed, Halo has gotten more and more advanced to the point virtually every action in game is rewarded somehow.
In Halo 1 the only thing the game noted was multi-kills and killing sprees, in Halo 2 this was expanded to snipes, melee kills and the like, in Halo 3 they added killing sprees for certain weapons like the shotgun and in Halo 4 you’re rewarded for a kill.
This completely removes any sense of real achievement from the game, since the whole point of a medal is to reward someone, rewarding someone for getting a kill in Halo is like rewarding a child for not shitting themselves. Scratch that, it’s like rewarding a child for shitting on the floor, they’ve done basically the bare minimum of what is expected of them and nothing more. And the only people we do reward for doing the bare minimum are people who are mentally or physically disabled. The former of which probably explains half of the things you hear on Xbox live.
When a game has to constantly reassure you that you’re doing something right it’s not immersive or groundbreaking, it’s insulting. David Wong over at Cracked discussed this very thing, basically video games are geared towards keeping you hooked with a simple cycle of rewarding you for repetitive actions to keep you playing long after the game stops being fun.
In Halo 4, after around 20 games you’ve probably seen everything the game has to offer, every map, every weapon and every racial slur an overweight American child can throw at you. But you keep playing, because although every game is the same, you’re earning that valuable XP to unlock more armour or new challenges. The game never actually changes or give you anything new, but you keep playing because this game you might unlock that sweet new set of pauldrons.
People are comparing Halo 4 to the Call of Duty series, and I agree, however I don’t see it as an insult, I see it as the smartest fucking move Halo has ever made. Call of Duty keeps gamers hooked because you can unlock something new every single game and when you reach the end of the progression tree, you can prestige and start all over again. That’s genius, players can consistently get the ego boost from unlocking something, forever. It doesn’t matter how bad you are at Call of Duty, every game will end with you unlocking something and that keeps players coming back.
Halo 4 would be stupid to not get in on that shit, but when you’re playing you need to realise something. Every time a medal pops up on-screen or the announcer screams “double kill” that was put in specifically to make you feel good about yourself, which is awesome. Games should do that. But just think about it for a second, if everyone is rewarded for being awesome, no one is.
Of course you should feel good for scoring a sweet shot in Halo, everyone should, that shit is the best. Just remember that everyone playing is also being rewarded for the exact same thing.
Don’t let your self-esteem be linked to your abilities in a virtual world because that world is geared to artificially inflate your self-esteem, which only sets you up for a big fall. Which in Halo 4 would probably get you a medal.