The Power of A Single Option

Halo is one of the strongest brands in video games. The original game Halo: Combat Evolved was a runaway success on the original Xbox, leading to an equally successful Xbox sequel Halo 2. Jumping to the 360,  Halo 3 sold more than US$170 million worth of copies in the first twenty-four hours of release, breaking the record set by Halo 2 three years prior. Halo: Reach, in turn, broke the record set by Halo 3, selling $200 million USD worth of copies on its first day. Add in the side story Halo 3: ODST and the RST Halo Wars, the games have sold over 34 million copies worldwide, and all Halo merchandise has grossed more than $1.7 billion.

The first three games cast you in the role of the Spartan Master Chief. ODST gave you four characters. Primarily you play as the Rookie with stints as the other ODSTs: Buck, Dutch,and Mickey. One unifying factor? All men. (Halo Wars, as an RTS, has no main character).

If you only followed the marketing material for Halo: Reach, you would assume the same. Everything shows your character, Noble 6, as a male Spartan, in the vein of Master Chief. But this is not necessarily the case. When you load up  the game, you are greeted by the following screen:

For the first time in the series’ history, you have a choose the gender of your character. Noble Six is voiced in the game, so two separate voice actors portray him/her. The other characters even have two sets of dialogue in places, reference Noble Six by gender (he/she, his/her, etc). This is a fantastic breath of fresh air.

First person shooters are the single most popular genre of games. Despite this, the genre is almost completely devoid of female leads. Of this generation, the only other FPS female leads I could think of are Joanna Dark of Perfect Dark Zero (360), Bishop of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (360, PS3), and Samus Aran of  Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii). In the case of Bishop, the gender is player selected like in Halo: Reach. All the games release for those systems, and only three female FPS leads.

I am greatly enjoying my playthrough of Halo: Reach. Baring a sudden downturn in quality, I say this is the best Halo game yet. A fantastic send-off for developer Bungie, who is going off to other projects.

Part of that enjoyment is built on my ability to play Noble Six as a woman. That simple choice gave me a degree of agency in what is otherwise a strongly linear experience. Combined with the ability to customize her appearance, she has become MY Noble Six; her story has become MY version of the Fall of Reach. This feeling of ownership makes the entire experience more enjoyable.

Thank you Bungie, for a job well done.

-That is all.

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