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Half-Life Lambda symbol

The summer of 1999 was like a tornado, tossing me here and there and everywhere in the great state of California. I was 15, and my parents had sent me on a two-month vacation to get life experience – so they claimed. Launching from city to city, one of my stops landed me at my cousin’s house in the central part of the state, in the little town of Paso Robles.

Arriving there was like going to my second home, so I didn’t expect a big welcome. I walked in, plopped my bags in the room I knew I was staying in, and meandered over to my cousin. He was sitting at the family computer, engaged with a game I had yet to see. I pulled up a chair; we exchanged “hellos” and niceties, and I watched him play for a few minutes. Using a .357 magnum and a crowbar, my cousin dispatched creatures that were terrifying to the eyes and ears as their horrendousness scrambled towards the screen, moaning indiscernible intonations. He dispatched these…things, and then motioned for me to take his spot manning the keyboard and mouse. He had chores to do.

“What is this game?” I asked him.

“Half-Life,” he said. “I think you’ll really like it.”

He got a new game rolling, briefly explained the controls, and walked away.

I watched and listened intently as I was moved on the automated train. I grew impatient quickly,though, and tried jumping off. No luck. When the train stopped, a security guard escorted me off of it, and opened a door; I walked through…

Half-Life tram intro

I have no idea how long I played — time escaped me. So many things happened. But I remember this one in particular: I watched a scientist hanging on the outside edge of an elevator, whimpering about his lack of grip and how little longer he could hold on. I tried climbing to him quickly, but his grip slipped and he fell screaming until his body smashed against the bottom of the elevator shaft. I was hesitant, but I poked my head over the ledge to check on him, hoping for a miracle. I can’t say I was surprised when all that I found were bloody pieces of his unrecognizable corpse. Just then my cousin came back over and asked me what I thought of the game so far; words escaped me, so I just nodded in approval.


 

Years later, during my senior year of high school, one of my friends began installing games on a school computer.

One day he brought in Half-Life.

Fond memories of crowbars and headcrabs came flooding back. For months, a group of five of us gathered around the computer on our lunch breaks, each of us taking turns guiding the hero,

 Gordon Freeman, on his quest through the Black Mesa research facility.

We shared our coveted bottles of Mountain Dew with each other while we killed countless zombies, navigated narrow passageways, and shrieked like girls when headcrabs lunged at us in small, dark vents.

It was great.


 

I never finished Half-Life during my stay at my cousin’s house, nor did I finish it during my senior year of high school. No, it wasn’t until January of 2011 – I’m 26, going on 27 now — that I finally reached

 the end of Gordon Freeman’s first adventure.  It feels strange to say that I finally played all the way through Half-Life, because not finishing Half-Life accentuated two key points in my life: a summer living like a vagabond, and my last year of being a kid. And now, in anticipation of the third episode of Half-Life 2, I begin replaying Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, and Episode 2.

More memories come flooding back.


Chris "Cosmo" Ross plans on continuing this story. He's already started it…but who knows when he'll finish it. If it never sees the light of day, just imagine a really fantastic follow-up to this story. 

This article orignally appeared on Chris' One A Day blog, Of Cosmic Proportions and can be found here.

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