Friday, October 28, 2022

Halo: The Flood of our Fears

Spoilers ahead, for a twenty one year old game series…

“One single flood spore can destroy a species…” -Rtas ‘Vadum, Ship Master of the Separatist Fleet, 2552

If you’ve ever known me really well, you’ll know I’m a big scaredy-cat. I noticeably jumped in the theater for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, when the Kraken screams in Jack Sparrow’s face. When my wife surprised me by being home before me and jumping from behind a door, I jumped a foot and screamed about an octave higher than my voice normally allows for what felt like a minute. I don’t express it often like that, but fear is one of my great weaknesses: whether that be fear of tackling a project, or of messing up talking to someone, or whether that be fear of dark places, or fear of a scary enemy in a video game. No matter how much we feel it, however, It’s what we do with our fears that matters. Sometimes that is why I feel such a connection to certain video games, because their allegory and their structure embody the chance for me to face my fears. Halo, especially in its first three installments, really resonates for me there. Since it’s October, I think it’s appropriate to explain why one of the most prominent and viscerally terrifying enemies in the Halo series is such a powerful embodiment of fear. 

In Halo: Combat Evolved (2001), you play as the Master Chief, a powerful super-soldier who crash-lands on a massive artificial ring-world, named, you guessed it, Halo. You and your AI companion, Cortana, have to try to reunite with your scattered crew, fight a technologically and numerically superior army of aliens, called the Covenant, and get a way back to Earth. Captain Keyes, your superior who piloted you out of a bigger mess than you got into on Halo, sets out to find a weapons cache to beat the Covenant at their own game. In doing so, he accidentally stumbles across an enemy far worse. When you go to rescue him, you encounter the Flood. You see, Halo is a first person shooter. That means that you get to see things as if from your own perspective. There isn’t a magic camera behind you, it’s instead “inside” the helmet of the character you are playing. You get to see things in a more personal way. It also makes it easier to replicate our every-day, normal fears. What’s around the corner? What’s in the dark ahead? You can’t cheat: you have to go in and find out, or else walk away and hope it doesn’t come after you. 

When you go to rescue Captain Keyes, nothing is quite right. Their dropship is downed in a dark, gloomy swamp, playing a distress call on repeat. Even the Covenant’s dropships are crashed, and they’re in complete disarray. When you go down into the facility, you find dead marines, dead Covenant, and hollow, empty silence. Instead of an enemy force sent to defend a strategically important weapons facility, all you find are empty defenses and the bodies of the dead. Green goo drips from the ceilling, and blood is splattered all around. A single deranged marine shoots the moment you see him, saying “you’re not turning me into one of those things!” and never stops acting like you’re the enemy. Dead Covenant lie behind barriers that failed to save them. Your greatest enemy lost to this enemy.  Finally, you catch up to the bodies of the Keyes’s team, and find a recording from a fallen helmet. They were attacked, captured, and turned by tentacled, fleshy parasites. To this point, the Flood instilled fear in you long before you even saw them: now you know the horror, and you have to fight through it. 

From now on, you’re overwhelmed by hordes of Covenant and marine bodies turned into Flood, and all you can do is to escape with your life. Every corner is a horde of the Flood, and you can’t just stand there and take them on: you have to run. The parasites crawl up walls, writhing and jumping, trying to thrust their tentacles into your spinal cord to wrest control of your body. Marines that used to fight alongside you now are unrecognizable, as tentacles and mutilated flesh overtake them and the Covenant alike. They have strength to run and jump impossible distances, and they are absolutely relentless. But they’re not stupid or mindless: remember that crazed marine? The Flood left him there to draw you further in. They employ traps, destroy elevators, wield weapons, and use every conceivable technique to infect more hosts, and consume you with them. They are an absolutely terrifyingly designed enemy, and the only way to win is to run. 

Now, growing up, I had few opportunities to play Halo, but it left an indelible impact on me. The original Halo games are famous for being able to play cooperatively, and memories of playing with my brother and my cousin (though they played a lot more than I did) are still sweet. In many ways, because they’re a fair bit older, I feel like their confidence helped me to not be paralyzed by fear when I played; and in fact, extended to other games as well. While I’m still a scaredy-cat (the tension in Resident Evil 4 is sometimes more than I want to handle), I know how to stand, face the horror, and be strong. 

I feel like our lives are so much like these games. We are faced with horrors that are not gross and life-threatening, but they are existentially terrifying: are we smart enough to pass a difficult class at university? Do we have the talent to stand out in a field of job applicants? Will we be able to hold it together and be collected when we perform in front of everyone? Am I a caring enough father and husband for my family? These sorts of questions can easily grow, fester, and take over our lives. I see it in myself every time my graduation from school is delayed. However, even if we falter and pause in the face of fear, we don’t have to succumb to it: 

“Because the Savior, through His infinite Atonement, redeemed each of us from weakness, mistakes, and sin, and because He experienced every pain, worry, and burden you have ever had, then as you truly repent and seek His help, you can rise above this present precarious world.

“You can overcome the spiritually and emotionally exhausting plagues of the world, including arrogance, pride, anger, immorality, hatred, greed, jealousy, and fear. Despite the distractions and distortions that swirl around us, you can find true rest—meaning relief and peace—even amid your most vexing problems.” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” October 2022 General Conference)

Even when fear floods our minds and threatens to consume us, or destroy us, or to drive us to insignificance, we have to be willing to face it; we must be present before it, trust in the Lord, and stand. Stand, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Hopefully, through Christ, we all can find that power, and love, and soundness when we need it.


  1. Stand up to fear, confront any problem. Get help if you need it. Only by doing do we confront fear. You are a good father. If you have trouble - stand up to it and do better next time. Do not worry about
    Things beforehand.

  2. Confront your fears- no more video games! List priorities, then dictate vest you can. We all have fear.