“Just” a demo
In a high school classroom, there sits a bunch of students. This is a computer room. This is an idle time for some of the students who have finished early. Some of them start the 3D pinball game that used to be available on Windows back then. It’s normal. The teacher doesn’t care. But then one of them starts a game that is also already on the computer, and the teacher gets up to try and stop them.
It’s the demo for Halo: Combat Evolved.
One of the cool things about radical or restricted parts of society is how it evolves. Just like in evolutionary biology, isolated groups can result in very interesting cultures. We can think of how the Hardy-Weinberg Principle of population genetics being broken can affect the way cultures evolve and grow. I think one of the difficult things about that now is that games take place in the virtual internet and chats. Although it is far more difficult for this to happen, evolution in the folk tales of gamers can still happen. It’s just that in a more radical situation like a classroom, it evolves in a crazier way.
These days things can blow up really easily. We have social media and ease of access to thank for that. But in an isolated setting, even if temporary like a classroom, new cultures coming in have to adapt. The culture specifically being boredom in the classroom. We see isolated cultures have pretty big effects such as being in the military, being a monk in a monastery, or in a creepy cult that is practicing suspicious activities. Sometimes it’s just a matter of speech and slang, but other times it becomes weird actions and hideaways. That’s what Halo was.
You’d see people gathering at the computer rooms to play Halo during lunchtime. I don’t know what it’s like now, but back then most classrooms didn’t have computers in them. During that time the teachers really didn’t care, because they wanted to eat lunch. Some of them did, because the game exhibited violence. Remember this was the 2000s, people were more worried about that back then. But most of the time the teachers were okay and so there they were. Sometimes the teacher would play with them.
But here’s the thing, the people playing, they weren’t playing because they were gamers. No, they were playing because there were only a few other options worth going for. Minesweeper, which some people didn’t want to learn how to understand, and the 3D pinball game. So…the third option was Halo. Yes, I know there was solitaire, freecell, and some others, but only the teachers seemed to play those. Back then not everyone had phones, and the internet was being watched over so most websites like MySpace were blocked.
You want to know the best part? The teacher that came over to turn off the game then tried to find a way to remove it off the computer. Tried being the keyword. Computers were still a new concept to people, and they didn’t know how to get rid of it. And even if they could, it didn’t matter. The game was a demo, and demos are free. It would pop up again. It was unstoppable and insatiable. It was going to be there whether you liked it or not. In this case, games, uh, find a way.
I personally don’t feel like it was any harm. Most of the time the students playing were doing so at lunch or after they were done with their work. I just find it so interesting that they would eke out this existence every time. It was consistent. The computers of classrooms with unrelated subjects had the game on it. Every. Single. Time. Like in biology, it was selected for. The competition was removed. Other games have tried popping up to no avail. Finding workarounds to visit flash game websites were uncommon, although I did find a way to do that. It was just this silly demo of a sci-fi game that was strong and able enough to stay the course.
I think a lot of the evolution in the folklore of video games is usually pretty negative. I attribute this to the fact that most video game stuff that goes to mainstream news are the ones that involve the outliers and scary people that do horrible things concerning video games. Either that or video games cause violence…again. But little bits like this Halo or people donating money for someone to get a stranger a new gaming computer. I see no rules being broken, just people trying to have some fun. Stories of the few or the generous, that is like sweet, delicious honey to my soul.
I hope that the holidays are treating you well, and that we can remember how grateful we are to even be able to play the things we can now. Thanks video games, and thank you to all of you who read this who are like that sweet honey, bringing joy through video games.
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you next time.