By B.J. Miller
After the adrenaline rush of a successfully maneuvered killing spree in any typical match on “Halo,” the ensuing celebration usually does not begin with, “Nice moves, let’s keep up this lead. By the way, do you think Master Chief thinks about whether his life is worth living? I mean, think about it, he was stolen from his family and genetically engineered to be a super-soldier. That’s gotta screw with a guy’s head, you know, when he’s not thinking about navigating through hordes of angry Covenant troops, that is.”
These are the types of questions that Jeff Sharpless, contributing author of “Halo and Philosophy: Intellect Evolved,” proposes to his teammates between virtual fire-fights.
Since the original release of “Halo: Combat Evolved” in 2001, the pearlescent green of the Master Chief’s MJOLNIR body armor has shone through popular culture, marking this iconic game as much more than just another first-person shooter.
Clearly understanding this, the authors of “Halo and Philosophy” explore the rich narratives of the “Halo” series, contemplate the meaning behind aspects of its gameplay and relate philosophical theories through the pop—culture lens of “Halo.”
The novelesque storyline presented in the game’s campaign harkens back to a tradition of video games using intricate narratives to engage players, predominant before the advent of the mass online multiplayer networks that now define gaming.
The chapter titled “Apocalypse Halo” interprets the overall tenor of the game to resemble the biblical genre of apocalypse. It compares the story of the Master Chief and the Flood to that of Noah and the Flood, stating, for one thing, that it is more than just coincidence that the inhuman threat to all life in the universe is thus named.
One focus of the book is to delve deeper into the Master Chief’s persona, and how in looking through the heads-up display of this silent and faceless enigma, a sense of ambiguity and yet relatability allows the player to project his or her own thoughts and feelings onto it.
Even so, contributing author Shane Fliger emphasizes that the Master Chief’s persona is that of a space-aged knight in shining armor, embodying the ideals of just war theory.
On the other hand, Fliger identifies the protagonist of “Halo 3: ODST,” a less-than-idealized portrayal of the average soldier, as a provider of counterpoint, filling in the blanks of the glorified tale of the Master Chief by rendering a gritty representation of absolute and total war within the “Halo” saga.
Reading through the book, there is a nearly endless supply of thought-provoking perspectives on “Halo” lying between the cleverly titled sections: “Easy-er,” “Normal,” “Heroic” and “Legendary.” These include the idea that, in the act of virtually mimicking the heroic and selfless acts of the Master Chief, one may be gaining these virtues in the same way Plato suggested citizens should be trained to create an ideal society in “The Republic.” They also include a look into the commentary that the popular “Halo” farce “Red Versus Blue” provides on war, identity and how all meaning in these and other areas eventually seem to erode.
Overall, this book is an enjoyable read for those who often find themselves looking beyond the crosshairs and into the subtext of “Halo,” or anything else for that matter. This book is only one of many belonging to the “Popular Culture and Philosophy” series, which includes other titles like “Star Wars and Philosophy,” “The Matrix and Philosophy” and even “The Grateful Dead and Philosophy.”