The Hero of Alpha Halo, The Woman Called McKay – Gaming’s Place in Literature

Gaming’s Place in Literature seeks to examine game-related fiction through different lenses of literary analysis.



Master Chief is not the protagonist of Halo: The Flood. He’s certainly the protagonist of Combat Evolved, but in the novelization of the game, he hands the driver’s seat over to one Lieutenant Melissa McKay.

The base definition of a protagonist is simple: “the leading character’ of a story [X]. However with a cast of thousands, and multiple viewpoint characters, it can be difficult to pinpoint who the protagonist actually is. Quickbeam, a content writer over at TheOneRing.net, gives us another method of locating the main character in a story: the narrative.

“[A] character-driven story like LOTR is not strictly about sacrifice (or heroism, or the impermanence of beauty, or all those themes that are intrinsic). I must admit the novel is woven of many threads but the groundwork of the tale, the telling of it, spins on a single proviso: Who is transformed the most between the opening and the closing page, taking the reader through his transformation?” [X]

The telling of the tale, as Quickbeam so graciously highlighted, is also called the narrative. This is the way a story is told, the grand combination of themes, characters, plot, and writing style. Now not all narratives work off the same proviso or condition as Lord of the Rings does. While we do see character transformation in our protagonists throughout the Halo series, Halo 2 being an easy example, one of the groundwork pieces for Halo as a whole is sacrifice.

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Halo: The Flood – Gaming’s Place in Literature

Gaming’s Place in Literature seeks to examine game-related fiction through different lenses of literary analysis.



The Flood is a Halo book that’s known to get some flak from the fanbase, and I can understand why. Coming off of Nylund’s close look into the way the Master Chief thinks, the more action-oriented style can feel shallow. There are parts where Dietz slows down the story to describe in detail how the Master Chief dispatched the Covenant squads, which is particularly dull when you’ve played the campaign and recognize the scenes. I’m not sure we needed the description of our first Warthog jump in the tunnel system that “is not a natural formation.” Furthermore there are some interesting continuity choices that Dietz makes, such as everyone and their Sangheili zealots knowing that John was a child soldier.

With all these issue in mind, I will defend this book vigorously. Dietz had a lot of obstacles to overcome that were different from Nylund. Frank O’Connor has explained that Dietz not only had to transfer a well-known story from one medium to another, but also had to do so in less time that Nylund had (X). Therefore, even upon rereading, I remain both impressed and delighted with what we were given.

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Sympathetic Villains – Maul, Fisk, and Jul ‘Mdama

Tumblr user scribbleymark wrote a brief analysis on (“formerly Darth, now just“) Maul and how he is somehow able to be a sympathetic character despite doing incredibly horrible deeds.

The key to making Vader and Kylo Ren redeemable is that they eventually or constantly feel guilt or remorse for their wrong-doing; that they know what they’re doing is wrong on an emotional level, and suffer from it internally. This same idea is employed a lot with villains to make the audience like them. Consider all the reluctant, beloved baddies you know of, who do bad things only because there’s no other way! These types usually spend time pining over the pain and loss of life they cause.

Maul has none of those moral dilemmas or guilt. Maul doesn’t feel bad about what he does. Ever. He has no problem using people up and then discarding them, or maiming and murdering them for his own satisfaction. But at the same time, he genuinely cares about his brother. His heart is broken when his mother dies. He’s left emotionally scarred by the fact Sidious quickly replaced him and didn’t even want him back, and that bitterness tracks him for decades after.

Even at the finale of Rebels, Maul lashes out at everyone except Ezra. Why? Because he’s attached to Ezra.

Maul’s emotional attachments are what humanize him to the audience, rather than moral guilt. 

While I do like a good villain-redemption story based on morals, this caught my eye, because there have been times where villains have endeared themselves to me, while still being villains. And I’m the sort of person who likes the goody-two-shoes like Captain America and Superman. Looking back at many of these villains, who I have actually liked and not just enjoyed their monologues, I have liked them because of their emotional attachments to others.

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Halo: The Fall of Reach – Gaming’s Place in Literature

The first entry in my series, Halo’s Place in Science Fiction for Halo Archive, this analysis on The Fall of Reach will also be the first entry in a more expansive series.

Gaming’s Place in Literature seeks to examine game-related fiction through different lenses of literary analysis.



Fall of Reach is very much a character-driven story. Scenes transition from one to the other when a character point is made or developed, as opposed to the completion of an event. In fact, looking at it from a whole, there is not that much of a solid plot. There is the underlying themes of what it takes to save humanity and the continual comparisons of lives spent and lives wasted. Each segment gives something else from which the next can continue and build. However, there is no overarching story line; it’s more a chronicle of events.

I do not fault Fall of Reach for this, not in the slightest. This is no detraction from the novel. One of the most widely celebrated science fiction novels, Starship Troopers, is the same. There is an end goal and a final exciting event that changes the course of the war, but the story is more about the characters and their journey. Quite frankly, I think a plot would get in the way with the sort of story that Fall of Reach is trying to tell.

A plotted story calls for resolution at the end, be it triumph or tragedy. Here, there is no resolution. Halsey’s constant questioning of morality is never answered. John’s understanding of winning/losing and spending/wasting lives is never finalized. Keyes and his crew find their morale, only to have to torn from their grasp. Cortana has barely entered the world proper and already her goals have been forced to shift drastically. It’s a strange sense of reality that was interwoven so beautifully that I didn’t even realize the lack of plot until I sat down to write this piece.

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