Halo (Xbox) and the lure of dudebro

An interesting thing happened yesterday with my brand new, second-hand original Xbox. As I picked up the chunky controller (not the original Duke controller but the revised, smaller S-type which is still bulky) and sat down to play the original Halo for the first time, I suddenly felt transformed. Even the initial boot-up was an act of roleplaying in and of itself, because I could no longer see myself as a responsible adult indulging in a hobby. I was instead a teenager, grasping my hands around the enormous controller with its huge squishy triggers in order to make up for inadequacies in other arenas. Mission accomplished, Halo.

My balls are now as big as this controller. Really.

My balls are now as big as this controller. Really.

In those first few minutes (none of which involved any gameplay), I recognised I’d destroyed any chance of my being an approachable yet cred-conscious nerd. My image of family-friendly guy picking up family-friendly consoles to play family-friendly games like ChuChu Rocket, Jet Set Radio and Four Swords Adventures went out of the window. Even my claims to be a postmodern hipster playing niche retro stuff like Mr Bones on Saturn or Devil’s Deception (aka Deception in the U.S.) for PS1 fell by the wayside. Boring!

Instead I would have to see myself as a dudebro, the kind of guy who takes “gamer days” to play Xbox on my own, or possibly with some manly mates on the sofa with me. In my head I’d even brought others into my dudebro fantasy: my long-suffering partner played mum to me and my demands for chocolate milk, doing all the household chores and generally clearing up after me. “Boys and their toys,” she sighs, wearily. It’s just like one of those rom-coms you read about.

Bright colours need not apply.

Bright colours need not apply. Now get me my chocolate milk like you said you would. Liar!

With this whole identity crisis going on, it’s a wonder I was even able to play Halo at all, yet play I did. And behind all the cultural baggage and the hilarious bravado of the storyline (it’s basically Starship Troopers with none of the tongue-in-cheek satire), I learned that Halo has at least a good singleplayer campaign, that much is clear after just a few levels. (I played some splitscreen multiplayer back in the day so I’m familiar with the game’s addictive qualities on that front.) The gameplay in the campaign effectively merges the accessible mayhem of multiplayer in Goldeneye 007 with the setpieces and smoothness of Half-Life, with added vehicles and scope to the environments.

But Halo’s reputation has, for me at least, overshadowed what Halo has to offer in terms of gameplay. Instead I just get these bizarre teenage gender vibes, not something I ever felt when playing Half-Life, even with its many shooter-y moments.

So what happens now? What else is out there to explore in the land of the original Xbox? Well, let’s see, there’s Halo 2, Chronicles of Riddick, the Splinter Cell series, three Grand Theft Autos, Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Project Gotham Racing 1 & 2… the dudebro dream lives on!

dudebro bro-ken revenge

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5 comments

  1. Particlebit

    Whenever I meet someone new, and I get wind they are into games, I ease in to what they play by starting with if they own an Xbox. Nothing against the system, but there is a stereotype out there of the CoD/Madden only person and it helps steer the conversation away from whatever obscure JRPG I’m currently into.

    • veryverygaming

      That sounds like a very smart way of handling things. Usually if I’m speaking to someone around my age (mid twenties), they will have some experience with very popular older series like Final Fantasy on PS1 or Sonic on the Megadrive or something similar, so that helps. But I can see that becoming more difficult as time goes on and speaking with younger players – thanks to iOS and tablets I think gaming in general has become much more mainstream, but console gaming seems to have become more niche and most big releases these days are marketed towards that stereotypical CoD/Madden guy.

  2. moresleepneeded

    I was interested to read how some games and consoles were associated with different people. It seems adverts for X-Box consoles and modern shooters seem to be directed at people who sit on sofas, spend hours on games (mostly online) and have a way of speaking to reflect the machismo of the game. Similarly, recent adverts for Nintendo consoles and games have a very relaxed feel, with adults having gentle fun playing Mario or Wii Fit.
    I never got an X-Box. The only game I was interested in was Munch’s Odyssey (as I had recently burrowed Abe’s Exdous from a friend). I have played four Grand Theft Auto games on the Playstation 2 though.

    • veryverygaming

      I got Munch’s Oddysee! Came with the system. Looking forward to trying that after spending some more time with Halo. There was another Oddworld game too on Xbox that is supposed to be very good, called Stranger’s Wrath. I hadn’t heard of it until a few days ago, but it’s supposed to be a bit like Metroid Prime – a first person adventure – and I’m a big fan of the Oddworld series so can’t wait. Did you enjoy Abe’s Exoddus? I played that when it came out and found it incredibly difficult, never beat it. Still enjoyed farting around in it anyway!

      Marketing is a very funny thing. It is a shame that Sony and Microsoft in particular markets their consoles so heavily towards that particular teenage male market. There’s no problem with serving that market, but it seems to be happening at the expense of the wider audience – the audience Nintendo is targeting.

      • moresleepneeded

        I enjoyed what I played of Abe’s Exoddus. It did not belong to me so I was not able to complete it, I think I got past the mines levels. I enjoyed the way the main character was able to interact with the secondary characters and had to use different actions depending on their emotional state. I am interested in what Munch’s Oddysee and Strnager’s Wraith are like.
        I actually find it quite strange how adverts how feature adults playing Mario games. I think Nintendo also identified a new market with the Wii, older people who use the Wii to play self-improvement games (like Wii Fit and Brain Training games).

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