Half-Life & its narrative technique

Half-Life is a video games series that began in 1998 (and has seen multiple release since) and is quite unique in it’s genre of FPS’s (First Person Shooters) because of it’s narrative technique. The gamer plays in the first-person perspective of ‘Gordon Freeman’, a scientist who is ‘the right man in the wrong place’. In most games of the FPS genre there are numerous cut-scenes or mission briefings to inform the player of the story and path they are to take, but in Half-Life there are no cut-scenes. Instead of the use of cut-scenes to tell the story, the game completely revolves around Gordon. To create a sense of immersion with the game and its atmosphere Gordon never speaks. This idea seems odd in theory, but in practice it works because of the dialogue that the other characters use. His lack of vocal identity leaves a space for the gamer to put themselves into, immersing themselves further into the game. Another key point that makes this technique work is the image of Gordon. The main market for this game is males between the ages of 18 – 30 and so Gordon is a very young looking man for a scientist. He is white, with short dark brown hair, 6 ft tall, average weight and looks to be in his early 30’s which is the youngest such a character could be whilst maintaining the feasibility of being a courageous gun-slinging scientist.

Gordon Freeman

I think it would make for an interesting experimental film to use this technique and maybe expanding on it. Gordon has an image because he is the games hero and he is the symbol that is used for the game and its advertising. However for an experimental film there would be no need for the image of the protagonist, and with the full use of a first-person perspective this leaves the character perfectly open for any gender or age. The camera acts as the protagonist and in the same vein as the TV show ‘Peep Show’ the actors act around and to the camera as if it were a character. All of this gives the viewer the ultimate immersion into a constructed situation. With this technique in mind, I will develop some ideas around it and look at ways in which I could enhance or adapt it to various narratives.

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