Why the Half-Life protest turned out half-baked

Another gamer protest goes off with a whimper instead of a bang. Gosh, I wonder why?

Since Half-Life 2: Episode 2′s powerful cliffhanger ending fans have begged, pleaded, demanded, screamed, wailed, gnashed their teeth and wept openly for Valve to dish out any scraps of info regarding Half-Life 2: Episode 3, or a fully-fledged Half-Life 3. Sequels to Portal, Left 4 Dead and other Valve franchises have come and gone in the meantime yet Valve have continuously maintained an absolute, total, inscrutable silence on the subject of Gordon Freeman and chums. Last month a vocal group of Half-Life fans on Steam announced they would collectively spend this weekend replaying Half-Life 2, in a unique protest at Valve’s lack of communication concerning the much-anticipated next instalment in the series. By the weekend of the big event the group had acquired 30,000 members, all of whom had declared their commitment to run through City 17 again. In the end only 13,216 members of the group (currently sitting at 50,000-plus members) stuck to their guns and replayed Gordon Freeman’s second adventure.

“Quelle surprise,” as the French say.

I’m a massive fan of the Half-Life series, yet I still expected this protest to be about as successful as an elderly couple trying to survive the aftermath of a nuclear war. This is because gamers are for the most part all mouth and no trousers, as the dazzling success of the Modern Warfare 2 and 3 boycotts aptly demonstrated. Sorry, did I say success? I meant miserable fucking failures. Like a bad comedian trotting out shit jokes, gamers that use the B-word without irony should be heckled with a tirade of jeers and boos until they break down and cry. It’s the only way they’ll learn. If I had my way gamers who threw the term “boycott” around would also be chased into a cul-de-sac and beaten with sticks, then forced to crawl home with shattered legs. I’ll settle for heckling.

To be fair to the organisers, whose perseverance and dedication I sincerely admire, this particular demonstration was the complete opposite of a boycott. And you know what? That should have given this protest way more legs than the farce that was the Modern Warfare 2 debacle. You’d think gamers would jump at the chance to replay a PC classic that has aged well, is still eminently playable, and which almost everyone who has a Steam account owns a copy of. They didn’t even have to give up anything! All they were required to do was to load up a great game and play it for a few hours. No-one was expected to set themselves on fire like Thich Thang Duc or starve like Gandhi. It was the Nirvana of internet activism, a protest you could be a part of simply by sitting on your chair – or beanbag, if that’s how you choose to live your life – doing something fun.

I’m genuinely disheartened the organisers didn’t get the spectacular turnout they expected and I sincerely hope they don’t blame themselves for it. As a certain comic book character once once said, “there’s one hole in every revolution, large or small. And it’s one word long — PEOPLE.” In the case of videogame boycotts you can replace “PEOPLE” with “GAMERS.” Dictionary definition: whiny, entitled children that bitch and moan at the drop of a hat yet, when given an opportunity to do something about it, will instead sit around doing nothing with their thumbs up their arses. Everyone who signed up to this group that didn’t fulfil their end of the bargain should be forced to write the organisers a lengthy email explaining their dismal failure. Those who can provide a legitimate reason such as sudden chronic illness, hospitalisation, family emergency or other unavoidable real life complications can be completely forgiven with no stigma or shame. We all know real life gets in the way sometimes.

Everyone else however should be forced at gunpoint to don a hair shirt, get their head shaved and walk around a busy metropolitan area wearing a sign around their neck that says “I AM A SPOILT, LAZY ENTITLED WORM WITH NO CONVICTIONS AND COMPLETELY UNRELIABLE.” Wearing pink rubber boots filled with gravel and rusty drawing pins. All while rambunctious urchins and cackling, toothless old crones throw handfuls of rotten fruit and veg at them. For eight solid hours, before being herded into a cul-de-sac and beaten with sticks. It’s the only way they’ll learn.

Despite this setback the protest’s organisers remain optimistic. They cheerfully consider the weekend protest a success overall and are planning  more activities for the future. Whatever they end up being I’m confident the organisers will put a lot of hard work and effort into them, and I wish them the best of luck. If only I could say the same of the people who promised their support only to cop-out at the 11th hour. People like them are the reason “gamer boycott” is one of the most hilarious jokes in the industry, guaranteed to brighten the day of any big publishing exec and make even the most tired and overworked code-monkey chortle. I’d also like to congratulate those people who did join the boycott (including Notch) for fulfilling your end of the bargain. Over 13,000 of you proved some gamers do actually have what it takes to put their money where their mouth is.

Here, at the end, is where I admit I didn’t take part in the protest, and some might say makes me part of the problem. In my defence I was busy this weekend and could not commit the time. I knew in advance I’d be busy and so because of that…guess what? That’s right, I didn’t fucking sign up. My main reason being I didn’t believe Valve would pay even a blind bit of notice to the protest since they don’t have to. Do you honestly think Valve aren’t already aware of exactly how badly fans want a new Half Life game? Two blokes camping on your lawn for several days is a pretty big fucking hint. Valve have generally always been open to input and feedback from their fans but you know what else they’ve always been? Careful, often to the point of obstinance since the Half-Life 2 source code got half-inched back in 2003. A new Half Life title, whether it’s HL2: Episode 3 or a whole new sequel, looms massive in gamers’ psyches and has to be handled carefully. One wrong slip and your rabid fans go batshit mental with rage, so I don’t envy whomever at Valve is holding the reins on all things Half-Life.

Anyway, if I had joined the group I would’ve made sure to play Half-Life 2 alongside the 13,000-odd other people that did follow through on their promise. I suppose I’m just conscientious like that. Had I joined only to discover I couldn’t make it for whatever reason I would’ve dropped-out far in advance of the big event, leaving the Steam group so my absence wouldn’t be registered in the final tally. That’s all anyone who couldn’t ultimately commit had to do. It’s hardly fucking nuclear physics. My pet cat could have done it and she’s practically retarded. Sure you might have caused a bit of disappointment, that’s unavoidable. It’s still better than promising you’ll commit and making all the right noises only to not fucking bother when the time comes.

That’s worse than being disappointing or ineffective. It’s downright rude.

Matt McDermott

About Matt McDermott

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com.