“Don’t Shoot! We’re with the Science Team!”

By Jon Hillenbrand In Stories

Inspired by the PC Gamer article about save games

When I was a kid, I was playing Half-Life with my dad watching in the chair next to me. I had been fight and hiding from the Marines for a while now, listening to them talk about me, hiding in vents from them… when all of a sudden I emerged from a tunnel into a wide open section where a bunch of Marines were fighting an alien.

Thinking the game might just be that smart, I did my best to help the Marines fight the alien. There were maybe 5 of us together fighting back our common enemy.

Eventually, the alien died after a few minutes, and when the dust settled, there was just one Marine left alive, and me. He was facing away from me, so I walked up to him to see if we would now be friends.

Half-Life was a different kind of game at that time. It was so immersive and amazing in so many ways, so different from any other game that came before it. I just knew that the game was smart enough for me to now join forces with the Marines who had previously been trying to kill me. How clever! What a great idea by the writers of the game.

So I walked up to the Marine…carefully, my 357 at the ready just in case. He turned around and immediately shot one bullet at me that missed to my left. But he had fired his last bullet in the mag. In what seemed like slow motion, he crouched down to reload and I started screaming at the screen.

“No! I…we just saved each other! We don’t have to be enemies anymore!”

He finished reloading, stood up and aimed and as he began to shoot me, I shot him down. He fell lifeless at my feet and I just stood there saying, “Noooooooo! Why did you do that?!?!” I was actually pretty upset. My dad sitting next to me was all, “What’s wrong? I don’t understand.” I stammered a half-hearted explanation of how it wasn’t just THAT Marine who disappointed me, it wasn’t just THAT situation that was borked, it was a betrayal by the game itself. The game wasn’t as smart as I thought it was going to be. Hours of gameplay seemed to climax in that courtyard but nothing ultimately changed. I was still a hunted scientist.

I reloaded, walked out of that courtyard and continued on with the journey, but with about 50% less enthusism. Quit after a few minutes to have dinner. A few days later, when I went to play the game again, I opened the save and was confronted with that same situation. I just let the alien kill all of the Marines and then I killed the alien and moved on.

I’ve thought about that situation for years.

What do you think?