66: Bungie's Epic Achievement

"The Aeneid centers on an eponymous hero, Aeneas, who escapes from the clutches of the Greeks during the fall of Troy and travels all over the Mediterranean before he arrives in Italy, gets re-married, and founds a city that will found a city that will found Rome. Bear in mind, the Rome in which Virgil writes the Aeneid conquered Greece and Carthage well before Virgil was born, and now faced newer enemies on its frontiers. Sounds a bit like Halo, if you relax your ears."

In "Bungie's Epic Achievement," Roger Travis compares Halo to Virgil's ancient masterpiece, The Aeneid, with surprising results.

Bungie's Epic Achievement

I think you will find that the people at Bungie are actually relatively intelligent and I know that some are certainly very well read. These similarities may be the result of conscious research and application of the idea that good stories are those that survive. If you want a good story you should look at those ones that have stood the test of time.

I think this is giving Bungie too much credit. Halo is an above average game to be sure, but I don't find the story to be very interesting. It plays too much into game cliches of the lone space marine saving the universe from evil. I'm not saying this couldn't be interesting, if it did something new with it. Halo is just a very polished presentation of things we've already seen before, and it doesn't delve enough into the religious material or the aliens' mentality for it to be anything more than a minor curiosity. They're there, but they're more glossed over for the sake of pleasing twitch gamers. "Generic" isn't quite the right word, but it's the first that comes to mind.

(I'm Roger Travis, the author, BTW.)

I wouldn't disagree with your assessment, Outlaw, but I think you're missing some of the point of the article. The title, for example, is intended ironically, as are the references to "Halo" as a masterpiece.

It's well worth noting, however, that the subject matter of the "Aeneid" is just as hackneyed as the marines-in-space material Bungie re-works in "Halo." One of my purposes in the piece is to imply loudly that those who argue that games can't be art need to stop talking about the medium and start talking about things like the ones you bring up, Outlaw--that is, whether Bungie's re-telling of an old story breaks any new ground, and, at the same time, whether Virgil's does either.

Ludological Outlaw:
I think this is giving Bungie too much credit. Halo is an above average game to be sure, but I don't find the story to be very interesting.

Been to http://halo.bungie.org? looked at the halo story stuff there? looked at the relevant story data from Marathon on http://marathon.bungie.org - could this be a coincidental use of a classical greek battle / story? I think you're not giving Bungie _nearly_ enough credit. :)

Jason Jones has been working this story with these themes starting back with Pathways into Darkness.

Don't get me wrong... I really like videogames and I think that they can achieve "art" status, I also have nothing but total respect for Bungie (I was a Mac gamer for many years before Microsoft flashed too much money in front of Bungie's eyes), but I found the premise behind Halo more notable than the delivery of the story. Maybe I was merely distracted by the awesome gameplay and physics while a truly "epic" story was being presented to me, but I think this may be why some people might find it hard to draw comparisons between Halo and The Aeneid... or at the very least, appreciate them.

This raises a question in my mind... how well do videogames typically "tell" a story? Maybe the art of it has less to do with the story itself, and more to do with the delivery. Food for thought.

Also, I'm glad someone mentioned Marathon. That was the most engrossing story from Bungie, in my opinion. Maybe it's just as well written and intelligent as Halo's, but the fact that those little terminals were the only link to what happened made the whole experience more amazing. You had to piece together the story (take an active role) which forced you to ask important questions to draw even more from it. Anyway, something to think about.

Echolocating:
Also, I'm glad someone mentioned Marathon. That was the most engrossing story from Bungie, in my opinion. Maybe it's just as well written and intelligent as Halo's...

More so, I think. Like Virgil, Bungie may have made some sacrifices for mass-market appeal. ;)

It should be Vergil.
An interesting article, though blasphemous. The central theme may have some merit, but it often seems like you are reaching for comparisons, for example with the "demonisation" argument. It is hardly unusual in human storytelling to create a warrior hero (even, or perhaps especially, an imperfect one) who is feared and despised by his enemies.

Nevertheless, there are certainly some convincing points and it's nice to have a bit a' kulcha, know wot I mean?

 

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