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Many of you may have heard of the MLG (Major League Gaming). It was one of the first big gaming leagues I had heard of. I know that many PC leagues featuring games like Counter-Strike and Quake III predate the MLG, but it was the first league that I got into, mostly because of one game in particular – Halo 2. They have featured all the Halo games as they were released, drawing massive fan attention for years. The two seemed inseparable. Recently, the MLG announced that they won’t be using Halo 4 as one of their games next season. When I heard this news, I was shocked. MLG and Halo games are hard to separate in my mind. I can’t imagine a world of one without the other.
Halo 2 is an important nostalgic game for me for many reasons. It was one of my most anticipated games ever, following my obsessions with the original. It was the first game I ever stood in line for at midnight (something that you actually had to do to get a copy, unlike nowadays). It was the first game I played online against other people, spending countless hours with my friend blasting away the other team. Halo 2 remains one of my favorite games of all time for these reasons, even though the single-player portion of the game was relatively weak.
I played the game for probably around a year before I learned about the MLG. I don’t really remember how I learned of it – word of mouth, Internet chatter on the sites I frequented, magazine coverage – but it quickly grabbed my attention. Here were the best players in the world playing the game I spent most of my time playing, showing me strategies and moves I’d never even considered. Halo 2 was a very glitchy game, many of these glitches commonly used online. Most of them had to do with canceling commands by quickly inputting button strings. One such example is the BXR, named so for the combination of buttons you pressed (B, X, Right Trigger). By doing this fast enough, you would melee someone, dropping their shields, and cancel the animation into a shot to the head. It killed VERY quickly. Other tricks included the double shot (being able to fire multiple shots at once), YY (a quicker way to reload), and BXB (melee cancelled into a melee). The MLG matches not only featured these glitches – they condoned them. I learned about them all here and quickly made them part of my game.
Anyone who closely followed the MLG in the Halo 2 days will remember the amazing rivalry between teams Final Boss and Carbon. Nearly every tournament that featured Halo 2 had one of these two teams as the victor (and the other as the runner-up). Many fans had some loyalty to one or the other. It was the closest resemblance to real sports I have ever seen, a rivalry reminiscent of the Cubs and the Cardinals. I personally preferred Carbon, the underdog that often took second – but not always. For most (if not all – can’t remember) of the Halo 2 seasons, these teams didn’t change rosters. Each time, it was the same four against the same four. The final tournament before the switch to Halo 3 is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen in my life. Of course, it came down to Final Boss versus Carbon in the championship match – and it was heated. I was on the edge of my seat during the whole thing, wondering who would be crowned the true victor of Halo 2, the best players in the world. Even though Carbon didn’t take the gold, I still had a hell of a lot of fun watching them play. Nothing since that day has been as exhilarating to watch.
Halo 2 is also the only game I’ve ever participated in a tournament for. It was some local thing with barely enough teams to fill a bracket, but it was exciting. It made me feel like I was participating in an MLG match. In fact, my friends and I had planned to go to one of the events one year. We saved up our money and practiced for weeks. Unfortunately, we could never secure a fourth member to finish out our team. Odds are, we would have done terribly. We did well online, but that wasn’t really hard. Tournaments are on an entirely different level, one that would have intimated and flattened us. Even if we had gone and lost our first two matches, I wouldn’t have cared. It would have been amazing just to be in the place where that MLG magic went on, getting to watch the finals in person instead of through a tiny computer monitor.
I didn’t keep up with the MLG much after Halo 2. Part of that was because I didn’t much care for Halo 3. Part of it was because the Final Boss/Carbon rivalry never got as heated. Part of it was because the magic of Halo 2 was gone, and I just lost interest. I still dabbled here and there, smiling as I watched a match and remembering the memories from those Halo 2 days.
As you can probably tell, I invested myself pretty heavily into the MLG for a few years. I hadn’t been to the site in probably two years when the shocking announcement came out, but it still made me extremely sad when I heard it. I can understand the reasons behind the decision: Halo 4 just isn’t as good a game as past games in the series (for intense fans of the series, at least), and the money is now in games like League of Legends or Starcraft 2. Still, the thought of the MLG without Halo is very depressing to me. I hope that the next Halo game from 343 Industries can recapture some of that magic that made professional Halo 2 games so enthralling to watch. In my mind, the MLG is dead until that day.